Maybe it's a symptom of my closet geekiness, but I really hate having to go into the city centre; so much so that before I go I make a list of what I need (in my head - I'm secretly lazy aswell as geeky) and then I plan the shortest possible route to each shop and then home again, hopefully in a neat loop.
A good trip is one where I manage to go to each place, with my earphones in, without having to
stop, talk to anyone or make any diversions to the planned route whatsoever, for this, the new self-checkouts at Tesco are a godsend. Mind you, an even better trip is one where I realise I can get what I need on the internet, and I get to spend the day in a darkened room playing Playstation, eating cereal and watching daytime TV.
So, I find it understandably irritating when walking my route from shop to shop only to be confronted with a team of spotty, clipboard carrying, dreadlocked cocky students, desperate to ease their guilty conscience for never having done a day's work but living a life of luxury courtesy of Daddy's credit card by hassling me for the details of mine.
Normally you'll find them covering a wide pedestrianised shopping street in a classic 3-2-3 formation, all grinning sickeningly, knowing without question that they are better people than everyone around them, wondering if perhaps the starving indigenous people of who-knows-where might initiate them into the tribe if they knew what they doing for them.
Their eyes lock in on me, all at once, I don't what it is about me that makes them think I am such an easy target, perhaps I look like the sort of young, naive, idealistic guy who steps out the house thinking he can change the world in one fell swoop, or at least someone who has guilt issues; but more likely it is that I definitely don't look like a dirty urine-soaked old man, swearing under my cider-breath, ready to bite the next person who speaks to me, of which there are a lot in Norfolk.
When they start closing in it's time to come up with your excuse for keeping your cards in your pocket. It's not as easy as you'd think, they've been well versed in how to deal with any excuse, and add to this an arrogant inflated sense of self-importance and they'll have you paying them to leave you alone.
It must not come to that, you need to arm yourself with excuses they're not prepared for, here are a few of my favourites:
- A technique that worked for me for a long time was saying "I've already got ties to another charity" and this always had them stumped. They can't play the guilt angle because you're clearly a giver, and this is not one they learn in charity collector training, so they might suspect it could be true. This was great until one day one particularly smug son-of-a-bitch with a nose piercing replied: "So?", and he had me stumped.
- A popular line to try that really sticks it to them is "I'm sorry but I don't agree with being hassled for money in the street." which is great, they never expect it, and it shows you can be cocky and self-righteous too. Most will realise that it will be a better use of their time just to move on to someone else, and it's never failed me, yet. However, I think it has the potential to lead to further discussion which I'm not prepared for, and that would inevitably lead to me reaching for my wallet.
The real problem with both of the previous two techniques is you're opening a dialogue with them, and that's playing right into their hands, these guys were hired because they love to talk, and they're very good at it.
The best methods are the ones that avoid a discussion of any kind, if you let them stop you in your tracks you've already made your first mistake, these two approaches are a little more preventative...
- If you've got earphones in, just pretending you don't know they're there is a classic and is almost foolproof, but I have had one of them pull my earphone out of my ear, which is the daytime equivalent of slapping a sleeping person round the face. It didn't work, I didn't give him anything, but I think he could see it was taking all of my strength not to throttle him by that point
Far and away the best method requires an accomplice
, Mrs Andrew in my case. Mrs Andrew and I are often targeted because they think that I will not want to appear an unfeeling unsympathetic scrooge in front of her, but that's where they're wrong. She knew from the start that I'm a tight miserable bastard and she's learned to lump it.
You and your accomplice need to be briefed in this approach:
- When walking into a clipboard zone, immediately start having a loud, otherwise embarrassing fake argument; using choice phrases like "YOU ALWAYS DO THIS!", "YOU SICK BITCH, HE'S MY BEST FRIEND!!" and my favourite, "VIOLENCE, THAT'S YOUR SOLUTION TO EVERYTHING!!". It's a lot of fun and we're getting really good at it, I'm considering an acting career. Plus, what clipboarder in his right mind is going to step in front of us and say, "Spare a few moments for Africa?"? If it was a real argument Mrs Andrew would have him running faster than his sandals could carry him, it's more than his job's worth. I suggest you try it if you can, it's never let us down.
Oh, I know it's just charities trying to do their bit and I don't have a problem with that, I just hate being talked down to by an arrogant tosser with a goatee who treats me like someone who's standing there slapping the starving children round the face with wads of fifty pound notes while quaffing champagne and cackling, when actually I'm struggling to work out how to pay my council tax bill each month.
Oh, I feel thoroughly ashamed of myself most of the time already bandana boy, your work here is done.