Extortion – (noun) the act of securing money, favors, etc. by intimidation or violence; blackmail.
As I entered my local grocery store, I noticed a Hispanic couple huddled around the Red Box movie dispenser as if it were a campfire. The wife was in pajamas, with a bright pink, fleece blanket draped over her shoulders like a homeless person, speaking into a cell phone. I momentarily imagined her children on the other end, relaying whether or not they had seen particular titles.
After I had concluded my shopping for the night, I patiently stood in line, curiously surveying my immediate surroundings. The man in front of me kindly put the little plastic partition behind his food items, as if to invite me to unload my basket, and give my arm a reprieve (later, I would more appropriately guess that the man was putting the partition on the belt as if to say, I’m not paying for your food you poaching hoodlum).
As the cashier was totaling the man’s purchase, he asked the shopper if he would like to donate to people with disabilities. At hearing this, the man scoffed and berated the boy for extorting money out of him. The cashier innocently claimed that he was told to ask all the guests for such a donation, while the old man angrily grabbed his bags and scurried off into the night.
When it was my turn to be extorted, I happily volunteered the requisite dollar, and smiled at the kid who was still a little shaken after the interaction with the man who hates the handicapped. I thought about the grocery store showdown as I left, passing the couple still hogging up the movie rental machine, oblivious to the idea that someone else may want to rent a movie. I thought about the oppressive, extortionist, regime we have as our government, and how wonderful life may be if only thousands had sacrificed their lives to ensure that their descendants could live in a time where they were free enough to simply say no to people asking for money.
Personally, I’m thankful that the pet store, and grocery store ask me for donations. I find it convenient that helping others can be so easy. To be completely honest, if they didn’t ask, I probably would never find the time to do it on my own. I can see where people might feel as though being asked in public can be uncomfortable, or even inappropriate, but it is hardly extortion. On the other hand, using intimidation techniques in order to use the movie kiosk had definitely crossed my mind.