Sunday, March 1, 2009

Random thoughts

I swear Atlanta has the worst drivers on the planet. This is the only major city I've lived in where quite a few drivers don't seem to have a clue just where it is they're going. Seems like every time I'm out and about I see what appears to be the classic Atlanta idiot driver maneuver: the left turn from the extreme right lane.

Yesterday was classic. We were on our way to the Container Store, cruising up Piedmont in the heart of Buckhead, aiming for the intersection of Piedmont and Peachtree (the Peachtree, not one of the 85 other Atlanta streets with Peachtree in their name). The Container Store is right on the corner so we were positioned in the extreme right hand lane, ready to turn right into the parking lot. We're almost to the corner when the driver of a white SUV in front of us apparently wakes up, says wait a second, I don't want to turn right! And cuts across four lanes of traffic to make a left on Peachtree. It was Saturday, so traffic was relatively light. . . so no screeching tires, squealing brakes, or crunching metal. . . but four lanes! Unbelievable. And I see this all the time -- people getting to intersections, being in a right turn only lane, and suddenly going, whoa, didn't want to go that way -- and whipping around to go in the exact opposite direction. And all without ever bothering to use their turn signals, of course.

There were Girl Scouts in front of the Container Store peddling cookies. The S.O. started mocking me because I had to stop to buy a couple boxes -- we had four boxes at home already because Girl Scouts accosted us in front of a Food Lion in Savannah. I told him to shove it. After all, I have enough restraint that the first four boxes are still unopened, unlike another buyer I spotted who had purchased multiple boxes of Samoas and ripped one open to get at the cookies before she even made it back to her car.

I always buy Girl Scout cookies. I was a Girl Scout leader. I've served my time in cookie hell. I still remember the semi pulling up in Tucson to drop off our troop's cookie order -- we had figured out how many cookies we had to sell in order to pay for Girl Scout summer camp for the troop members, arranged for a cookie stand in a shopping center, and then we adults got to stress for a couple weeks about whether or not we were actually going to be able to push that many thousands of boxes or not. We did, but being on the hook, however briefly, for $10,000 worth of Girl Scout cookies is not a fun place to be.

Tucson, incidentally, was the one Girl Scout council I've been involved with where when it came to the cookie sale every girl got the same sales recognition: a patch. No tee-shirts, no mugs, no Walkmans or other individual incentives for sales. That's always been the one thing I truly hate about kids hawking products, whether it's for school or for Scouts: the incentives that focus on individual greed or glory instead of focusing on the collective good. Other than the fact that the incentives put the focus on the individual rather than the group, a major flaw in and of itself, they are inherently unfair.

Anyone who's ever had a kid who had to do fund-raising (or did it themselves as kids) knows that every group falls into several categories: the rich kids, whose parents will buy X number of boxes of popcorn or cookies or pizzas or whatever it takes for their little darlings to get the top reward; the kids from humongous families who are related to everyone in town and have so many aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., that even if each relative only buys one box the kids get the top reward; and everyone else. The families that live way out in BFE land, so going door to door really isn't an option. The families on limited incomes, living from paycheck to paycheck, who can't afford to buy more than a couple boxes. The families who live in neighborhoods where they really don't want their kids going door to door peddling anything.

Interestingly enough, Tucson is also the one place where the average sales per troop member went through the roof. Our troop sold an amazing number of cookies, all without any parents having to bring order forms to the office or stock their own freezers. When it was a collective effort, we're all in this together and getting the same reward (in the case of our troop each girl was going to get an equal share of the proceeds to help pay for camp), the kids knocked themselves out. I was involved with a couple other councils after Tucson (we moved a lot in the '80s) but was never able to persuade them that the individual prizes were a bad idea. Of course, those were the days when the ethos of St. Ronnie dominated, individual greed was good, and it was hard to think outside that paradigm.


  1. You know, when I was a kid I got myself involved in one of those "sell greeting cards for great prizes" schemes you'd see advertised on the back cover of Boy's Life. My parents made it plain that I was not to approach family members or neighbors on our block; they explained that these people would feel obliged to buy something, and I was not to put them on the spot that way. If I want to sell cards, I'd have to go out and sell them to strangers who actually needed cards.

    I haven't seen any evidence that this way of approaching things survived to the present.

  2. Mmmmm. mint Girl Scout cookies!!! There are no little scouts selling around here anymore. If I'm lucky I might catch one set up at a grocery store - that's if I'm lucky.

  3. first of all..if you haven't driven in the traffic in austin, texas you really don't know what fear is...all them yankees, driving like the building the were driving to was going to magically dissapear if they didn't get there in the next 3 minutes...makes me crazy.
    i was a girl scout when i lived in hawaii..I got drummed out of the scouts..seems every time we went on a field trip i got into trouble..we went to the sugar plantations and in the plant where they make sugar(the smell is the worse smell ever) and I grabbed my scout leaders beanie and threw up in it..we went camping and when they left us alone for 2 minutes with the express instructions 'not to set the fires til they got back'(dont ever tell me not to do something) so after the fire burnt down all the thatched roofs on the picnic areas i was one more thing and your out..then we went to take a tour on the lourilene(huge huge ocean liner) and they lost me..only to find me way down in the bowels of the ship playing poker with the guys that worked in the engine room. I was really pissed cause i was up about $9 ...they sent me home telling my mother to find another activity to keep me busy that i wasn't girl scout material...fooled them..many years later i was my daughter's girl scout leader..but none of us liked the rules so we went rougue..started our own troop and called it the dirty 8's...we had a uniforms, no badges just one day a week that we did something..the zoo, wild animal park, every museum in waco,hiking.etc..we had a ball...then they discovered boys and it was all over with.

  4. I bought Girl Scout cookies yesterday, two boxes.

  5. I tended to be kind of a rogue leader, too, not to mention leftist. I told the kids they didn't have to say the pledge of allegiance because it's not true -- "justice for all"? I don't think so. And "under God"? Another I don't think so. Having conversations with 10-year-olds about dialectical materialism and the evils of nationalism is always an interesting exercise. But the Girl Scouts are always so desperate for leaders they were willing to overlook some atheist leftist tendencies in exchange for me showing up consistently to spend time with the kids.

  6. Hooo boy did you nail the fundraising nightmare. I despise it when the schools let the sales reps come in and get the kids all ginned up about winning prizes. I get to be Betty Buzzkill telling them that we fall into categories D,E,and F on your list. We don't have any relatives here, I work in a small office and wouldn't do that to my coworkers if I did, we're out in the middle of nowhere, I don't have the extra money to devote to it.


    Atlanta drivers? Georgia drivers? Not to bee too arrogant, but maybe you and I should team up and start a new blog with how to drive correctly posts. Not a day goes by that I don't see something truly dangerous and boneheaded. And if they know how to drive, traffic would also flow better.


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