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Well, saying anything that may possibly be presumed as a negative toward any public "servant" is a good way to do it. You'll be assured of your place in a lonely out of the way bar on Friday nights if you dare say anything untoward regarding the fire department. ;

Nothing makes me crazier than "Fill the Boot" campaigns. ;

To be fair, these are the local volunteer firemen doing a campaign on behalf of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and to be further fair, I am of the belief that our local public services are as well run as any I have seen in the places I have lived. But … here I am driving home from the supermarket on Monroe Ave, and coming into the village of Pittsford we have about a 60 car backup that extends over 3 blocks and takes about 4-5 extra minutes to get through. You may think 4 or 5 minutes is no big deal, but multiply that by the several hundred cars in each direction that were delayed and now we're talking a serious cost. ;

But maybe that is all for a good cause. Maybe. But I want folks to be consistent. I really do. Imagine if me and my students decided to do a fundraiser in the middle of Monroe Ave on a Monday afternoon that held up traffic and asked people to contribute to our ELFS program? After all, we (were/are) trying to raise money to help a student who is trapped in a public school find their way to a Catholic alternative. It would seem to be a good cause, no less worthy than fundraising for Muscular Dystrophy – yet I am 100% sure we would have not been permitted to do it. I am almost as sure that we would have been quickly escorted from the street if we tried it. Or what if we were not raising funds for a good cause but instead trying to sell some maps or buttons or hot dogs or lemonade to cars at the intersection in the village. I am sure the police would have stopped it immediately and fines/summons would have been written. So what makes the fire department any different than the rest of us? Or what makes Muscular Dystrophy so important that it should get the time for a "Fill the Boot" campaign and not perhaps the American Cancer Society? And what if any old organization wanted to make a contribution to the fire department in exchange for them using their "power" to stop traffic and fundraise?

And seriously, raising funds this way is far worse than having a Sallie representative ringing the bell outside the shopping malls at Christmas time. There is no way to escape the fundraisers, and the pressure to give in such a situation is not exactly what I would call non-existent (I did not give in case any of you are wondering). These sorts of things, rightly or wrongly, make me less inclined to support either the fire department or the charity they are representing. Pray, tell, what is so special about either of them that they get to do this? ;

6 Responses to “Removing Myself from Polite Company”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    Another great post. And I kind feel bad about free-riding here as a reader. 😉

  2. Mike says:

    It’s because they’re firemen and it’s for the children!

    But because I don’t like it either, I was home alone last night.

    There are never enough people like you and I at a bar of Friday nights. And then, even if we were in the same bar, we’d probably start arguing with each other.

  3. Dan says:

    'Nonprofit = noble' is a common trope. Ironically, the more elite you are, the more strongly you feel this. No institution broadcasts its own social value more loudly than the playgrounds of the rich: orchestras, art museums, and colleges.

  4. Rod says:

    All of the fire companies around here are volunteer organizations, as the population of our boroughs and townships totals around 22,000 people, including children, and that's just not enough to pay for full-time public employees to fight very few fires.  Many of the municipalities have a special "emergency services" tax to pay for their fire companies (those municipalities also have local police that consume most of the money that comes in from other taxes).  Thus it is very important to keep the volunteer fire companies going; we just can't afford unionized public employees who might say at some point, "Pay us more or let your house burn down."
    All that being said, the fire companies have an endless list of equipment they want, from new radios at $4,000 each to shiny new ladder and tanker trucks.  Local officials fall over each other in taking bows for supporting the volunteers and for buying new equipment.  Interesting fact:  Pennsylvania used to allow firemen to hang on to the sides of fire trucks when going to a fire, but now all fire trucks must have enclosed cabs for carrying firemen (PC: firefighters).  That was one of the thrills volunteers loved when going to a fire.  Additionally, firefighters must now undergo training equivalent to the training given to professional firemen, and the end result is to thin out the number of people who have the time to do all that.  No longer can one join the fire company and pick up a hose and put out the flames.  Firefighters must also be certified in CPR and other ambulance corps type training. 
    Missing also is the cultural millieu where our residents, mostly Pennsylvania Dutchmen, made the firehouse the center of their social activity.  It used to be we go out and shoot a groundhog, put on our belt and suspenders and head for the bar at die firehaus for six or eight cold ones.  The firehouses are still booked solid for wedding receptions, but that is only because the hotels and B&B's are booked also.  It just isn't that Dutch around here any more.  Dutchmen used to have fire house membership on their birth certificates.
    So we have boot collections on all holidays, and I carry change in the car so I don't have to give them a twenty.  They don't make us tithe.  I drive through, dump some change in the boot and thank my lucky stars that the International Federation of Absolutely Essential Public Employees does not have a gun to my head when I call 9-11.

  5. Speedmaster says:

    And further removing myself from polite company … I now abhor the beginning of every sporting event when we need to publicly worship the flag and our troops.

  6. rox_publius says:

    My response is the same as I employ with telemarketers and panhandlers…  I simply don't give.  I figure if we all stop giving, they'll not be inclined to bother us.
    I also discontinue charitable donations to organizations who utilize the entire amount to fund solicitations for further donations.

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