These days I’m quite proficient at my chugger swerve – the art of unexpectedly changing direction while walking down the street so that the fixed grin and overly-cheering greeting of the guy with the clipboard gets transferred to the poor sod behind me. It didn’t always used to be this way. Almost exactly three years ago I was newly returned from Africa and hadn’t quite regained my urban survival skills: in short, I made eye contact. And when people greeted me, I greeted back. I’d been abroad for two years and had never heard of chuggers so I ended up having a jolly nice chat about cancer research with an enthusiastic young man who was so surprised at having someone stop and talk to him that he forgot to ask me to sign up to a direct debit.
Anyway, I soon wised up and so has everyone else with the result that the charities have opened a new front in the battle to dissipate any remaining good will among their likely donors: the home front. No sooner had I posted my entry yesterday than the front doorbell rang and both of us went down to see what it was. (Our doorbell never rings – we’re Londoners. We don’t know our neighbours and all our friends live scattered around a 15 mile radius in a bid to find somewhere to live that is both affordable and has schools that aren’t fast-track feeder schools for HMP Feltham.) Anyway, we opened the door and there was an enthusiastic young woman who proceeded to tell us an enormous number of irrelevant facts while we stood there waiting for her to actually ask us something so that we could refuse. She burbled on with her graphs and where she was from and showed us her ID while I could feel every last molecule of vaguely warm air in the house flow past my ankles into the street. Finally we managed to edge her back out of the doorway and send her as politely as possible on her way before the water in the toilet froze over, striking that charity off the list of possible good causes to donate to.
So this leaves me with two questions: 1 – if people who accost you on the street for money for charity are chuggers, are the people who accost you in the comfort of your own home churglars? And 2 – in order to decently retain the moral high ground I clearly need to set up a direct debit for a charity, and preferably one that doesn’t chug*. Any suggestions? Or at least any horror stories of ones to avoid?
* or send you those guilt-trip pens or pennies to make you give them money back