Yesterday the Russian lover was taking his usual afternoon stroll through Rittenhouse Park. The hazards of this stroll include the inevitability of confronting panhandlers and petitioners. The petitioners are worse than the panhandlers.
For the most part, panhandlers are easily deterred. A firm "no" or simply a failure to acknowledge the request usually ends the encounter.
Petitioners, however, have a driving need that is apparently stronger than the bum's need for Jack Daniel. Because while the bum will shrug and move on to the next guy, petitioners never hear the word "No." When you say, "No, I'm not interested," a petitioner hears "Please, tell me more so that I may understand the issue and sign the list on your clipboard. Would you like my credit card number also?"
During the day, there are only a few kinds of characters that populate the park: Mothers with babies. Office drones with lunches. Bums with booze. And lastly, and most proliferate of all, the hipsters with accessories, who are really just bums with credit lines.
The hipsters think of the park as their senate, where key issues are discussed, world problems are solved, and it is concluded that if only the people with power and money listened to them, all would be well. So naturally, anyone with a far-left agenda who needs a little support for their cause in the form of a few thousand signatures or a small donation will be sure to make the rounds midday at the park. The hipsters want to make the world a better place, one signature at a time, and they will sign anything. Anything.
Yesterday, two mangy-looking teenagers approached the Russian lover with a petition. He'd seen them making the circuit around the park, going from bench to bench collecting signatures. He made bets with himself as to what Evil they were ridding the world of today.
"Would you like to sign a petition which calls for a ban on hydrogen oxide?" the scrubby girl asked.
"Excuse me?" said the Russian lover.
"Hydrogen oxide," the boy continued. "It's a substance found in almost the entire food supply. It permeates our food sources, and it is found in some form in nearly all of our grocery products today."
The Russian lover blinked slowly. "Do you know chemistry?"
"Then, do you know the common name for hydrogen oxide?"
The girl became sheepish and confessed that she did.
The pair owned up to their little experiment, and showed the Russian lover their accumulated list of names. Pages and pages of names. It numbered well into the hundreds. And some of the people who had signed for themselves signed for their friends as well.
And apparently, of all the people who had listened to their impassioned spiel that day, the Russian lover was the only one who understood that the petition was calling for a ban on water.