My new sofa arrived yesterday, so Mrs C helped me load the old one onto Chalk Enterprises' van and I drove down to Oxfam, feeling a warm glow at the thought of doing my bit for those less fortunate than myself.
It took quite a while to work my way through the procession of gigantic 4*4 buses returning from the half mile school run and by the time I arrived, I had pretty much convinced myself that I would be greeted by a loud trumpet blast, before being escorted up a red carpet by a man in livery, with a dancing girl throwing rose petals down in front of me. All the staff would be lined up either side cheering, like I was Jordan.
It wasn't quite like this, but nevertheless I proudly marched up to the front desk and announced to the vaguely odd looking bloke that I had a nice sofa to donate which was clean, tasteful and compliant with all fire regulations. Could he possibly just help me carry it the ten feet from my van to the shop? I waited for him to embrace me with joy and invite passers by to come in and meet me, but instead he muttered into his feet:
"Sorry there's nobody here that can help you"
"Staff can't carry things for customers"
"But it's there, ten feet away! I only need you to hold one end of a sofa. It's not heavy. I'm sure he could carry it" (pointing at a little African boy in a large poster on the wall)
A short, plump woman in a suit with a badge that said 'Manager' then arrived. I explained again that I just wanted to donate my sofa to the little boy in the poster and indicated my van parked outside. So near and yet so far.
Unimpressed with my attempt to end global povery, she proudly announced that: "Staff aren't insured for carrying things! What if they slipped and had an accident?"
An elderly customer then offered to help; gave the manager his walking stick and before she could tell him that staff couldn't look after customer's belongings, the sofa was in the shop. All feelings of satisfaction however, had unfortunately long departed, to be replaced by a deep frustration at the direction we seem to be going in.
It might just have been my imagination, but I could swear that as I drove off, the same little boy in the huge poster covering the whole shop window seemed to be sticking two fingers up at me.