Manners Do Matter

Oh teenagers at the bake sale outside of Safeway, you are doing it wrong.

There was what seemed to be a mob of teenagers standing in front of the doors to the grocery store as my children and I walked up to the entrance. “Wanna buy some cake?” a girl asked? “Bake sale!” one boy exclaimed. The most alarming sales pitch came from the girl sitting in the only shopping cart in front of the store “GIVE US SOME MONEY!” she yelled and they all laughed.

I did what you do when you are uncomfortable. I avoided eye contact, held my kids hands and made a beeline for the door.


I stopped dead in my tracks.

I know that school. In face, I know the choral conductor for the Washington Performing Arts High School*.  He is a great guy. My choir sometimes uses his classroom to rehearse because it is set up for about 150 singers.

I turned around. “You guys sing for Bill?” I asked, looking at the girl in the shopping cart and then at the very eager looking boy  who was practically touching us.

Their entire demeanor changed.

I know that to them I was just some random faceless mom with two little kids probably going to buy macaroni and cheese or a rotisserie chicken. Someone whom might buy some cake for her kids, but someone who could be dismissed enough that it was still more important to impress each other than to use manners.

Now I was a woman who knew their teacher. The woman who was possibly going to tell their teacher that they just yelled “GIVE US SOME MONEY!”

“Yes ma’am. We sing for Mr. … um, for Bill.”

The kids and I walked into the store. I got all of the things on my shopping list, but really I was thinking about those kids outside. They came off as jerks, but really they were just teenagers being teenagers. I ran bake sales for choir and drama when I was in school and I am sure I was a total spaz. As one of them I feel completely justified in saying that there is nothing more annoying than a whole bunch of teenagers who think they are really good at singing and or acting. They/we literally love to hear the sound of their/our own voices. An 18 year old theatre or voice major thinks they are the most entertaining thing on the planet. They have to or they would never choose that path.

I felt bad about not giving them some money. They were loud and abrasive, but so was I. So am I. I am just loud and abrasive with better manners.

“Hey, Mom,” my daughter asked “Are you going to give them money?”

I don’t know. Probably.

“Mom?” asked my son, “How do you know that they are really giving the money to their school?”

“I guess I can ask Bill.” I said.

“How do you know that they really sing for Bill?”

“We can ask them to sing something.” I said, and I decided that is what I would do. When we left the store I would ask them to sing something for us and I would give them some money. They could just sing whatever they were working on in school. I am pretty sure that this particular high school was one that you had to audition to get into, so it would probably be pretty good.

I asked for my cash back in fives and tens.

I felt good about my decision. I would be supporting the arts. I would be supporting Bill and his chorus.

We walked outside. They were standing in a clump. “CAKE FOR A DOLLAR!” one screamed at the people walking in. “TWO PIECES FOR TWO DOLLARS!” “TWO PIECES FOR OEN DOLLAR!” “FIFTY CENTS! I AM COLD AND I WANT TO GO HOME!”

We walked by and didn’t say a word.

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If I could give high school kids fundraising advice I would suggest the following:

1) No more than three of you in one place. Masses of teenagers make grown-ups nervous. If you don’t understand why now, you will later. Just trust me on this one.

2) A bake sale outside of an establishment that sells baked good for less than you are selling them for is nonsensical. Especially when we can see that you bought the baked good in that store. I will take the ones that haven’t been uncovered and outside for a few hours. Thanks. Bake sales are great at libraries and schools and churches.

3) Manners go a long way. If any one of those kids had said “Will you please support our choir?” I would have handed them $5 and not taken any of the Safeway cake, but nobody said please so the money is still in my purse. These kids were in an affluent area on a federal holiday. There were funds to be raised. Odds are these kids were from good families and knew better, but they forgot when they were all in a group like that.

* *

I don’t think I will tell Bill this story. I would like to still give him the money for the fundraiser, but I am not sure how to do that without ratting out his kids.


* That isn’t the name of the high school. I don’t want to get the kids or the director in trouble, so I changed it for this post.


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Read more from me on Sarah and the Goon Squad and Draft Day Suit
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More of me on That’s Right. You Heard Me:

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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