25/09/2015 9:14 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

My Completely Irrational And Overpowering Fear Of Street Fundraisers

Penny Stephens, The Age


noun / BRITISH / informal

The action or practice of approaching passers-by in the street to ask for subscriptions or donations to a particular charity.

I know it's a really lazy way of pretending to sound way smarter than you are when you begin a piece of written work with a definition, but I'm going for it because I had no idea the word "chugging" even existed.

That was until I started doing a little bit of research into my ever-growing fear of street fundraisers trying to get me to donate money, or sign up to a charity to donate some money on a regular basis.

I'm what (I'd like to think) most would call a pretty decent human being. I try and treat other people as I'd like to be treated. I take at least a passing interest in the world around me, and am regularly saddened by the various injustices of the world, many of which are being tackled by chuggers who are my sworn mortal enemy for no other reason than I have a habit of going into complete mental breakdown when confronted with an awkward situation with another human being.

What kind of awkward situation? Namely one where I'm walking down the street, minding my own business, only to be confronted by someone with a clipboard trying to help a cause not dissimilar to the ones that upset or anger me in the paper* each morning.

I just panic. From the second I spot them til the moment I'm safely past them. On the outside I look somewhat calm and collected, but inside my head I am screaming. Screaming things like:

How do I explain I can't afford this when I'm on the way to buy lunch?

If I do get out unscathed -- explaining in detail about how I barely have a cent to my name, obviously -- how can I possibly walk back past in 10 minutes with the lunch I just bought from the corner store? They're gonna see me carrying that lunch, and in their head they're gonna think, 'you just said you have no money yet there you are carrying a lunch you clearly just paid for'.

Will it look hell suss if I quickly grab my phone out of my pocket?

And pretend to talk to someone as if I just got a phone call, strangely enough at that exact moment I locked eyes with that chugger?

Could I just cross the road quickly?

But am I really that pathetic a person I need to actively dodge traffic, cross the road, walk 50 metres then come back across the road?

Dare I just actively engage, say I'm doing fine thanks, and then politely say "no thank you?"

But then how can I simply say "no thank you" to someone just trying to raise money for a cause more important than my impending chips and gravy?

Can I just blatantly lie and say I already signed up last week?**

And once and for all confirm my place in hell.

My biggest issue is that once I have engaged, I have an incredibly steadfast inability to actually just say "no thank you."

One time I went through the entire process of signing up to a charity, and then when it got to the very end (some 15 minutes later) and needed to give them my bank details (I can't believe you're expected to give a stranger on the street your bank details), I said I couldn't remember them. At which point the lovely backpacker (simply trying to earn a bit of cash on their world travels, something I've never come close to being able to afford) said to me, "That's okay, we'll just give your bank a buzz and they'll give them to you."

After completely filling my lie quota for the day with the first one about not remembering my bank details, I told her my bank, and SHE looked up their phone number for me and CALLED THEM FOR ME! God bless my shithole of a bank, they had already closed their call centre help line thing at, like, 3 in the afternoon. Unperturbed, she said that's cool, she'll give me a call the next day to finalise it all. Needless to say, I did not answer my phone for the next week to any number I didn't know. Because I am the worst.

There's just so many conflicting moral issues at play here that every time I am faced with a chugger I go into such a state of inner turmoil, by the time I've come to terms with the situation I've either come to back at my desk writing an article about chuggers, or joined seven different charities that I didn't even know existed with no hope of debiting anywhere close to the agreed amount out of my account each month.

Moral issues like why shouldn't I just give that footy club a cheeky tenner to help get those nicer oranges for those poor kids? Or like the fact I piss that much money up the wall each month on smokes and alcohol, why not instead set up a monthly debit of $30 or whatever it is to help poorer children in a faraway village get clean water for a week or be able to start working on a nice school. And conversely -- hey, I'm just trying to get some lunch man, I'll donate to charity on my own time. Or where is my money really going if I give it to you?

That said, I'm not really interested in examining why you shouldn't just give to these charities based on their dodgy behind the scenes fund distribution. I'm just using this as a cathartic experience and hopefully, if there are others out there feeling the same way, letting you know that you're not alone.

*Yes, I read the paper in the morning; I'm an adult human male, thus making this whole situation feel even more ridiculous.

** I did this the other day, but when I walked back past five minutes later the same girl asked me again to buy some raffle tickets. C'mon, man. I just lied to you. Don't make me do it again.


Troy Mutton is the editor of You can find him on Facebook here or Twitter here.