Humor by Greg Schwem
The first of many knocks occurred last week. I opened the door to see a neighborhood boy wearing a high school football jersey.
"Mr. Schwem, would you like to buy a coupon book to support the Indians? They're only $20."
I dug into my wallet and produced a bill before I even bothered perusing the book's contents. It didn't matter for I knew what was in it: Coupons for restaurants I'd never frequent offering discounts on appetizers I probably shouldn't eat; 50 percent savings on laser hair removal, body waxings, salon appointments and other beauty treatments designed to make me look younger and smoother just in time for the winter heavy coat season; and complimentary admissions to assorted theme parks and arcades that can easily afford to let patrons in for free since they charge double-digit prices for hot dogs.
Ah, yes, the season of school fundraising has returned. It begins the moment the first bus fires up its engine in August and doesn't end until the last notes of "Pomp and Circumstance" fade from everyone's eardrums. My front foyer is once again a holding area for kids selling not only coupon books but jumbo-size M&M's, thick, lengthy chocolate bars, raffle tickets, scented candles, popcorn tins, cheesecakes and sausage logs. And all of this occurs BEFORE the first Girl Scout, cookie form in hand, finds my house.
In return for my inability to say "no" to any salesperson under 16, I am helping purchase new soccer uniforms, upgrade drama facilities, offer kids the chance to march in the Tournament of Roses parade, and fund myriad other school needs that my taxes apparently don't cover.
This year, I vow not to be such a pushover. No matter how cute the kid is, no matter how well I know his or her parents, and no matter how worthwhile the cause, every budding school-age entrepreneur who approaches my house is going to learn that sales isn't always so easy. Wait, I just heard the doorbell ring.
"Hello, may I help you?"
"Hi, Mr. Schwem, I'm Tim. I'm selling worthless pieces of junk for $100, with all the proceeds going toward speakers for my new car. By the way, my Dad says hi. He's your accountant."
"Here you go Tim. I'll take two!"
OK, bad example. Let's try another one.
"Hello, may I help you?"
"Hi, Mr. Schwem, I'm Emily."
"Do I know you?"
"Um yes. I came to your daughter's birthday party last week."
"Did you bring her a gift?"
"Of course I did."
"How much did it cost?"
"Uh, I don't know. My mom bought it. Probably about 30 dollars."
"So, Mom sent you here to recoup her money, right?"
"No, I'm selling raffle tickets for the school
"Hang on, Emily. I have an old TV in the basement. I was going to sell it at a garage sale but I'm happy to let you have it. It only gets three channels and it has rabbit ears on the top, but it still works, providing you don't mind watching in black and white."
"I don't think we need that. Last year you bought 10 tickets, Mr. Schwem. Remember? You just handed me a blank check and said, 'Fill in the amount. I trust you.'"
"And where did that money go?"
"It helped us build a
"Can I use the home? Maybe for a week over New Year's?"
"Uh, no, somebody is living in it."
"That doesn't seem fair. By the way, shouldn't you be addressing me in Spanish? The Girl Scouts wear their uniforms when they come to the door."
"Se está haciendo de noche y tengo cincuenta casas más para ir."
"What does that mean?"
"It means, 'It's getting dark and I have 50 more houses to go.'"
"OK, Emily, what's the raffle grand prize?"
"Chicago Bears season tickets. And a skybox."
"The Bears stunk last year. What else you got?"
"Second prize is a round of golf at . . ."
"My golf game stinks this year. Next?"
"Every other prize is the satisfaction that comes with knowing you are helping Third World areas have access to basic necessities."
"Does that satisfaction come with a sausage log?"
"Mr. Schwem, do you want to buy a ticket or not?"
"OK, I'll take one. Bend the corner so I'll be sure to win."
"Thanks Mr. Schwem. By the way, I'm also selling magazine subscriptions so the archery team can --"
"Don't push it, Emily."
Humorist Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad
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