The other night I'm walking home from work. I spot this kid up ahead who looks lost and is holding a folder. Normally I would brush past because I'm a time-driven person, but I had had a venti iced Americano that afternoon, so I felt friendlier than usual, and he looked so helpless.
"Sir?" he said, and he opened his folder.
Me: Shoot. He wants me to buy popcorn or cookies or something. Not happening.
"I'm from a [local inner city youth program], sir, and we're selling coupon books, sir. The funds go to help us with blah, blah, blah."
All I could hear was the number of times he called me "sir." And what a ploy, sending out a child to do the fundraising! Such a good example of pathos if I could go back to high school English. Obviously they expect my weak, un-evolved soul to give in to this child's puppy eyes and unassuming posture: "Of course I'll buy your coupon book."
Except I see right through you, inner city youth program! You think this nine-year-old is going to Trojan horse his way into my wallet better than an adult? Think again!
Now I have nothing against such programs. Just I am a grad student, so I am not donating to anyone until I am established in a career. Also, I resent marketing meant to prey upon humanity's instinct to protect the young.
Meanwhile, I had already fallen victim: This kid was so cute, I had to give him something.
The child: "We take cash, checks, or debit cards, sir. It would really me help out if you bought a book. They're $25 each, and it's worth $75, sir."
He shows me the coupon book, which is actually a card, and I reach so I can read it closer.
The levelheaded side of me says, "Cazey, you are not paying $25 for a coupon book to McDonald's and Waffle House."
But he's so adorable . . . He's a bit chubby, too, like my childhood self.
Me: "Do you take donations?"
The infant: "Yes, we do, sir."
Me: "Let me see what I have. I won't buy the book, but I may have some cash. And I'll take this home and look into buying it." Because in my head, this card is instructions to purchase the coupon book online. Because he said "coupon book," not "coupon card." And fear not, I have no intention of buying this coupon book, but I like to give out false hope. Never say never to the salesperson; just say you'll sleep on it.
I find $5 and hand it to him. I debate giving just a dollar, but his cheeks! (You conniving inner city youth program!)
"Thank you so much, sir," the child replies. Meanwhile, his eyes are on the card in my hand. But he says nothing.
"Have a great night." I smile and walk away.
A block away, I flip the card over and realize this this is the coupon card. I am holding the coupon card. Why do I have the coupon card?
I speed-walk backward two blocks, and I look up and down the side streets. Where did the kid go? I need to give him back his card. I stole from him. But then I never find him (he probably ran to his mom and told her about the adult who just robbed him), and now I have ten buy-one-get-one-free coupons to Burger King and Sonic.