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Selling Boy Scout Popcorn



It is the time of year that we take part in the annual Boy Scout Popcorn Sale. Part of that experience usually involves setting up a table in front of a grocery store and attempting to sell popcorn to people who are coming in and out. Interacting with the public is always an interesting experience, especially when you live in such a diverse city like Seattle. Just throw all of your preconceived notions about people out of the window because you just never know who you are going to meet.

Last weekend my son and I were selling popcorn in front of a grocery store in an older, well to do suburb. It was a sunny, warm, Fall afternoon so the parking lot was like a mini car show. We saw a 1960's Mercedes SL, some old muscle cars, some custom Harleys, and other gems that only come out of the garage on nice days. One older gentleman parked his Harley, walked right up to me, and asked if I was gay. I just said, "No," so he turned to my son and asked, "Do you get a badge for having a gay counselor?" My son replied, "Uhhh, noooo." This person then went on to tell us about his family heritage and many other random things until he finally went away. Of course he bought nothing. My son asked what that was about and I told him, honestly, that I had no idea.

Later that same day, an older gentleman and his friend came up to the table to buy some popcorn. We get a lot of customers who were Scouts themselves, once, and something about this gentleman made me ask if he had been in Scouting. He immediately smiled and rattled off his Troop number. He told me that he had been in Boy Scouts until his Scoutmaster enlisted in the Army in 1941.

We have noticed that, the nicer the vehicle, and the nicer the clothes, the less likely someone is to buy popcorn. A grandmotherly type in casual clothes who pulls up in an older car will tell you that her boys were both in Scouting so she wants to help. A well dressed man or woman in a new, $50,000+ car will not usually buy from us, but a burly man who is covered in tattoos will go get cash so he can buy popcorn. Some people say that they have no money - as they go into the grocery store to buy bags and bags of groceries. Some say that they already bought from the Girls Scouts and just assume that it is all the same organization. Our favorites are the, shall we say, generously proportioned people, who say that they shouldn't eat popcorn - and then come out of the store with a case of doughnuts.

On Sunday we were selling in front of another grocery store and a well dressed woman parked her new SUV and walked up to the store. When my son asked her if she would like to support local scouting, she asked if we accepted EBT - food stamps. A short while later, an ancient homeless man on a dilapidated bicycle stopped right in front of our table. He was very clearly reading everything and looking it all over, so my son just asked him if he wanted to support local scouting. The man reached into his wallet and gave my son a $3 donation for the troop. He then walked his bike a short distance, turned around and said, "Now remember, a Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent." I don't know what happened in that gentleman's life so that he ended up the way he has, but somewhere along the line he learned the Scout Law and is still trying to live it, no matter what. That is what it is all about.

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