Pockets of teen-aged blue-shirted tenors and sopranos were hanging out, awkwardly, in bagging satellites. (I was almost leveled by one earlier when I had tried to leave the woman's bathroom, a sterile chamber of soft rock music with narrow stalls, loose toilet seats, and unflattering lighting. I almost caught a buzz from the Noxema and hormones when the bony body, a victim of aggressive flirtation, stumbled in my path.)
When I walked past the donation jar, I pushed a single dollar into the slit. A less-enthused mother gave me a wary look, and I kept walking.
It's true that the thumb on my right hand is permanently damaged from an incident involving the pay phone at Last Chance Liquor and a misstep on a curb in, whatsay, aught-two. And while I may be horseshit at Tetris, I've always been able to bag my own groceries. I hate guilt donations. If super mom had asked me: Paper, plastic, or don't-care-about-our-choir-trip, I'd have opted out of the whole experience. I have a feeling that the choir will get to NYC, regardless of my single George Washington. I am confident that there is a parent in that high school who would see the fundraising tally had fallen short, and instead of telling Hannah and Sarah that they weren't going to be able to stand outside of the Today Show with a big glittery sign written on tag board, would pull out a check book and go apeshit with dollar signs. Maybe, in the process, get a wing of the school named after him/her.
You don't tell kids that they are taking a spring trip to NYC, and then say, "Sorry. You didn't make enough money. I told you that you should have had a car wash."
Meanwhile, less than 20 paces from that donation jar: The Salvation Army bell ringers. Annoying in their own tuneless right, but a tried and true organization. Where, if you don't donate, someone who needs warm clothes might get jacked.
"Sorry, ma'am. We only had enough to buy your child a single mitten. But that's better than none. She can just shift it to the other hand when that one gets cold. Plus, it looks like she has pockets. So ... she should be okay."
So what do you do? You can't walk past the bell ringers, give them a frowny face and say:
"Sorry. I already gave at the high school choir table."
And you certainly can't donate the same amount to the Salvation Army as you did to the high school choir.
"I see what you're doing, Salvation Army, and it means exactly as much to me as getting those poor high school students to NYC. Enjoy this dollar."
This whole set up just seemed so tacky to me. Or maybe the whole thing was a huge psychological manipulation, and everyone involved is a real genius. Me? I just felt dirty.