Kids, and how to sell them

I was driving around the other day (I will keep the location to myself, so as to spare my sensitive ears and ego the pain of the inevitable angry phone calls/emails/death threats) and happened to stop at a red light.

On the side of the road was a cadre of middle-schoolers, mostly girls. (If you have a pride of lions or a gaggle of geese, what do you call a group of middle school girls? A babble?) A sign revealed that they were fundraising for something or other. One of the girls walks into the intersection toward my car, a bucket in hand. I rolled down the window and tossed a couple of quarters in the bucket, just as the light turned green.

Am I the only person who has a problem with this picture?

I mean, I am fully aware that education funding has taken a bit of a nosedive in recent years, but is whoring out middle school kids to beg on the side of the road the only answer? Really?

I would probably buy anything from this woman. But then, she is not in middle school. At least I don't think so.

I’m not some dirty old man — I’m not very old (yet) and I’m not very dirty (took a shower this morning, thanks very much) — but you know some lecherous pedophile is ogling the 13-year-old in skinny jeans as he drives by.

And the moms are just standing there, watching, smiles on their faces betraying a “how cute is this” sensibility. It’s not cute, mom. It’s sick.

These kids are quite literally running out into traffic, collecting loose change. What’s the essential difference between little Tiffany and her bucket and, say, Sparrow Dave who spits on my windshield and wipes it with a dirty rag for crack money?

Is this what we’re teaching our soon-to-be teenage girls? That if they want or need something they should beg on the side of the road for it?

Of course, there’s the other option, the one I like to call the “short sell.” In this scheme, you get a group of cute kids (hence the “short”), preferably in uniform of some kind, to hawk some item at profoundly exorbitant prices.

True story: Just yesterday (it might have been a few years ago — the days just blend together) I was approached by a group of Scouts, and asked if I wanted to buy some popcorn to help out their troop.

I thought, “Hey, I like popcorn. I like giving to charity,” and asked how much.

Seventeen dollars. And I am not exaggerating. Seventeen freaking dollars for a bag of microwave popcorn. If little Jimmy had been an adult I would have cursed him out, walked away and reported him to the attorney general’s office. Well, at least I would have walked away.

But, no, little Jimmy is staring up at me in his neatly pressed uniform, his little scarf tied so well and his wide eyes so anxious to get his popcorn-selling badge. So I got stuck with a $17 bag of cold popcorn that I ended up spilling in my car.

We’re not a far cry away at this point from bikini car washes in support of the high school cheerleading team, or bootleg DVDs. I expect that soon, one day, I will be approached by a kid asking me to buy some iPods that just happened to fall off a truck, to support the local school marching band.

This, in case you weren't sure, is wrong.

Not my kids, thank you very much. No, my children will have to get funding for their activities to old fashioned way — wait for a government handout.

Jordan Fenster is the entertainment editor at the New Haven Register. He can be reached by email at jfenster@nhregister.com. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JordanFenster or Twitter.com/NHRegBuzz.

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