Jun 03, 2009

Oh, It's a Fundraiser! (Why Didn't They Say So?)

I'm just back from a vacation on the East Coast, which included some long, lovely drives through the small towns of upstate New York. The weather was balmy, the people were friendly. Nevertheless, I believe I alienated an entire small-town fire department -- and all due to their assumption that I knew about their fundraising cause.

There we were, my husband driving his father's car (with New York plates, so that no one knew we were hapless tourists), watching Memorial Day flags flutter from porches and barbecue smoke rise from backyards, when we saw a sign saying "Boot Drive Ahead." I asked my husband, "What's a Boot Drive?" He grew up in Buffalo, so he had more chance of knowing than I. Neither of us had a clue -- it sounded like some traffic penalty, like when they put a big metal thingy around your tire for not knowing that Oakland street-sweepers don't observe a certain federal holiday.

Rows of people lined the town's main street, including some firefighters in uniform, whose backs happened to be turned to us as we made our way along. Then a policeman very sternly motioned for us to stop. We did, but didn't roll down our windows. He gave us a dirty look and let us zoom off (somewhat eagerly, confused by the whole experience).

Only then did the other shoe (or boot) drop. In the rearview mirror, I saw a fireman holding a boot out toward a car. He was collecting money, presumably to support the local fire department. Oops. We did offer some green to the next town's boot-wielding fireman. But c'mon folks, a little more signage would have helped. There's nothing tacky about saying something like, "Support Your Local Fire Department!" Moral of the story: Vagueness in fundraising leads to lost chances to interact with potential donors.