When I was 15 my mom drove me to a job interview on Goshen Rd. I’d found the company’s ad in the classifieds; they were looking for people with good telephone presence, and at 15 that was pretty much my main skill. A lot of other events have faded in Mom’s memory but she still recalls (mostly) that one, when she heard my strange galumphing walk and looked in her review mirror to see me rounding the car for the passenger seat.
“They wanted to send blind kids to the movies!” I said as I slammed the door.
Her recollection is wrong on one count. What they ostensibly wanted to do was send “sight-impaired disadvantaged youth” to the circus. The job interview itself consisted of the applicant being handed a photocopy of a page of the local phone book and a script from which you could not deviate AT ALL. If you made one “sale” in 15 minutes you got to stay for another 15 and so on, until they got at least an hour’s free work out of you. As someone well-acquainted with my own hourly value thanks to babysitting pretty much every Saturday night I saw through that tactic, but still gamely went along with the first 15 minutes. I think I thought that I’d be so wonderful they’d hire me without the subsequent trial periods. I was 15. I went through the mealy-mouthed script but on the third read-through I realised what we were asking for money for, and how ridiculous it really was. What joy is there at a circus if you can’t see it? A lot of loud confusing noises, the urine-gamey funk of animals confined to quarters, let out only to prance in geegaws that looked foolish enough on the people. A circus without sight is stink and cacophony. With sight it is stink, cacophony and clowns. But really there wouldn’t be blind children going to any circus because once all the donations got apportioned out to the various people behind the scenes maybe one cent of every dollar went toward the circus fund. Those people could raise money forever and still not afflict one sightless kid with the horror of Barnum’s Folly.
I think of that scam often when people bring up charities. Livestrong is another example of yet another charity that has gone the way of the blind circus kids. Maybe now that Lance has been debracleted they can actually give money to cancer research again.
I also think of the blind kid show scam when I read about strange causes. Just now I went to the Ben & Jerry’s website to nominate that my favourite flavour–Wavy Gravy–be recalled to life. Sadly, I did a little research and see that the flavour was recalled because it was “not cost-effective”. The hippie who lent his name to the concoction contracted to have all the profits donated to send homeless kids to camp. Which is just weird. Camp is not a life essential. Camp is an extra. If these kids don’t even have a home, why are we sending them to CAMP? Don’t they already camp all the time? “Hey! You know what you’d love?! A couple of nights in a tent in the woods!” They get to be homeless with s’mores.
I know I don’t like circuses and I don’t like camping so there’s that. But in both cases I think it’s all ridiculous, yet the older I get the more I realise that people will do any number of ridiculous things for any number of ridiculous reasons. Like writing a blog.