Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The $10,000 Tree

Here's a wierd one.

I really like having friends. I like people in general, aside from the random crazy or homicidal lunatic, and I especially like people who like me, and are enjoyable to hang with. I generally try and go to great lengths to KEEP friends - beyond the point of politness, as I will mention in another post.

Back when I was a slip of a lad in college I had some good pals, and we stayed pretty good buddies through my service time and after I got back to the Land of the Big PX. But things kinda fell apart after I moved out West, and I lost touch with the last of these old friends, oh, probably five years ago. I tried and tried, but letters and e-mails didn't help, and phone calls turned into long sessions of "when are you moving back Home?" during which he was impervious to my suggestion that "Home" was right here in Portland. (Oddly enough, though, I just signed onto "Facebook", which asked me to list my college, and there he was. I sent him a little message and got nothing back. Oh, well. Stolen goods are never sold at a loss...)So I was a little shocked when I pulled an envelope out of my mailbox with the return address of someone associated with this group of friends on it.


First, this person wasn't exactly a friend. More like a friend-of-a-friend, he was part of the group that formed my senior year when my old gangsters moved into a suite of rooms in the upperclass dorms and I moved off-campus. I knew him slightly, but only in a "Hey, man, wassup." kinda way

And the friend-of-a-friend wasn't exactly inviting me to the Let's Get Pally Again Reunion Kegger and Weenie Roast.

Nope. He was inveigling me to pony up some cash to buy a memorial for one of his senior year group - and a guy I barely knew at all - who'd caught the Long Island Death Local to the Happy Hunting Grounds. Expired. Pinin' for the fjords. Kaput. Deceased. And what did they want to buy memorialize this guy with my money?

A tree on the campus grounds.

A tree that they said would cost $10,000.

Call me gobsmacked. Ten thousand fucking dollars? For a tree? Not a classroom, not a projector or a computer hookup or a locker for a needy orphaned defensive tackle but a damn TREE!!??

Jesus wept, this is Stumptown, the Silicon Fucking Forest - we have a bazillion trees, and ain't one of them going for ten K. What the...??!!??

I was tempted to go out in the yard and dig up one of the little volunteer bigleaf maples, put it in a baggie with some soil and a little water and mail it back, suggesting it as a more modest alternative. What tree costs ten large, for chrissake? Are they planning to plant a fifty footer? Dig up some monster from the Amazon for transplanting in the freaking Quad? WTFF??!!??

In the end I just pitched it in the recycling bin; I couldn't see kicking in the jack for the spendy tree but for the life of me I couldn't think of a respectful and decent alternative to a flat "no". But right now I'm feeling like some mook took a fond memory and tried to use it to sell me some Amway, and I'm not feeling real happy about that.

Am I off base, here? What do you think?


J. said...

Just say no. I used to get requests for alumni donations, and I never really "got" it. Yeah, great times in college, but why this need to imprint one's class into some kind of memorial? Move on.

The top effort is when my alma matter had a rowing team that was asking for donations to buy nice boats. I thought, when did they go all Ivy League? Just ridiculous.

pluto said...

I agree with J. This isn't a memorial, it's a money-raising scheme.

I've always been highly ambivalent about alumni associations. Yeah, it was a major milestone in my life but I was SO glad to get out of there I can't even think about going back without a bit of a shudder.

Last time they called me about money I politely asked how much they were going to give me. Haven't heard back from them since.

sheerahkahn said...

Okay, my two cents...which comes with two thoughts...thus, a penny with each thought.

The $0.001, just learn to say yes or no with no qualifications.
If you have a quarter in your pocket, and someone asks, "do you have a quarter?" Be honest, and say yes, and keep walking.
Trips my wife out when I do that, and also trips the person out, too, because their expecting you to either fish one out, or say no.
If someone asks you for a fiver, and you have it but don't want to give it up, say no.
Let your no be no.
They got their answer, and you were being completely honest with them. No shame in that, and you don't have to give an explanation. And if one is demanded, be honest and say why you're not giving them the money.
"I do not want to give you my money, period."
I give money all the time to charities and such, so I don't feel "guilty" when someone comes asking for a few bills and I tell them no. My no is no, and if I say yes, I mean yes.

My 2nd installment of my $0.001
Don't ever show pictures of the 70's again. Ever.
Seriously, I avoided "that 70's show" whenever my wife watched it, and now I get ambushed coming to your site.
Ugh...the horrible memories of the hair, the clothing, the colors....burrrrrr {{{{{shudder}}}}}

Ael said...

a) Sounds like a fund raiser to me. I hear the endowments are down this year. Say no if you didn't care for the guy.

b) Actually, universities tend to have all sorts of strange trees growing on their grounds. I had a sister who was in Forestry. On many of their labs, they would walk through the university grounds, and the lab instructor would stop at a few trees, discuss each one, while everyone could look at the actual tree (i.e. see the bark, leaves, etc, etc)

I never realized it as a student, but when my sister started pointing them out, I realized that the grounds were a large training aid for the university. So, don't dismiss the possibility of them putting in an upper amazonian maple.

Lisa said...

I agree; I would have declined, too.
Funny you mention Amway: Ranger just mentioned Amway prior to you post in association with a militaryy associate of dubious (yet always profiteering) intentions.

atomic mama said...

Maybe the cost included a backhoe to dig the hole??

Either way, I'd have done the same thing, i.e., nada.