Extortion at the Corner of Happy and Healthy?


You know the Walgreens commercials with the voice of John Corbett, the D.J.  from Northern Exposure? He’s always saying that “Walgreen’s is at the corner of happy and healthy.” I’d like them to update the commercial to say, “Walgreen’s is at the corner of happy, healthy, and blackmail.”

You often hear the line in movies,  “Blackmail is an ugly word.” Yesterday it got ugly for me right in front of a Walgreens and Josh Corbett was not there to talk me down with his soothing voice. I’m still healthy, but I was not happy. I was blackmailed at an intersection by firefighters. Yes, those courageous men and women who saves lives and homes essentially extorted money from me.

I was on my drive home at the end of a long work day and about a quarter mile ahead I saw flashing lights by the side of the road. I could see that traffic was backed up a bit, but I was trapped with no way to escape to an alternate route. As I approached the flashing lights I saw a firetruck and wondered if Walgreens was happy, healthy and in flames. Then I saw cones restricting the lanes. As I got closer I saw firefighters holding out boots to collect money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. “Ugh” was kind of what I thought, but without the hard G sound. It was a sigh of resignation. I was going to hope for a green light and good flow of traffic so I could just roll by without having to roll down my window.

A big, busy four way intersection at rush hour on a Friday and these guys are essentially blocking traffic until they get donations? All four ways of the intersection were restricted so they could panhandle like it was downtown L.A. And who carries much cash any more? They’d have better luck holding out a credit card swiper than asking for cash.


There had to be at least four firefighters in each direction of the intersection harassing commuters. That’s 16 firefighters leaving an entire town unprotected so they can extort tired people on their way home out of a dollar at a time. What if there was an emergency? 16 firefighters would have to dump the cash out of their boots, put them back on, take off the ridiculous reflective vests they were wearing, suit up and then try to get their firetruck out of the giant traffic jam they had caused.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am as charitable as the next person, unless the next person is a complete a-hole. I give to causes I choose to or that have some connection to someone I know. I don’t however like being made to donate. Yes, I know that I didn’t have to roll down my window and donate, but what if I didn’t? These were firefighters! Lifesavers who risk their own lives to save others. How could I turn them down? What if somewhere one of them had a clipboard and was taking down license plate numbers of those that didn’t donate? And furthermore what if, at a later date, at the firehouse when a call comes in they first consult the list that they had previously added addresses and names to after doing some research on the DMV website?

Dispatcher: “What’s that? Your house is on fire! What’s the address? 123 Main St. OK, we’ll be right there!” Looks at list, makes announcement to firehouse: “Hey guys, Phil Taylor’s house is on fire. No need to hurry though because on June 5th he was in no hurry to donate to MDA. After you finish your game of Monopoly you should probably head out there though.”

That’s all I’ve got. Although I was a reluctant donor, you can be a willful one if you want by clicking on this MDA link to donate if you want to. But guess what? Me and John Corbett don’t care if you do or don’t. You can still read next weeks Phil Factor if you don’t. (Is this too mean spirited or in poor taste? After it’s been up two hours there’s no comments)  Have a great weekend! ~Phil

13 responses to “Extortion at the Corner of Happy and Healthy?

  1. Oh Phil, you had me at the title!
    I shared this on Twitter.
    Gods, yes, they are extorting money, for a worthy cause, and they KNOW you’re inclined to give, because they’re firefighters and who wouldn’t give firefighters money for sick children? In a boot? Oh the cute!
    Traffic schmaffic.
    Love the wit of this post 😀

  2. This all to be sounds awfully dodgy
    The reasoning is downright spotty
    So we of the literati
    Think it reeks of illuminati.

  3. It wa most definitely extortion, and the firefighters and the town issuing the permit have left themselves open to a lawsuit about this, in my opinion.

    What they did not only should have been illegal–I bet it was. Just like Gov. Christie endangering the public safety, bridge-wise. Towns can issue permits for planned street closures, but this one’s reason would never fly, and the public’s safety was obviously at risk.

    Well said, all.

  4. I agree totally! It irks me to no end when I’m “extorted” like this. I am a perfectly capable individual fully aware of and able to pick and choose where I donate. Collecting like this is a terrible practice.

  5. Living near LA, I have pretty well-developed “stare-straight-ahead-don’t-make-eye-contact” thing whenever I see people with signs at the bottom of freeway off ramps or parking lot exits.

  6. Not mean spirited or tacky. I am sure you just summed up what all those people being held up in the traffic jam were thinking as well but you came out and said it.

  7. Good post. I’m with you. I hate that crap.

  8. Firefighters collecting money for sick kids by filling boots – great idea. Holding up traffic to do this – not so much. I am surprised that they got permission. What they have is a win / lose rather than a win / win. With a bit more creativity, they could have still collected for the cause without making a whole lot of people late / annoyed.

  9. I’ve never heard of such a thing – being allowed to close off traffic flow to collect for charity. There are any number of options they could have taken to collect without coercion. This stinks. I hate when I’m accosted coming out of the supermarket by various agencies collecting for this and that. Grocery shopping is stressful enough with any kids in tow without having to start rummaging at the end pushing a trolleyfull. One time when one said they were collecting for kids I volunteered a couple of mine. See, it doesn’t do to harrass people. Makes them lippy and less likely to give. I give already to various charities but I don’t like to be forced into anything. I’d complain if they’re doing this every year. There has to be a better way. Extra unnecessary stress we can live without.

    • It wasn’t completely closed but it was limited and slowed, but it felt like you didn’t have much choice. Usually I don’t carry money but fortunately I had a dollar, otherwise I’m might still be out there.

      • See, that’s it, isn’t it, not feeling we have a choice. Gets your back up. At least you’ll get a dollar’s worth of fire protection. 😉

  10. Good lord. And I married you??

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