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Donations as gifts -- that takes the cake

September 06, 2007|Mike Armstrong | Mike Armstrong writes screenplays and television scripts in Los Angeles.

A relatively new trend has emerged, and it needs to be stamped out right now.

This summer, for my birthday, my literary agents sent me a card informing me that a donation in my name had been made to the "Victims of Childhood Sunburn" or some such nonsense. Perhaps it was to some environmental group and the note printed on recycled something-or-other. Who knows? I was so annoyed, I tossed it in the trash just to make sure it could never be recycled again.

Obviously the gift was a profound disappointment. It was my special day, and I wanted something special for me. A bottle of wine, golf balls, one of those overpriced coffee table books with pictures of Charlie Chaplin horsing around with Fatty Arbuckle. I'm easy to please. Even a joke gift would've had more meaning than sticking my name on a case of Chef Boyardee and shipping it off to some alleged soup kitchen. Where's the fun in that?

Now, I'm not going to suggest that my agents simply printed up a bogus birthday card and didn't really make a donation. They're slightly above that. I'm sure that somewhere out there something was sent to someone with my name on it. Was it a check? If so, it would have been nice to know what the amount was, but my agents will never let that cat out of the bag -- and with good reason. This way they can donate the same amount in my name as they can in George Clooney's name and neither of us will be the wiser.

Think about it: Once upon a time, before these sharks figured out this "donation in your name" scam, I'd receive a bottle of lousy New York state sparkling wine, while George would probably wake up to a Porsche.

Suffice to say, George and I are both going to miss those days, and I wouldn't be surprised if this hits him even harder than it's hit me.

I'm sure you're thinking, "So what? It's just a bottle of wine." Not so fast.

I find comfort in the knowledge that some hapless assistant was dispatched to the closest Trader Joe's with $10 and the directive: "Find something cheap for that royal pain in the butt who keeps hounding us for work."

Yes, for a few brief minutes, somebody -- however low on the food chain -- was thinking of me, even if it wasn't exactly with fondness. I like that. It means something to me. And to be honest, I can recycle that wine and pocket the 10 bucks the next time somebody invites me over. (Did I mention how important recycling is?)

And what if it had been that overpriced coffee table book? I'm sure I would have put it on EBay, and that's money in my pocket, baby! A box of golf balls? I can lose all those by the fifth hole at Rancho Park. In fact, I can find something to do with almost any gift; any gift, that is, besides a "donation in my name!"

Not that there aren't some worthwhile organizations out there. According to my accountant, some of these groups actually help cure things and round up winos or whatever it was she said. But if I want to be reminded about all the unpleasantness in the world, I'll just listen to the next Democratic Party debate, thank you very much. I don't need some stranger who I'm giving money to getting beaten to death by an uncooperative wino. How many nights of sleep will that cost me?

No, this was supposed to be a day for balloons and cake and the cheapest wine some agency lackey could find. Angry? You're darn tootin'!

By the way, I never received one word of thanks from whatever "charity" supposedly received my "donation." And if there's one thing I despise more than a lousy gift, it's ingratitude.

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