A few days ago, I wrote about the many solicitors who accost the thousands of people who pass through National Airport each day.
Most of these solicitors are young and casually dressed. They say they are soliciting for one of the religions or cults that appeal to the young and their approach is quite aggessive.
One standard technique is for the solicitor to step into the path of a passerby, pin a flower on him or her - and then ask for a donation. My comment was that once the flower is affixed, it is difficult for the average person to refuse to give.
Several District Liners have sent me letters taking strong exception to that comment. "It is not the least bit difficult, to say no," one woman wrote. "I say it loud and clear, and I am not what anybody would ever describe as a forceful personality."
Mrs. Frederick M. Harris encountered the same kind of solicitation at Baltimore-Washington International. The flower was pinned to her dress before she knew what was going on, and then the young woman who had done the pinning asked for a donation. Mrs. Harris declined, politely explaining that she supported a list of charities and this one ("She mentioned that it was Krishna something") wasn't on the list. "At that, she (the solicitor) roughly tore off the flower."
J.E.W., who flies frequently and grew tired of fighting off the solicitors, has two techniques for coping with them. Sometimes he raises his voice and booms. "You are violating my rights to privacy. Go panhandle somebody else." At other times, he figures a good offense is the best defense.
"I tell them I am a tree-worshiping Druid-Zeroastrian and in exchange for a $50 danation - cash, no checks - I will plant a tree in their honor. I think they've passed the word about me because here recently I've been getting past them without too much harassment."
Several letters suggested that the American public is becoming too sophisticated to fall for this sort of pitch, and that by this time there are very few easy marks left for the solicitors to exploit. This I doubt. I don't think the soft touch is in any danger of becoming an endangered species.
Besides: If those solicitors weren't taking in a tidy sum each day, why would there be so many of them back on duty the next day?