The following is an open letter to anyone on the streets of Portland who is even considering talking to me.
To Whom it May Concern,
I am a good person. I work for a local non-profit. I volunteer occasionally (even early in the morning the day after celebrating a friend’s thirtieth birthday a little over-zealously). I believe in thinking globally and acting locally. And I consider myself politically-active and aware of the issues that our society currently faces. I give money to causes and groups about which I feel strongly and have been known to campaign for them on a few occasions. I have a set of firm, core beliefs that are important to me and guide me through difficult times. And I don’t live my day-to-day life feeling like I’m searching for something I haven’t found.
I do not want to sign your petition. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel strongly that politicians should not take money from PACs without writing thank-you notes and that we would be better off if the Oregon Coast was lined with free-range seal refuges. I may even be convinced that everyone should be able to grow their own weed in their cars if they want to. For medicinal purposes, of course. But just because you have a Greenpeace sticker on your clipboard or an Obama ’08 shirt on your back does not mean that you are trustworthy. Particularly if you ask for a donation by either credit card or electronic funds transfer (I’m looking at you, hippie outside Powell’s draped in hemp jewelry).
I do not want to adopt your pagan babies. I’ve seen their pictures – I admit they’re adorable. I can’t deny that their tiny frail bodies and huge hopeful eyes pull at my heartstrings. But when you approach me on my lunch break and try to reel me in by telling me that I have a beautiful smile, I only want to yell at you for accosting me while I’m enjoying singing along to Jason Mraz on my iPod and tell you that flattery will only get you so far. And it will DEFINITELY not get you into my wallet. I would be more likely to buy a copy of Street Roots than give you my money. And don’t give me that look, either, or I’ll ask you for a donation to MY fund for sick kids.
I do not want to hear about your church. I am so happy for you and your blissful state of existence. In some ways, I wish I knew what it felt like to be so incredibly sure that I had found the best thing in the universe that I would approach complete strangers in Pioneer Square and ask them about their relationship with God, but I respect their time and their personal space too much to ever do so. I am steadfast in my belief that people can find the system that’s right for them on their own, and that approaching them when they least expect it is a horrible way of converting them. I would rather walk into the Church of Scientology on my way to work and take a stress test than answer the door (to my HOME) for a couple of elders with bike helmets.
I don’t even mind being asked for change. I rarely, if ever, give it, but beggars don’t bother me nearly as much as the rest of you. As my friend Michelle says, you are the telemarketers of the street. You are relentless and you are on every corner. I can’t take it anymore. There are only so many excuses to make – “I’m not an Oregon voter.” “No thanks, I’m in a hurry.” “I’m Jewish – some people believe I killed Jesus.” I’m going to start saying ridiculous things to see if you’re even listening. “Not today, buddy. My chi is off.” “How could I even think about starving children in Africa when it’s raining in Portland?” “My relationship with God? Mutual indifference.”
Please, just leave me alone. Everyone will be much happier that way.
That is all. Thank you for your time. I’m sure it’s valuable.