Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Monday, July 26, 2004

"Well, it's all for a good cause, isn't it?"

I should have known there was something wrong with an email which begins "My mother's line-dancing group..." Particularly when it came from Blondie.

But, and perhaps inviting my afternoon to be ruined, I read the rest of the mail, which showing either almost endearing naivete or *almost* impressive chutzpah, she's emailed to the whole office. The line dancers are looking to defy economics, not to mention twenty years of progress in disability rights, to "buy this poor girl a wheelchair by collecting her weight in bottle tops...." And, sure enough, it said "PLEASE HELP!!!"
I forwarded it to Brother with a heading of "kill me now". He agreed things were a little bleak. And yet, instead of shutting Blondie, her email and her 10 stone of plastic bottle tops in a metaphorical airtight room for a long weekend, we couldn't resist picking holes in it. Here's a few:

1) Obvious one this, but how do you go about buying a wheelchair with about fifty bags of plastic bottle tops? There's a few theories that could explain this, and I couldn't help but ask Blondie.

- The "Benefactor Challenge" Theory. This states that a generous benefactor will donate a wheelchair if a challenge is fulfilled, in this case to collect her body weight in plastic bottle tops. But how generous is this offer, really? Will the girl get the chair if they do not succeed in this challenge? If yes, then what's the point in wasting my time? If not, then evidently this person with a disability is being used as part of some kind of sick power play, in which I want no part. Could anyone really say "No, you're two stone short, therefore the girl can crawl home"?

- The "Recycling" Theory. Again, interesting one this. About ten years ago, charities realised that your small change wasn't worth much against Esso's, and started asking for your bank details instead. But before they reached this point, it wasn't uncommon for Blue Peter to ask for a million foil bottle tops. Now, aluminium evidently has worth, and can be recycled. Of course, Blue Peter asked you to post it, when really they would have made more money if they'd asked for the price of the stamp you used to send in your junk.But just assuming unsorted plastic can be effectively recycled (bearing in mind that in the real world the man-hour cost of processing and sorting the plastic is deducted from its value), I decided to try an experiment, particularly as she'd suggested that this was how it worked. I walked over in more concillatory mood, having torn her to shreds earlier, and said "OK, here's one to get you started." I gave her my empty drinks bottle. She took the cap off, and threw the rest of it in the bin. 'Nuff said.

- The "Blue Peter" Theory. This is one of Brother's. Maybe there's a parallel campaign to obtain sticky back plastic. Hey presto, one wheelchair.

2) The email helpfully specifies: "Items with plastic caps include; Comfort bottles, soft drinks bottles, milk bottles." Quite apart from the fact that I'm beginning to suspect a back hander from Lever Bros (Persil bottles have them too), I'm suspicious as to why no brands of soft drink were mentioned. And why she felt the need to specify that all of them are, um, bottles.

3) We have way too many charity drives in our office. And these are all for good causes, aren't they? For example, a recent project raised £15.24 by selling cakes for the Peace Hospice.Win-win situation right? Except, of course, for the fact that we were continually badgered (even in important case discussions) to spend out our 20 pence on a cake. Which sort of cost us a lot of time from our own work, which essentially consists of caring for people. (Hence me almost snapping on Day 3 "Here's £2- now fuck off!" 

Just imagine all 30 of us in the office lost two minutes. It's reasonable to assume that the county lost at least that amount again. Wouldn't it have been better to suspend that person for an afternoon, and donate their salary to charity? Just a thought.

4) Would be far less trouble to just donate fifty pence each. Which, incidentally, is the cost of a TON of unsorted plastic for recycling. Not to mention the factor of compassion fatigue. All of the people involved may fall into that dangerous trap of feeling that you're St Bob Geldof because you brought a bag of plastic junk into work this morning.

5) I do a lot of work for Charidee, y'know. Maybe this is a little harsh, but do you have to advertise how much good you're doing? If you want to do some good, why not let yourself be caught by a girl with a clipboard and set up a standing order? Over a year, you'll be giving as much, personally, as badgering all your mates to sponsor you for a big charity stunt. And only your bank will know. Oh. 

6) It's resulted in me getting dirty looks all day.

It just highlights that no matter how pointless, futile and ultimately counter-productive something may be; you can't question it because it's for a good cause. Waste fifty tins of baked beans to highlight how little food there is? Fine! Do a crazy stunt, watched by a crowd? Go for it. Walk around with a big arrow saying Look At Me I'm Doing It For Charity. It's for a good cause.

Next week, Dwarf Tossing and Cock Fighting. It's for charity you know.


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