A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

14 December 2007

What a good time

What a fine day
Giving the poor a coin or two
Charity's what we wealthy do on
Christmas eve

From the musical "A Christmas Carol"

So I said last post that I would give a bit of detail on our charitable saleslady.

My company has "adopted" a pair of "Christmas families". One is an elderly woman living alone, the other a single mum with a seventeen-year-old son and twelve-year-old daughter, whose family has apparently been stricken by illness.
I'm of two minds about this. I think it's a fine thing to support your community, but feel that really time is the best donation one can make (although I'm hardly at the forefront there). I also wonder whether it's really worth supplying people who have a roof over their heads and food to eat with, from the lists supplied:

Speakers for a laptop. The poor have laptops?
Two new pillows. You're telling me they can't plump for $12 at Zeller's?
A one-month gym membership, snowboard pants ... ?

I haste to point out that these families are asked to provide these wish lists by the agency concerned, so it's not as though they're turning their noses up at anything less. This is a wish list in the finest sense of the term.

Still--they seem to be fed and housed (itself no mean feat in our little town with its vacancy rate of 0.001 or so*). So the situation is presumably fairly stable.

Yes, charity at home is important too. Still, there are people in this world who aren't fed or housed, and I tend to feel they should get priority. Mme and I are making donations through UNICEF's "Gifts of Magic" programme, and we encourage anyone to do the same.

Unlike the Xmas family thing, the GOM gifts come with a tax receipt, for one thing.

Still, while I was attempting to decide what to buy for the Christmas family, or whether to give cash, we received several prodding messages from the boss' "executive assistant".

Then came "Comet". Comet wrote (I paraphrase):
Hey you guys! Come on! We can do better than this!

I'm going to buy:
{List of roughly $250 worth of stuff}
For our Christmas families.

I challenge each and every one of you to do the same.
I wonder what effect she thought that was going to have? You see, Comet works in sales. She just closed an enormous deal, for which she earned a bonus of roughly one-third of my annual salary. The gift list above represented about two percent of that bonus.

What she sold them was a package of printed and electronic media written by yours truly and his co-drudges. We live in the magical black box in the sub-basement that is the writing department, and like magic elves we take orders and turn them into words. Without us, Comet would have had nothing to sell. The entire frigging company rests on our skinny shoulders, dammit!

Last year there were discussions about whether the writers would get bonuses. We haven't, largely because management sees bonuses as a stick, rather than a carrot, and disapproved of us saying we'd like to see the money distributed equally to all. They seek to use money to divide us and drive us to work ourselves as near to death as possible while still turning out product. But the collaborative nature of the work we do means that the interpersonal relationships are important. Possibly even more so than money.

So, no bonus.

The along comes Comet and rubs it in our faces? Thanks a bunch ... ! I almost wrote her back:
Dear Comet:
I hereby pledge to match the percentage of your bonus that you contributed to our Christmas families with an equal percentage of mine. Thanks for the gracious reminder.
This, in a company that forces employees to work the Remembrance Day holiday in exchange for Boxing Day (which is in fact not a federal holiday, is a holiday in every other province, and is unofficially recognized by most workplaces here), is just the cherry atop the whipped cream on a horseapple sundae.

Oh--and it's worth mentioning that the boss gets an envelope with his name on it pointedly left in every department along with the broad hint that contributions are encouraged. My department, which consists of five people, gets one all to itself. So do the thirty people in telephone sales. So the executive assistant knows which department the skinflints are in, I suppose.

I am left with only one appropriate remark:

Bah! Humbug!

I love my work, but the company sometimes comes perilously close to self-parody.

*And while I'm on the topic, if any Hometowners know of a small apartment or suite suitable for a woman with a five-year-old daughter and renting for $650 per month or less, available in February, please contact me.

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At 4:19 p.m., Blogger Slave to the dogs said...

Man. Comet is obnoxious. I commend you on your restraint for not sending that email to her and CC:ing your bosses.

And since when can the poor afford to snowboard? I'd question these families too, driving past the Denver Rescue Mission as often as I do.

At 7:40 p.m., Anonymous PJ said...

I *would* have sent that email to Comet. Sheesh. I spent the last hour at work today wrapping gifts for the 2 families my company "adopted". I was a bit taken aback to see the wish lists ((cough-written demands-cough)) that we were supplied with. Five hundred dollars' worth of WalMart bags later... I'm wondering how I can get "adopted" next year by some other company. The lists made it seem so sordid.

At 9:51 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

Oh, I came pretty close to sending it.

As far as the gifts are concerned, I hope I was clear--they are asked to provide the list.

I found the (ahem) demands excessive too, but then I thought of exactly how humble those wishes are.

I mean, if I were asked what I wanted for Christmas I wouldn't know. Aside from the whole "peace on earth, goodwill to all," business.

In other words, I have all that I need or really want.

While I think the people whose lists these are may or may not appreciate their own good fortune, can I criticise them for desiring something, even something small and material?


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