Thursday, January 06, 2005

Yonge & Bloor II

As the tsunami story unfolded, news reports started to focus on the unprecendented fundraising taking place among ordinary Canadians. In addition to simply writing cheques, many people were coming up with creative new ways to raise money. For example, one bakery made cupcakes with Red Crosses on the top. In another story, a 5 year-old girl was selling pages from her colouring book (and was colouring furiously to keep up with the demand).

Against this kind of backdrop, I felt somewhat uncomfortable about opening my guitar case and asking for change. Instead, I wondered if I could harmonize my busking (so to speak) with the relief efforts.


I noticed, as I put up my sign saying "Today I'm singing for UNICEF", that I was feeling uncharacteristically relaxed at the vast Yonge & Bloor busking location.

I hadn't realized it, but on some level I must still be edgy about asking strangers for money.

I must, because I felt fine when I was singing to benefit someone else.

With the sign on my case, I had absolutely no hestation about standing tall in the rectangle of yellow dots and singing out in full voice. I found that I did indeed call attention to myself here, in a very positive way, and at several points during the afternoon, more than a dozen people at a time were stopped and listening to me openly as they waited for their train. It was flattering. And it was fun.

A number of non-subway musicians I knew--four to be exact--chanced to come by and for once I didn't wonder what they thought of my performance.

Donations were steady and people did seem to notice the sign as they passed by.

One man donated what appeared to be a lottery ticket.

Then, after I'd been playing for about an hour, a woman approached me to say something, which of course is not unusual.

Turned out she was Jane from the TTC, who told me that my donations sign was against TTC licensing regulations. (I probably should've realized that...just got caught up in the spirit of the times I guess.) Jane was friendly but firm and told me that I could donate my proceeds without the sign if I wanted to.
I took down the sign. In support of Unicef, I had earned $22.55 and a lottery ticket.


Although I was initially disappointed, I realized that this gave me an ideal opportunity to conduct an experiment. Would I earn the same amount of money when it was intended only for me?

Here's how it turned out. In the hour that I had the UNICEF sign up, I earned $22.55--plus the lottery ticket. In the subsequent hour, I earned $21.60. Virtually identical...assuming, of course, that the ticket isn't a winner.

No comments: