There I was, eating my twice weekly helping of Lloyd Grossman sauces (tonight was Bhuna), when an almighty thump hits the front door upstairs. Not expecting visitors, I await the sound of my fellow residents rushing to greet whoever it is they have invited.
No such noise. And if its one thing I can do in my house, its recognise the many sounds it makes, like a living creaking, draughty organism. I eventually down food tools, and head upstairs and open the front door. No one. Ho hum. I glance up and down the street, but all I could see were a couple of gangly yout's making their way up the road, so I start to close the door when:
A youngish bloke wearing a plastic Cancer Research jacket with an indecipherable bit of 'ID' strung round his neck.
"Did you just get a knock on your door?"
I answer. He's straight on the script like a pro. Blah representing Cancer Research blah looking for donations blah. Time for my usual opener:
"Do you have a leaflet that I can have?"
Well of course not. These chaps are so conscientious that carrying disposable bits of paper would prejudice Mother Earth. My eyes narrow. Really?
A deep breath. A lot of words come out of my mouth, some fuelled by reason, but almost as much by instinct. How many other industries go and ask for money by knocking on people's doors? I explain that I find it quite objectionable that anyone should be expected to sign up for anything let alone a direct debit based upon a 5 minute chat on the doorstep.
I worry I sound like a bastard. Time for some milk.
"I sympathise with what you're doing because it must be a pretty shit job"
He looks away. Perhaps he's recounting the module of his training for dealing with people like me.
"We don't earn any commission" he says "the money goes to the charity".
"You don't earn any commission? How does your collection company turn a profit?" I venture. What I discover is that he (apparently) doesn't earn any commission, and is paid minimum wage, and the charity front a bulk sum with the promise of having a reliable regular income from the vulnerable and the stupid. I'm still offended by the company's gall, but I have some sympathy for their minions.
"Look, I can understand what you do is a difficult job, but put yourself in my position. Surely I am not the only one that finds a collection agency begging on the doorsteps of people's houses slightly nauseating?" I say.
He went on to explain that its a remarkably successful way for charities to increase their revenue (at this point I was waiting for the cliche in these difficult economic times... errggg VOMIT). I was planning on moving to my next point, which was, if this method works so fantastically well, where do charities draw the line at selling their souls and reputation? Why don't they team up and get sponsorship from arms companies or other dodgy sources (hell, Shelter did something similar with Nestle, but that was fine because the poison baby milk formula was promoted to mothers both with and without homes - Nestle care for you, darlings).
I left him him to it - no one deserves more than 5 minutes of me arguing with them. I even annoy myself sometimes, and start feeling a bit like Rik...