Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Soggy Tuesday and a charity rant

A little after 4:30 this morning, I was jolted from my slumber by the concussion of thunder and the din of horizontal rain pummeling the bedroom windows. I knew I shouldn't have hung the mountain bike back on the wall. I was going to need it this morning, and I was going to ride to the bus.

I dawdled in the comfort of my home for a few minutes longer than usual, holding out for a sign that the pulsing electrical swell outside was moving onward. Once outside, I tarried a while longer. Still dry under the shadow of the breezeway awning, I watched as my halogen beam split the darkness, interrupted by pearly meteors. Within seconds, moisture formed miniature lagoons in the grooves of my knobby tires. Scores of seconds ticked away as I observed the heavens, which had produced not strobe nor report.

I departed into the soggy gloom, slightly captivated if not entranced by the pattern of gems being thrown into the luminescence of my headlight. By the millions, tiny droplets flew up and forward before becoming suspended and apparently still for a moment in front of me, then drifted back as the momentum gave way to my forward progress. Although being attacked from above and beneath by what remained of the torrent, this fascinating and compelling series of events was unfolding right before my eyes. Through this, I could clearly see the puddle-mottled pavement riddled with confused and nervous drivers in their bumper cars.

An ambulance darted below me on I-35, almost certainly carrying a victim claimed by the storm's peripheral effect on humans in cars in Kansas City. Not that it's entirely the fault of people; Had I been driving, I would have seen little more than foggy glass and splashes of water obscuring my vision. Sure, I got a bit wet. I was also able to see very clearly and at the same time, notice a beautiful display. I wasn't the only one crazy enough to ride, either. Lorin was waiting with his Schwinn at the bus stop when I arrived.

Enough verbose story-telling, though. On with my rant.

The company I work for has a pretty odd policy on charities. One may not solicit for any charity at work, period. MS-150, girl scout cookies, school or church fund raisers, or anything. Instead, upper-upper-uber-management has mandated that the official charity of our organization is United Way. End of discussion. And they solicit the hell out of us to donate, almost to the point where I feel guilty for not wanting to donate to United Way.

First off, I'd like to point out that I'm sure United Way does good things. I'm not intimately familiar with what they do or how they work, so from that standpoint I have no beef with them. I DO have a serious problem with the fact that we're not allowed to even leave a girl-scout cookie or MS-150 form in our cubicle for people to sign (no solicitation involved) but that upper management can put the pressure on us to give to one specific organization. Later this week, one whole hour of my day (probably more) will be tied up by a meeting where they'll try to get us to drink the UW kool-aid. Sorry, but I have things to do, like work. During my orientation in January, we were also given the whole United Way presentation and informed of corporate policy banning other charities. We each had to turn in a donation form. If we didn't want to donate, we actually had to zero it out and turn it in anyways. In my opinion, that's a huge guilt trip in disguise. It's a ploy scientifically and meticulously engineered to make one feel like a miser. I'm sure we'll have to participate in the same ridiculous ritual later this week, and UW will get another Goose-Egg on a pink sheet of paper.

Truth be known, as voraciously as they're approaching the whole United Way thing, they're making me less likely to donate. I don't like being guilted or prodded into something. I'm of the opinion that charity donations should be given privately with a cheerful heart and on the whim of the giver. They should not be begged for nor harped on. Also, the amount of money that one company can drum up should not be made an idol. Seeing my company's name on a list of top ten donating organizations in Kansas City would not make me proud. It would look like a gaudy display of self-importance.

In short, while UW may be a worthy cause, my company's approach to it is without a doubt 100% against everything I stand for.


Random Tunage:
Push - Strange World
Garbage - Paranoid


Apertome said...

I like the descriptive writing in the first part of your post. That's great stuff, you should do more writing like that.

And I have to say that I am pretty appalled by your company's policies about charities. I do have some beef with United Way, but even if I didn't, that kind of all-but-forced contribution to one organization at the exclusion of all others is not OK.

I share your philosophy that giving should be voluntary and private. I can't understand why your company would have this policy.

Noah said...

I'm serious. Hand-copied from my employee handbook: "... as a practical matter, and to protect associates from solicitations, embarassments, arguments, or other uncomfortable situations and to ensure our efficiency, our policy is to limit solicitation and distribution on Company premises.

Associates are prohibited from soliciting, collecting contributions, or promoting support for any cause or organization during his/her work time or during the working time of the Associate or Associates to whom such activity is directed... etc. etc. etc."

Oh, but later on in the handbook:

"The Company actively supports the annual United Way fund drive. Associates are encouraged to make pledges to this worthwhile activity... you will be asked to complete a United Way contribution card once a year as an authorized exception to the No Solitication/Distribution policy..."

Thanks for the comments on my rather descriptive story-telling. You may have missed it, but I occasionally break out into that style on my blog. It's a fun writing style, and it's often utilized to draw richness from an otherwise ordinary and bland tale.

It's quite easy to write like that. I begin by recounting small details on my memory. What did I see? Smell? Taste? I focus on some sensory experience and extract as much detail from it as I can. As I convey those details, I think of cool, under-appreciated synonyms to every-day words as I type them. It gives my inner thesaurus a workout. :)

Jeff said...

when i was a contractor at a certain mega-super-big brewery in st louis, we had to do the same united way crap. we, too, were given the form and had to enter a zero if we didn't want to donate. employees (notice i didn't say contractors) were given perks, like (more) free beer, jackets, etc. for donating based on the amount. contractors didn't get anything. so much for charity.

Scott said...

I agree that companies more or less shame their employees into giving.

On the other hand you can pick the charity for all your money to go to. Except handling expenses.

United Way has not been known to be efficient in the past.

Ed W said...

My company pushes hard for United Way too. And just like yours, we're supposed to zero out the donation card and sign it. I've torn them up in front of a horrified UW volunteer. She left and came back with another card. I half-threatened to file harassment charges.

She doesn't bother me with cards anymore.

Noah said...

Wow. This is a universal thing, then.

Sirrus Rider said...

United Way is a jealous panhandler and usually arranges with the companies they solicit to protect their turf from other charities. To boot they often push their own political agenda along with it..

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