Leave me Alone: Open Letter to Sidewalk Leeches

The Setup

First you started showing up near shopping centers downtown with your brightly colored vest, laminated pages, notebook, and cheerful personality. We brushed you aside with ease: the sidewalks were large and there were a lot of individuals around. You were a minor inconvenience and we felt bad for hating those who worked for charities. Then you spread from downtown and went from being a minor roadblock to an extreme annoyance.

I see you half a block away when I’m walking down The Ave. There are only two known ways to avoid them: walk in a group, or be talking on your phone. Since I’m usually walking to lunch and can’t pull out my phone without them noticing, I’m trapped. Briefly considering crossing the street, I quickly stop when I realize they have another operative on the other side: cutting off that avenue of escape.

Deploying the standard countermeasures, I try to avoid them: walking quickly, getting as far away as possible, and avoiding eye contact. They usually don’t work. “Hi, can I talk to you for a moment?” you exclaim, holding out your hand. “Want to save the children today?”

With contact inevitable, I shake my head, shoot a glare while looking forward, and say a very firm “no, I don’t.”  While walking away, they usually continue talking to you in a suddenly dismissive manner. “I guess you don’t care about starving children.”

The Grievances

You judge me.

I know what you’re thinking when I don’t talk to you or donate. “Here’s a soulless person who doesn’t care about animals or humans.” How do I know this? Because you attempt to publicly shame anyone who doesn’t talk to you by calling them out.

You have no idea who I am, or what I support. Your logic must be something like this: if (person doesn’t donate to me right now) then (they are animal abusers). It must be wonderful to live in such a protected cocoon from the world and make rash judgements about people you’ve never met before and know nothing about.

For all you know I could support the ACLU, ASPCA, and multiple local charities on a monthly basis. I could be a local volunteer at a homeless charter. Perhaps I’ve spent my life fighting for animal rights. But suddenly I need to prove this to you by giving my credit card number to some annoying person on the street? I don’t think so. Get a life.

You break every rule of civil motility

I’m not making eye contact, I’m trying to actively avoid you, and I’m wearing headphones. This does not mean “please, stand in my way and try to shake my hand.” It means “get the hell out of my way.”

But you choose to ignore every bound of common courtesy. No, I’m not shaking your hand. No, I’m not going to stop and talk. No, I don’t want to talk to you. Ever. The only reason I’m even in earshot of you is because you spotted me like a lone prey a hundred feet off and started running towards me.

You give good organizations a bad name

I try to donate to local charities that make a real difference in my community, but I also acknowledge that there are a few large organizations that I strongly believe in. I willingly donate to them, but every time I see your blue or red vests with their logo on the back, I cringe inside and consider stopping my financial support while sending a strongly worded letter to their headquarters. It’s one thing to solicit donations, but it’s another thing entirely to annoy someone so much that they will actually do the opposite of what you want.

I’m Not Alone

This is a pretty good article on the subject: Gross Profit: Money Given to Clipboard Kids Rarely Makes It to Nonprofits

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