July 4, 2008

Go Ahead, I Dare You.

Twice a week I find myself an hour away with 60 or 90 minutes of free time and I usually end up in the bookstore. Thursday I had every intention of going to Wegman's to buy ingredients for the gnocchi salad I was taking took to Coleen's on the 4th. Instead, my van drove back to the bookstore again and I found myself sitting in the back corner paging through a book about organizing your entire life in one year and Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning."

So, I'm minding my own business and glance up to see two women walking my way. They were quite an interesting eyeful and quite unlike anyone I'd encountered in this bookstore prior. One young lady had a hefty but sporty build and was wearing long shiny trunks, a large t-shirt, sneakers and had her poorly bleached hair pulled tightly into a small unflattering ponytail. The other was a tad taller, much thinner and I have no idea what she was wearing because even in my passing glance, looking up from "July Fun in the Sun: Scrapbooks, Memorabilia, Greeting Card Collections, and Your Address Book," I was captured for one brief moment imagining just what her deal was. She was immensely tanned and though I could tell she was no older than 24, her skin looked way, way beyond that in skin years. Sort of like dog years only I'd say 10 per the average 1, in this case. But it wasn't the tanning, maybe drugs. Her face looked like the awful "after meth" faces someone once sent me in an email. Like she'd been through hell and back (or maybe not back just yet). Her hair, brittle and stubby, did not help any. Some part of my heart went out to her.

I went back to my book and they passed. Almost immediately, just long enough to eye each other, give a quick nod and turn around, they were back standing in front of me.

"Hi," the one in large shiny trunks addressed me, "we were wondering if we could ask you a few questions."

"Sure," I said. Even though this was highly weird I strangely didn't care, didn't feel threat or dread the way you might when a salesman comes knocking. I just looked up at them pleasantly from my lap covered by books and my purse and listened. I expected them to ask me questions about my patterns, buying patterns or some other socio-economical or environmental stuff. The one in trunks was holding an armful of paper. Really, I had no idea but I had time, so sure, what's up?

Trunks continued. "Have you ever heard of the Dare program?"

I nodded, "Yeah?"

"Well, it's losing funding and it would be a shame to lose a good program like Dare. Have you ever seen those coupon books that you can buy and then use hundreds of coupons in stores and restaurants?" She pulled her thumb along the edge of a thick stack of paper, showing me the "book" which didn't really look like any of those I'd seen before, but whatever. Continue, let's get this over with.

"Yes, I've seen them."

"Well, we're selling these coupon books for the Dare program that way you can help a great program like Dare AND you benefit too! So would you like to buy one?"

I glanced down and back up to Trunks and Skin, "Actually, I'm not sure how I feel about the Dare program." Trunks straightened and her face looked back at me like I had begun to grow antlers.

"What do you mean?" she mustered.

"Well, two of my kids had it in 5th grade and came home saying things like, 'Sgt. Smith told us we could get high off Robotussin...and the ingredients for making meth can be found under the kitchen sink...I just don't know why an 11 year old needs that kind of information."

Trunks looked like she was beginning to despise me, but she held up her half smile and kept listening for the off-chance I'd settle on handing her some money anyway.

"And I read about a few studies that found," I continued, "the Dare program can actually increase drug use among kids or at the very least have no effect at all."

Trunks took a step back. Skin, arms crossed tightly in front of her, was staring at me like a deer in headlights, the poor thing. "Well," Trunks rebutted like a tough junior high girl starting her umpteenth fight of the year, "everyone has their opinion." She smiled meanly. She wanted to push me hard in the chest, grab my purse and run, but she composed herself, being that they had found themselves in a civilized place of knowledge-finding and all. "So, does that mean you don't want to buy a book?" She delivered the question as if she was cleverly exposing something about myself I didn't already know.

"Yeah." The conversation had turned a little sour. Their backs were turned, walking away and then something came out of my mouth.

"You don't have anything to counter that?" Trunks, turning around in disbelief, stared into my eyes. Skin turned around in a different disbelief, the kind that says Can't this be over???

Trunks was angry now at this mild-looking lady she thought she could manipulate. I mean, I couldn't help but notice that before they came to me, they had walked right past a couple of gray-haired intellectual professor-types reading in the leather chairs of little cove beside me. Trunks and Skin hadn't even considered to try and wrangle them for money, to appeal to their bleeding love for a drug-free humanity. So why me? What is it about me sitting there in a bookstore dreaming of a perfectly ordered home that makes two sistas think they can con me?

"Look! Everyone has their opinion!" she explained to me again. I just wasn't gettin' it.

"Well, it's not about my opinion," I argued, sort of enjoying it now, "it's just what I've read, it's my experience. I just thought maybe you'd have some pro-Dare information to share."

She walked up to me to put an end to this bad trip they'd found themselves on. "Do you want to buy a coupon book?"

"Nope." I said, returning to my books. And word to the wise, Sista Trunks, just because a pill may look happy and pink and harmless doesn't necessarily mean it's going to give you the trip you're looking for! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Trunks and Skin quickly walked off shoulder to shoulder down the Language aisle muttering about me. Can you believe that wacko??? What A jerk! I have a feeling they kept walking right out the front door and considered doing their work elsewhere.

I left soon after purchasing the two books, One Year to An Organized Life by Regina Leeds and Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, giving in to my own addiction.

So...What do you think? Was it a total scam? Were they doing community service? Work release? Was it really a Dare fundraiser? Were they two angels sent from above to test my generosity? Do you think it's even possible to organize your life in one year?


Lea said...

WOW.. My gut reaction is they needed some fast cash... book store folks... soft targets...

..that is freaky!

Mom said...

I have a policy to never give cash to people I don't personally know who come knocking at my door - or find me in a bookstore. I have doubts about their trustworthiness. I would do what you did.
The Frankel book is a good, thought provoking read. I have given up on being better organized

KimP said...

Regardless of whether it was a scam or not, if it's not something you believe in, why support their cause?

It's probably possible to organize your life in a year - could I keep it up, though, would be the biggest question. :-)

Debs Blog said...

They remind me of the DCF workers that have been coming around our home. Pushy, to say the least.

Organize my life in a year, I could only hope to.

Paul Nichols said...

No, "Man's Search for Meaning" is not a scam. What a great read. I've read it a few times. Twice in college for different classes. Awed by it every time. I have a worn copy around here somewhere.

I have worked with addicts, prostitutes, alcoholics, homeless people for quite a few years. Always... always... always say your piece (and your peace) and no more. Trust your gut. "Let your 'yes' be yes and your 'no' be no." Goes a long way. That doesn't mean you cannot be compassionate.

Jennie said...

I just finished the book and I'll probably read it again someday too. It seems to be one of those that keep revealing more and more the more you read it. Wow, between "Night" and this one ...it's staggering to think of all we can learn from survivors.

rosemary said...

Scam? Who knows but no cash to a stranger from me.

I can't organize my coupons....so getting my last quarter organized is not gonna happen. you are young, jennie....you can do it.