I'm not giving the Salvation Army a single penny this holiday season. Here's why:
They now have a pot and some bell ringers set up in the newly remodeled entrance of the mall where I work. They were there last year, too, but the carpeting muffled the sound a bit, so they were only a little annoying. This year, it is all tile and how it echoes.
They are set up in the doorway of the big department store, but they are so close to the entrance of my store that I can easily hear them. When I arrived for my shift yesterday, I asked the woman ringing the bell if she could ring it quietly, for the sake of the people who can't just walk on by. She was very sweet about it, and even moved the bell to her other hand so tha her body was between it and my store. I thanked her very much and walked back to the store. For the next two hours, I had the bells ringing constantly, but it was at a low level so I could tune it out from time to time.
After two hours, she left and a mother and son arrived to take over. Now there were two bells being rung, and they were being rung quite vigorously. There was no way to tune it out now, and my head started to ache. During a brief quiet moment in my store, I went out and politely asked them if they could ring a little less aggressively. I explained how long I had been there, and what the previous woman had done to help me. They didn't get it.
"This is were we are supposed to be," the woman said, still ringing her bell with all her might. I assured her that I wasn't asking them to leave and that I appreciated what they were doing for charity. All I needed, was for them to reduce the volume a little, as I had no choice but to be near the bells and they were starting to give me a headache. The woman kept telling me that they were ringing the bells for charity and I kept telling her that I understood that, but that they could ring them for charity at a lower volume and that they would still get donations from passersby.
When I thought she'd finally gotten it, I thanked her and turned to walk back the the store. As soon as my back was turn, the ringing increased. I looked over my shoulder and they were grinning at me, while shaking the bells with all their power. Over the next hour, I did my best to not notice the sound and the increasing pain in my skull, but it was impossible. Sometimes they would pace away from the kettle stand and closer to my doorway.
At one point, I noticed that the boy wasn't there, and that now the woman was ringing both bells herself. I went to the doorway and asked her if she would mind ringing just the one bell it was just her.
"My son has gone to the bathroom," she replied, "and will be back." Yes, but in the meantime, did she have to ring both bells? The sound, I told her, was causing me physical pain.
"We are doing this to raise money for the homeless," she smugged. That's wonderful, but the homeess will still get money if you ring just the one bell, and it will help stop my head from hurting so terribly. She assured me that the Salvation Army was a Christian organization, but when I pointed out the Christian charity would be to help the person who was in pain right in front of her, she just smiled and kept ringing the bell.
I started to beg and plead. Please, my head hurts so much. I'm not asking you to stop, just to do that a little more lightly. All I got in return was smugness and my ringing. She indicated that I was interfering with the wellfare of the homeless by asking her to change her behavoir one jot. "Why are you doing this to me?" I begged, close to tears. More smug platitudes about how she would pray for me. At one point, I think I may have shouted. She told me that I was just embarrassing myself and that I should call my manager.
I realized that she wasn't going to listen to anything I said, but that calling my manager was probably a good idea. My manager might be able to tell me who in the mall I could call to deal with the sitution. Unfortunately, I only got an answering machine.
I gritted my teeth and tried to get through the last of my shift. It was difficult. I could barely think. I had to ask people to repeat their orders several times, and I made a lot of mistakes. I noticed that the sound was slightly less in the back room, so I spent as much time there as I could. I also noticed that they seemed to be tiring a bit, as the ringing became a little more erractic. At times it would flag to a level that would have been acceptable from the beginning. However, whenever I looked out into the mall, if one of them saw me they would grin at me and shake the bell is if to summon the fire brigade.
About 15 minutes before closing, my manager called back. I told her what was going on, and she said she would see about talking to someone in the mall about it. I thanked her and told her how glad I was that it was almost closing time, because I was close to cracking.
Finally, the time came for me to close the store. I pulled down the gate and began to try to count the money. It wasn't easy, since I was having a hard time keeping numbers straight. I looked across the cash register and made eye contact with the boy. He gave me a sneering gring and raised his bell up into the air to shake it higher. I snapped and gave him the finger.
Less than a minute later the woman was at my gate, telling me what a good thing for me that the gate was down, since I had just given the finger to her seven year old son. Her tone implied that it was a good thing for me physically. She blah blah blahed at me how they were trying to do some good in the world and they were part of a Christian organization and it was obvious that I wasn't a Christian since I was trying to hurt people and she had witnesses to my earlier outburst and blah blah blah. Once more, I tried to ask her what part of Christianity allowed her do something that caused someone physical pain even while they pleaded with her to stop. Of course, she didn't listen. She told me she was going to call my manager and get me fired.
"Fine," I snapped, "you do that. I'd rather be fired than to spend another day trapped next to horrible people like you." She tried to tell me again how horrible I was and how she was going to pray for me, but I told her to fuck off and turned my back on her. My head hurt so much and I was so upset that I really was crying at the point. I called my manager right away to tell her what had happened. I told her there was going to be a complaint about me, and that I would happily quit if she needed me to. She told me not to worry about it.
Even if I never see that vile woman and her ugly son again, they are the bad apples that have spoiled the bunch for me. I am not giving one penny to the Salvation Army, and I'm encouraging those I know to do the same. Find some other charity for Christmas and don't encourage the bell ringers.