I recently started a new job, working in the centre of Birmingham. This makes quite a change from my previous place of employment, which was out in the sticks. I commute by train, instead of by bicycle. There’s something to do if I step out of the office at lunch, instead of just walk around the company grounds.
Which is exactly what I tend to do – walk down to the markets to pick up cheap cheese, or sit and people watch while I eat my lunch in Victoria Square. It’s fantastic. Except, however, for one little thing – the ubiquitous charity fundraisers. Or chariteers, as I call them. Both New Street and High Street are teeming with them. They’re usually quite obvious – carrying a bag, holding a clipboard, and wearing a bright solid-colour rain-jacket. So I’ll try avoid them if I spot them in the road up ahead, timing my walk-past to coincide with the accostment of someone else. But I’ve often been walking along, having my eye on this or that, when suddenly one of them will pop into my peripheral vision, with a well-polished spiel that makes one feel rude to reject. And once they’re past the first sentence or two, I find that I struggle to extricate myself. Before I know it, I’m Greenpeaced, Unicefed, or Red Crossed.
Now, it’s not that I mind giving to charity, but I like doing it in private, on my terms, and to charities that I feel strongly about. Not to mention that I prefer to do it without any public coercion involved. And so, I’ve got a new approach to dealing with these people – a pre-emptive strike. If I find myself being approached by a target, I switch on the charm, and run off my own patter along the lines of
Hey, Jim! How are you, mate? Gosh, it’s been years, hasn’t it? How’s Daisy? You two still together? No? Ah, that’s a shame, you two always seemed perfect for each other. Anyway, good to see you, got to run, keep well, cheers!
With a solid pat on the arm, and a big, disarming smile, I then walk off, leaving them momentarily disorientated. This gives me enough time to escape, and it works like a charm.