Kevin Myers: Say No to charity muggers at supermarket checkouts
Right! That's it! The time has come to draw a line in the sand, to declare, "this far and no further!", and dig in my heels and put my back to the wall.
This was the last straw: the worm has turned! For as the incompetent and unsought charity fundraiser at the supermarket checkout was dropping my bottles on the floor, and mixing some freshly broken eggs with the container of bleach, I wheedled ingratiatingly -- even as I reluctantly put some coins in her box -- "What are you raising money for?"
"Twenty of us are competing in a ballroom-dancing contest in Vancouver," my packer simpered happily, as a bottle of paint-thinner glugged into the crusty loaf, and the ruptured sugar bag shed its contents into the bottom of my bag. At a nearby checkout, a child was being stuffed into a winebox by a cheery young man collecting for a surfing competition in Honolulu, and not far away, a group of boy scouts were tying a double clove-hitch around a burst shopping-bag, using the shopper's own 38DD bra.
Look, I know that there's no decent way of expressing resentment at the unsought assistance of supermarket-packers who are raising money for charity. They always have the high moral ground. When we were awash with doubloons, it seemed miserly to complain, even if the recipient of the checkout charity would be using the proceeds for a gallant two-week battle against global warming by personally absorbing the sun's rays in the Seychelles. And now that we have an economy that compares unfavourably with North Korea, the time that the great plague was washed away by the catastrophic floods, it seems immoral to begrudge one's spare change.
But a) it's not spare change, because we mostly pay for our shopping with cards, and b) few of us have the extra money any more, and c) yes, by God, most of all c), I actually detest this business of people playing on my conscience to make me give money to a charity I know nothing about, and just as bad, by doing something that I can do far better myself. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, c) is what really makes me hopping mad. And I effectively have no real choice in the matter, because the supermarket manager has decided that these people, with hands like three left feet, and a single eye apiece, can hijack my shopping, and make me pay a ransom to get it back.
In the past couple of years, I've paid for scout camps in Germany, and choir tours in Spain, and trips to soccer tournaments in Denmark, and I always simpered and grinned and tried to look affable and happy about parting with my shekels, even though small angry crocodiles of resentment within me were chewing my duodenum into a haggis. But after the Vancouver ballroom-dancing revelations, not any more! I've had it! And even more so, now that some checkout packers have started collecting for This Hospital or That Hospital.
Sure, no doubt that's what the collectors think they're collecting for. But the reality is that the money goes straight into hospital funds, to help pay the wage bill and other costs within an institution for which we are already paying gadzillions in tax. The HSE workforce has increased by 40pc in the past five years, from 70,000 to 100,000, and comparably diminished in productivity. All the while the Department of Health was funding the nice little number SIPTU was operating with FAS. You know the one. One minute, union officials would be tearfully singing about James Connolly, the Irish reb-bel, and next, they and their partners were on a comradely trip to New York for St Patrick's day, all paid for by a FAS slush-fund, which in turn all came from the Department of Health through the HSE.
Now it would be churlish to point out that hospital ancillary-staff have the highest absentee rates of any workforce in Ireland, so I'll now point out that hospital ancillary staff have the highest absentee rates of any workforce in Ireland. And naturally, being unionised, they are virtually immune to disciplinary action by management, and of course the absenteeism has to be paid for. So, in addition to all that tax money vanishing into the black hole of the HSE, our hospitals are now raising fresh funds by charitable muggings at supermarket checkouts (SIPTU probably means Superfluous Inept Packing for Trips to Uzbekistan).
But the packers themselves are clearly not SIPTU, being cheery, decent volunteers who really think they really are raising money for the sick. So I haven't got the nerve to tell these nice folk to buzz off, even though I hate the moral arm-twisting that makes the whole checkout fundraising so insidious. Moreover, it's even impossible to declare: "Look, I'm trying to f***ing shop here, and I really don't want to give any f***ing money to any so-called f***ing charity, never mind the f***ing HS-f***ing-E. So take your f***ing hands off my f***ing bags! Be warned, sir! Stand back! I am armed, and angry, and very, very dangerous!"
Whisper the following churlish sentiment but softly. A fortune awaits the supermarket that absolutely guarantees that all of its checkouts are totally free of ambush by "charity-fundraisers".