There is no shortage of people in downtown Portland that want a chunk of your time. Between the panhandlers and the professional signature gatherers, it’s a miracle if you can go three blocks without someone trying to get your attention, get your signature, or get your spare change.

I hate them all.

However, there is a special place in hell for the volunteers from OSPIRG. These young folks work in at least pairs, and take up positions at both ends of the block, or on opposite sides of the street. Their roadblock tactics make them look not unlike Soviet era KGB, checking the proletariat for their identity papers.

They have been carefully trained. They make eye-contact with you far in advance, and stride toward you, smiling, with their hand stretched out toward you, as if they are going to give you a hearty handshake, or perhaps clasp you to their bosom like a long-lost brother. Their tactics work: I invariably feel a stab of guilt as I head-fake right, then spin around to the left in order to avoid them. A stab of guilt that is quickly overwhelmed by the hot irritation I feel at being forced to dodge human roadblocks on my lunch hour.

I have a bit of history with OSPIRG volunteers, after all. You see, they also go door-to-door. I’m sure that not all of them were trained by former Gestapo, but the ones I have dealt with are the rudest and most annoying soliciters that have ever trod upon my doormat. They are worse than Mormons on Mission. They are worse than Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are even worse than Amway salesmen. OSPIRGers have an edge of fanatical zeal unlike any other soliciter I’ve had to shoo from my door.

One of them had the balls to dress me down in my own doorway, stridently asking me “Don’t you want to save the environment?” and “I’m just trying to help YOU, man.” Another flatly refused to stop whining his spiel at me, even after I explained that I had left dinner boiling unattended on the stove, as my infant daughter shrieked and wriggled in my arms like an ADHD octopus. That volunteer unwittingly and unknowingly served as yet another example of why PAgent does not keep guns in the house.

For the record, Mrs. Agent and I do support environmental causes. Underneath our suburban exterior, we are hippies at heart. I used to belong to the Wilderness Society. We used to support the Nature Conservancy. I used to have a pre-tax contribution deducted from my paycheck to support a consortion of environmental causes. But it will be a cold day in hell before I give one thin, dirty, dime to OSPIRG.