Wednesday, December 19, 2007

'Tis the season

You know it's the Christmas season when you approach the entrance to your favorite locale to purchase unnecessary consumer goods and hear the familiar incessant ringing of THAT BELL!

The spirit of Christmas is about giving, and not just giving your hard-earned dollars to the large corporations that market their expensive wares so that you can have a stockpile under your Christmas tree, but also a time to give to large non-profit corporations who pay their expenses and salaries with your donations, then distribute the rest to the needy families without stockpiles beneath their tree. Groups such as United Way, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army typically set up "giving stations" in conspicuous, high-traffic shopping areas to make it convenient to donate, and to make you feel guilty if you don't.

The people working the donation stations are all volunteers, and are very cheerful for the most part. Some are passive and grateful, some are ardent and zealous in coaxing your money from your wallet. None are more noticeable than the Salvation Army's strategy: bell ringing, non-stop bell ringing. I have been so aggravated by the sound in the short walk from my car to the store's entrance that I have been glad to drop a buck into the bucket just to get the ringing to stop.

Because of the toll it takes on the wrist and one's sanity, bell-ringing shifts are usually short, an hour or two, before another volunteer takes over. I've been fortunate to have actually seen a shift change. It is a remarkable feat how they are able to pass the bell from one ringer to another without missing a single "ding-a-ling-a-ling." It was executed with such jolly perfection, I doubted whether these were actually volunteers, rather than professional bell-ringers. Such skill and coordinated agility must take hours and hours of practice, and being able to do it so reflexively after the ceaseless tintinnabulation makes it all the more impressive.

But then, I discovered the secret to the perfectly executed maneuver: there are clear instructions for ringing the bell and the changing of the bell written in large, glaucoma-friendly, print on the back of the "Salvation Army" sign. Feeling somewhat naughty for reading such privileged information, but taking advantage of the opportune angle of the sign that allowed me to sneak a peak, I read inquisitively. Here's a summary:

1. Ring bell
2. Keep ringing the bell
3. Don't stop ringing the bell
4. Smile through the maddening sound of the bell
5. If your hand falls off from ringing the bell, ring bell with other hand
6. Ring bell until relief comes, or until forever
7. If thinking about stopping the bell ringing, do so while ringing the bell
8. If deciding to stop ringing the bell, change your mind
9. Remember that you are a volunteer who has volunteered to ring the damn bell
10. It's all about the bell ringing
11. No unauthorized individual may touch, much less ring, the bell
12. Remember, the more annoying you are, the better you are helping the needy
13. The bell must remain ringing during the transfer of ringers--DON'T MESS UP
13. Bell ringer may pilfer 10% of donations acquired during bell-ringing session

Yes, there's nothing quite like Christmastime.

Sharing is caring, need knows no season, and the memory of an unrelenting ringing bell haunts indefinitely.


Anonymous said...

Now Kevin, those people were very nice to Tate when he wanted to give to "share-ity" (He really thinks that's the word.) They even let him ring the bell. Good thing you weren't with us; you probably would have grabbed the bell and ran...

Anonymous said...

I'll bring my bell tomorrow, it will compliment my hallway serenades.

Anonymous said...

I will bring and ring my bell as well.