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unworthy cause

Last week I attended what my daughter Thea would call the silliest fund raiser ever. If I had had any doubt that we are living in a pretty privileged society, that event in a small Ontario town (which I shall not name because I don't want them to feel bad, but it rhymes with Sweden Hills) laid those doubts to rest. I do not have a ton of experience with fund raisers. I don't seek them out. (Does anyone?) I am quick-tongued and teflon-conscienced, so the average police benefit or alumni building society finds me unmoved or away from my phone. And the people looking for major sponsors for hospital wings know better than to approach a children's author ordinaire. This one I fell into. It was a concert, and the music was stuff I liked from a guy I know. I was not aware of a larger cause until I saw the programme. Then I realized that my friend was donating his time and we were donating our money to help ... are you ready? ... PARKING LOT RESTORATION. That's right: our ticket dollars were going to help Sweden Hills resurface and beautify the lot where our car was sitting at that moment. I nearly plotzed. Sweden Hills has a very small tax base, and the lot was a little bumpy, but I could not restrain a hoot of laughter. Or maybe two. And when the emcee arrived onstage in his corduroy jacket and beard and single malt voice, and thanked us for our generosity and our concern for a cause that was dear to the hearts of the community, I had to hoot some more. I was speculating to my neighbour (a fellow hooter) on the amount of restoration required to turn the current parking lot into a thing of serious beauty. There were several hundred of us paying 20.00 each. Where would the money go? Would the town want some architectural work? Perhaps a pergola? (Not that I knew what a pergola was until I googled it just now. That's one in the picture. Nice, eh?) Electronic monitoring? Deer? We got so loud and giggly that a lady in the row ahead of us turned round with a stern expression. "Do you mind?" she said. "I'd like to hear what he has to say." I bit off my reply. I wish I could have told her what I thought. But I'm a polite guy, and yelling or laughing at her would have offended her to no useful purpose, and I'd have felt bad for acting like a smart ass. So I shut up and tried (unsuccessfully) to compose my face. The lady turned back with a sniff of disdain. The emcee rolled richly along. And then the concert happened, and the music was great. Still ... a freaking parking lot?


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