Quote of the Day, 5/13/07:
“No matter what the circumstances of their lives may be, she never allows them to go dirty or ragged. The mole, living always in the dark and in the dirt, is yet as clean as the otter or the wave washed seal.”
The above is the quote from John Muir. Although in the following column I kinda rip the Sierra Club, I’ve always respected John Muir and what he standed for.
Since I had so much fun writing about a job that sucked the other night, I’ve decided to tackle part two in this three part series. As some of you may know, I was employed by the Sierra Club shortly during the summer of 2003. I didn’t have the same job I had from the previous summers, and since I hadn’t really thought about where I was going to work, I didn’t really have any options.
Sitting in my parents kitchen one morning and flipping through the paper, I came across an ad that went something like this:
“Do you want to help the environment, and make money while doing it? Then The Sierra Club is for you! Please report to our office in Newton Centre to apply.”
Now…I’m not a dummy. I knew that there were strings attached….but honestly, the premise was simple and harmless enough: make money and help the environment. Sweet.
After attending an interview where I was hired on the spot (first time ever….and probably last), I was ready to help the environment and make money. The only problem: this job sucked, even worse than watching sidewalk. Let me explain:
First, a little history about the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club was founded in San Fransisco on May 28, 1892 by John Muir. They’ve had some notable board members since, including photographer Ansel Adams. The main purpose is to help maintain pristine areas of the environment throughtout the country as much as they possibly can. They do this through lobbying, to Congress and other legislative groups. In order to raise money for the lobbyists, people across the country go from door to door asking for donations.
Now…..I have nothing against the Sierra Club and their cause. I think its very admirable, in fact. But lets get something straight….going door to door to raise money is one of the most awful, least admirable jobs ever created. That’s where I come in.
Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t getting sent to the D.C. area to help out the lobbyists. I was getting shipped out to the suburbs of the Boston area, where I was to walk around the neigbhorhoods and make as much money as possible for the Sierra Club. Hey….you gotta start somewhere.
A couple things about how this worked: everyone was herded into a big room before we started, probably around noon. There were five or six team leaders: these were people who had been there for a little while, and took people out to their specific areas.
After the meeting, we would all go with our groups, grab some lunch, and head out to the burbs. We usually arrived in a neighborhood by around 2:30pm; and until about 7pm, we spent our time walking around in circles trying to raise money. Each person was given an area, usually consisting of about 40 houses, to work with.
Now, before I get to the bad, there were some good things about doing some “field work” for the Siera Club.
1) Its nice to be able to walk instead of stand. I mentioned in my earlier post about watching sidewalk that it sucks to stand in one place for awhile: well, with the Sierra Club, or any job of this nature, you’re constantly walking, which is nice.
2) Its just you, and theres no one to bug you. Honestly, its good alone time walking around in the burbs. Its usually very nice neighborhoods, the weather was usually nice, and you never had to worry about your boss chasing you down and telling you to get to work. You get to lay down in fields and hang out with the squirrels. Maybe thats why I got fired.
3) You tend to find cool things once in awhile while walking around. One time I found a really cool historic house in Lexington. Another time I found a cool looking rock. Hey, its not for everyone…but I thought it was pretty cool.
Honestly, the Sierra Club was sort of the opposite of watching sidewalk. It was the little things that made sidewalk watching suck; the little things is what made the Sierra Club bearable.
But lets not sugar coat it: soliciting for the Sierra Club sucked, for the following reasons:
1) Rap sheets. As I mentioned earlier, I was hired on the spot. The way it works is: everyone gets hired, unless its obvious that you’re some sort sort of inept pychopath. This isn’t to say psychopaths weren’t hired…..they definitely were. They just tried to weed them out beforehand. Well, because it was assumed (correctly) that some employees would be stupid, a rap sheet was created for everyone to use. I’d tell you more about it, but I’ve blocked it from my memory. Seriously.
The rap sheet was what the Sierra Club wanted us to say at every door…word for word. No variations. Nothing to spice it up. Just, “Hello, my name is Greg, I work for the Sierra Club……blah blah, blahblahblah, blah. We’d appreciate a donation.” Now I don’t know about you….but I like to improvise. I like to use my brain when I’m talking to people. Hey, sometimes I liked to put on a little show on the front porch. This is probably another reason I was fired…but to sum up what I’m getting at……I never used the rap. Ever.
Here’s some specific things about I didn’t like about the rap:
a) You had to carry it around. I hate carrying stuff around.
b) It was overly political. The rap pretty much made you say, “I hate George Bush; I am a warrior for the animals” while standing on someone’s front porch. Umm, I don’t know, I’m not the most political guy….but if I am gonna talk politics, I’m gonna say my own thoughts, and not what some rap sheet tells me. And further more, I’m not gonna discuss politics with a total stranger while wearing a green Sierra Club t-shirt and standing on someone’s front porch. That’s just me.
c) The rap sheet’s a little dishonest. Its recommended to get a membership at $50, but you can be a member at $35; and you can get the magazine at $20, which is really all anyone really wants. I usually talked people out of giving $50 so I didn’t feel like a jerk. Another reason I was fired.
d) They called it a rap sheet. That just sucks.
Getting back to the main list:
2) Feeling like an asshole.
There are many ways to feel like an asshole when going door to door. One time I pulled up to front porch, unaware of what was going on, and I heard an angry voice shout: “No, get the Hell out of here, we’re eating dinner!!” Some people would maybe get angry after being yelled at….I just felt like an asshole.
For pretty much all of my time, I felt like an asshole while working for the Sierra Club. One time two people were having a conversation on a porch, and as I approached them, I heard: “Oh really….can you just leave us alone!! Can you please just leave us alone!! Get a life!!”
I take back what I said above…..sometimes I did get angry. I distinctly remember thinking there was no reason she should have chewed me out like that….so I was a little pissed….but that didn’t mean I didn’t feel like an asshole. I did.
The list goes on….one time a dad told me he just got home from work, so can he please enjoy a pizza in peace with his son, and so on, and so on, and so on.
3) People love to thrash out against political solicitors:
As I mentioned before, the Sierra Club is somewhat political. So when someone opens a door and sees a young kid with a big smile on his face, and he starts talking about the environment, its a green light for anyone who has a political agenda against the organization in question. Ofcourse, what these people don’t realize is that much of the time, its just some poor kid like myself trying to make some cash; they’d be better off writing a letter to the organization’s President’s office. But, ofcourse, this doesn’t cross their mind as they’re opening the door to some total stranger asking for money.
4) When you work at the Sierra Club, everyone tries to be buddy-buddy with you, but its totally fake. This drives me nuts. Honestly, for a summer job, I like putting in my eight hours, and going home to hang out with friends. When you work at the Sierra Club: there are no other friends.
I remember getting back to the office late after wandering around some neighborhood asking people for their money. Back at the office in Newton, one of the people in charge casually asked me if I was coming in at 10 the next morning to hang up signs. First, I almost choked on the water I was drinking. Then, with a look that was part amusement/bewilderment, I responded: “No…..am I supposed to?”
“Well, we’d like to see you here. It’s going to be fun….we’re getting pizza. Blake and Jimmy like to have sign-hanging competition….you should come.”
Me: “Umm, do I get paid?”
Boss: “Well, no, but its a good way to learn about the organization.”
Me: (blank look), “Whaaaa?”
Suffice to say, I didn’t come in early. But they’d give you the guilt trip the rest of the day, and talk about how fun it was.
After work it was no different.
Boss person: “Hey Greg, we’re going to get wings, you should come.”
Me: “Umm, I was gonna hang out with my friends…..”
Entire group, in unison: “C’MON GREG……IT WILL BE FUN. JOIN US. WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS.”
Yah….at this point, it started feeling like a cult.
But seriously…….when you work at places like this, they want to transform you into a pet. I am telling right now….RESIST. DON’T FALL INTO THE TRAP. RESIST WITH YOUR LIFE.
Yah, so I wasn’t cool with that whole deal.
5) You look like a loser.
Especially when you’re in groups, and everyone is high-fiving and yelling things like “Way to go Greg, you just made quota!” I’m shivering right now….bad memories.
6) Honestly, I don’t like people telling me how to think. And that’s pretty much what it was. Plus, I was never 100% behind the cause. So honestly…..it was a pretty bad fit for me.
Some highlights among lowlights:
1) I met local hip-hop artist Amadeus, who is hilarious and talented. I’d go into more….but this is another post for another time.
2) I met a lot of characters. One time a bunch of guys right off the street came in to work (these guys never lasted longer than a day). Anyway, they pretty much hung out in the corner during the meeting and intimidated everyone.
There just happened to be a very attractive girl who attended Brown that worked there, and was one of the leaders (her boyfriend, who attended Columbia, also worked there, was like the number one seller each week, and was a total douche bag).
Anyway, I don’t remember now, but I think she was of Vietnamese descent, with other various heritages thrown in. As we headed out to go to work, the alpha dog walked right behind her, blatantly staring at her ass. Then he asked her: “Yo girl, what are you? Spanish? Asian? Italian?”
In a completely prissy voice, she answered: “Well, my mom’s Vietnamese, my Dad’s blah blah blah, blah blah….”
Guy: (still staring directly at ass): “Well, your parents were doing something right.”
Yah….that was a highlight.
3) Spending forty minutes climbing to some mansion on top of a massive hill, only to be told by a maid that the owner suffered from dementia. There were gargoyles and fountains everywhere. It was a pretty damn sweet pad.
4) Getting fired. I didn’t know whether to rejoice, or to be pissed that I wasn’t getting paid anymore. My boss, who was hippy, actually told me to “Call it quits, buddy.” It was another one of those stunning quotes….I didn’t know hippies had the word “buddy” in their vocabulary.
Okay…..I am officially done ranting about the Sierra Club. I think this post has gone on way to long….hopefully I didn’t bore you. Now if you don’t mind…..I have to run some errands.
Until Next Time,