Yesterday the kid across the street rang the bell and asked me if I wanted to buy some magazines he was selling to raise money for a 6th grade school trip to Washington, D.C. Abby happened to be around and said, "Good luck with that one, Justin." She was probably remembering back to her middle school adventure selling magazines. I’ve embarrassed her plenty over the years but that was, if I do say so myself, one of the more stellar examples.
We live in one of the better heeled school districts in the country. Our taxes are incredible, mostly to defray all of the University property that is not taxed. In theory, these are well-educated people in this town who care a lot about a quality education for their children. So why do they take three weeks out of every school year to turn them into door-to-door hucksters, selling over-priced rags that were better off as trees? Answer: so they can pack them all on tour buses with large screen TV’s, drive all night to D.C, run maniacally through 17 major monuments and museums in two days and LOCK them in the motel rooms at night because you know you can’t trust a bunch of hormone driven 12 and 13 year olds. And half of them still figure out how to spend the night on the motel roof; I know Dan did. I didn’t let Abby go.
These were a few of the additional problems related to magazine sales:
For three weeks all the parents acted like it was some Olympic competition and by golly, if their child sold the most magazines, well their child was THE BEST. The moms behaved like characters on Desperate Housewives (the whacky way, not the sexy way).
The kids who have physician parents- lots around here- always won because they load up on the junk they leave in their waiting rooms. Did you ever wonder why you have to sit there and read Utah Lifestyles and Better Living Through RVing when you should be in a room discussing that rash on your backside? 6th grade magazine sales.
They had Incentive Meetings in the auditorium 3 times a week for 3 weeks. Nothing else during the school year- not Black History Month, not the presidential election, not even music night brought the kids out of class and into the auditorium around one issue as much as MAGAZINE SALES. They would have little roll calls to announce which class was leading in sales, what the prizes were for both individual and class high sales and then they had a drawing. If you had sold so much as one subscription you could reach into a fishbowl held by the Principal (nothing better to do) and draw out a prize envelope. Of CASH. How crass is that? There were mostly dollar bills and a couple five dollar bills and one grand prize. Against my better judgment I let Abby sell one magazine subscription to her grandparents. She put her name in the bowl. She won the grand prize- are you ready for this? a 5 pound Hershey Bar. In a school where every child has thousands of dollars worth of metal in their mouths they give out a 5 pound Hershey Bar. Actually, they didn’t give it to her. They gave her a phone call home to ask me to come pick this item up from the office. Why? Because "it was an attractive nuisance and not something they wanted the kids to carry around in their backpacks during school." So would I please stop work, drive over to the school and pick up a 5 pound Hershey Bar won in a lottery for an activity I thought frivolous and stupid at best? Sure, you bet. Would I scribble off a rant to the local newspaper addressing the bad values and the waste of valuable time inherent in this activity? You bet. When it was published as an op-ed piece did Abby decide, not for the last time, that she would like to leave home? You bet. I bribed her to stay with the candy bar and she was fine until the next year when I served on the sex ed advisory board.
As for Justin, I now have a subscription to The American Gardener.