Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stopping Greenpeace Cold: A Success Story

Denver's 16th Street Mall: Where we set our scene.

The weather has been gorgeous here in Denver over the past days with temperatures pushing into the 70's. This has been good news in almost every way except one. I work downtown, and when the weather gets nice, a scourge of canvassers hit the Sixteenth Street Mall seeking suckers who they can talk to in order to solicit funds for their various causes.

If you are unfamiliar with what a canvasser is, it is basically a socially conscious hippie with a clipboard. They have been given the job of trying to talk to anyone with a pulse who walks in or near their general vicinity to discuss the evils of the world and more specifically how your personal check can cure said evils. The only canvasser who I want to talk to is the canvasser whose cause it is to rid the world of canvassers, as they are the scourge of the earth.

One of the most annoying traits of the canvasser is their pervasive perkiness. If these people were thrown into solitary confinement for three weeks they would say they were happy they could finally get some time alone. These people face more rejection than an ice cube salesman in the Arctic Circle, and yet remain annoyingly upbeat. I'm not generally annoyed by perky people, but these people use their perkiness as a sales tool...bouncing and hopping and smiling in a vain attempt to get your attention so that they can pitch you on the sorry state of the world and how your monthly check can make it all better.

There are all manner of causes that the canvasser champions, but the most annoying version is also the most pervasive: The Greenpeace canvasser. Over the past year that I have worked downtown, I have learned how to generally ignore these people. When I first started working down there, I would respond to their favorite question, "Do you have a minute for the environment?" with a polite, "Not right now." However, as the months have gone by, I have found myself completely ignoring them. I keep hoping that they get the point that I am not interested in donating to Greenpeace by picking up on my none too subtle body language which includes items such as listening to my headphones, walking right on past them as if they are not there, and avoiding making eye contact at all costs. Even with these rather obvious non-verbal cues, they just can't take a hint.
One of their favorite moves to get my attention is to wave their hand in my line of sight that is intentionally not directed at them and then wave their hand closer to their face until I am looking them in the eyes at which point they have baited me into at least telling them no rather than just pretending they don't exist. This move might not work if I was not for some inconcievable reason drawn uncontrollably to a waving hand like a puppy to a shiny object. Somehow Greenpeace is instictively aware that I am unable to ignore their waving hands, and they have a need for me to tell them, "I'm not interested." These people are seriously addicted to rejection.
Last week, I finally came up with the perfect defense against this silliness. In fact, it was so good that I was actually looking forward to the next time I saw one of their obnoxious blue Greenpeace shirts just so I could break out my new weapon. Naturally, as soon as I am looking forward to my next interaction with a Greenpeace canvasser, they are nowhere to be found. You see, the weather was bad. These people never are around when the weather is chilly. They love rejection, but apparently they hate temperatures in the thirties. They want to save the world, but only if they don't have to wear a jacket to do it. I find it deliciously ironic that global warming may actually help them have more days to canvas.

Well, yesterday to my delight, the weather was beautiful, and just like ants to a picnic, the goofy blue shirts were crawling all over the mall. I knew my time had come, and I was ready. I walked past the ESPN Zone and the two canvassers standing in front of it. I was ready to break out my secret weapon, and almost giddy with anticipation. Much to my chagrin, the first time I walked past, they were chatting with each other and didn't even give me a second glance. Ordinarily, I would have taken this as a fortuitous break, and walked quickly past, but yesterday I slowly moped along. I may have even been moseying. Despite my slowed pace, I didn't even get a nibble, so I walked across the street to my favorite hot dog stand. (An amazing superhero of a street vendor called Biker Jim who sells without a doubt the world most delicious hot dog.)

After a quick lunch of Jalapeno Elk Sausage, I made my way back across the street even intentionally crossing to the other side of the street so that I would be on the same side as my Greenpeace friends. I had my headphones on, but my demeanor was much more friendly and approachable because for the first time ever, I actually wanted to engage them. A young idealist woman in her early twenties, she approached me and did the wavy hand thing. I wasn't looking at her, because I wanted to play moderately hard to get in order to avoid completely giving away that for the first time ever I was armed for this battle.

"Hi, how are you?" she said in a way that was so pleasant I almost felt bad about how well this converation was going to go for me.

"I'm good, Thanks." I replied and then before she even had a chance to begin her spiel followed that up with, "You're a conservationist, right?"

She looked at me slightly confused as if she didn't quite understand what I meant, which to be fair, she wouldn't understand for a few more seconds. She did answer me with a hopeful almost excited, "Why yes, I am!"

This was going perfectly, and she was set up for the kill.

"That's perfect, because right now, you can save your breath."

As her jaw dropped and she tried to stammer some type of response, I walked away with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.

If you see someone wearing this iconic blue shirt, either avoid eye contact, or feel free to use my method. I won't even charge you a royalty fee for it's use.

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