I’m wearing my headphones so I don’t have to talk to you…

Yesterday, I was at Twiggs in University Heights to unwind after a day of teaching, around 6’ish pm,  when I saw some people with clipboards hanging around outside by the entrance. I didn’t know what they were up, nor did I find ever find out. I just didn’t care to find out. They may have even been working for some cause I’m for, but the strategic ambush posture didn’t go very well with me.

As I did my Internetting and sipped my coffee, I thought of my exit strategy. I imagined being rude, I contemplated simply running past them, and I thought of running towards the street corner and crossing the street. I just did not want to engage in conversation with them at all, as they would have kept talking so I would buy whatever they wanted to sell, whether it was making a contribution to their cause or consider their product. It reminded me of when I was recently in Washington DC walking around in Chinatown, only to be accosted by someone from Greenpeace. I didn’t mind the initial conversation, but I did not want to get roped into making a donation right there on the spot. I simply made an excuse that I had to meet some friends to get away from her, but the woman wasn’t too happy that I got out of her grip.

I settled on wearing my headphones and listening to my iPod. However, they weren’t deterred as two of them tried to rush me when I was a few feet out the door. I then put my hand up in the classic “talk to the hand” gesture and moved on. I called Twiggs afterwards to voice a complaint about the clipboard people.

A part of me felt rude for quickly dismissing them like that. However, I resent that they placed themselves in a position where they had a captive audience.

The outdoor solicitor problem got so bad at the Trader Joe‘s in Hillcrest/Uptown area that they put up a sign telling customers that they were not obligated to talk to these street hawkers. It’s pretty bad when we need institutional blessings to say “No.”

4 thoughts on “I’m wearing my headphones so I don’t have to talk to you…

  1. The street solicitors in DC are so prevalent, they become part of the scenery, like pigeons, the homeless and discarded newspapers. I realize I’m a jaded DC dweller who desperately needs to recover his soul, but I blow past all of them with the 1000-yard stare we all perfect in this city.

  2. Folks who need to sell a product or an ideal know the hot spot to grab people is coming out of a business. You’re not completely focused on what you’re doing, in my opinion similar to the display at the cash register in the store full of impulse items.

    For some, the only way to show your disinterest in their project is to get harsh ad ignorant with them. They are so focused on making a ‘sale’ that they refuse to take no for an answer. They will be successful for this approach, but the business they setup in front of may suffer because of it.

  3. To echo Kyle above, those “professional” beggars are a dime a dozen here in D.C. It’s awkward for me to run into those that push the agenda for the organization you work for, especially when they don’t believe you after telling them so.

    The Greenpeace ones are the worst, though; those are some persistent nits. I once headed to the Whole Foods a few blocks from my office for lunch and the entrance/exit area was surrounded by no fewer than seven solicitors. No exaggeration. It doesn’t help that I equate Greenpeace with PETA on the nutty zealot scale.

  4. @Kyle Here in San Diego, they hit shopping centers, restaurants, schools, festivals, and cafes. Not many pedestrian zones here, unlike DC.
    @Thomas the very big downside to their presence is that it’s hard to anything in peace. I’d take a fundy evangelist any day over them. You know you’ll hear the promise of damnation if you don’t agree with them, whereas these “professional beggars” often play on liberal guilt.
    @Fredo I can see how weird that can be. As for the Greenpeace people, I have often rehearsed in my mind telling them in a fake French accent that they are terrorists and that the US would be wise to adopt the view of the French government. Not that I really subscibe to that idea, but it would be fun to say. Does France officially hate PETA, BTW?

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