Mr. Lederer ambled through the park, preoccupied by his worries, and there he met the man. There was nothing unusual about him, except that he was feeding sparrows: there was a whole swarm of them around him; it was a wonder they were not climbing into his pockets. Well then, he told himself, there are still good people on this earth. And then the man looked up in fright and quickly departed.
A while later Mr. Lederer found him sitting on a bench, and since he didn't have anything to do other than worry, he sat down on the bench next to him. The man regarded him with mistrustful eyes and shifted away a bit,
"So, you like sparrows," Mr. Lederer said after a while.
"I don't," said the man gloomily.
"No. And," the man cried out in exasperation, "I can't even stand birds at all. So."
"I only wondered because you were feeding them," Mr. Lederer ventured.
"I wasn't feeding them. That...I was just throwing crumbs out of my pockets. You understand, I don't feed birds as a rule. Let them feed themselves, the beasts! What do I care about them?"
"So," Mr. Lederer grumbled in disappointment, not knowing what to say next.
Meanwhile the man was scuffing his feet in the sand quietly. "So you're a member of the Sparrow Feeding Society, then?" he suddenly sputtered.
"I am not," Mr. Lederer parried.
"So then you're from the Songbird Preservation Society!"
"Sir, what society are you from?"
"From none," Mr. Lederer said. "That is...well, I'm in one burial society. The Israelite Burial Society."
"Aha," said the man suspiciously. "But I don't want to be buried. Besides, I'm Catholic, just so you know. And I don't feed birds. And I don't even have a dachshund."
"I have a griffon at home," Mr. Lederer admitted. "A little hairy beast."
"Then you have to become a member of the Hairy Dog Breeding Society," the man said decidedly.
Well. They come for you and there you are. Once I got a canary and three days later I became a member of the Upper New Town Harz Canary Breeding Society. Supposedly we canary breeders needed to get organized, and there we were. It's done. I had a dachshund six years ago; I gave him away after a moment, but I'm still a member of the Purebred Hunting Dog Breeding Society. Every year they send you a check and membership card. What is a man supposed to do," the man grumbled melancholically. I am in nineteen societies."
That's a lot," Mr. Lederer warranted.
It is. One of my friends is in twenty-three, but he is interested in peace and philosophy. Forgive me for thinking you were in some sort of bird aid society. Once I gave a penny to a blind man on the street, for example, and in half a year I became a member of seven charitable societies."
"'We recognize your charitable soul, join us,'" and so on. But the worst is when you have noble intentions. There are a horrible number of nobly-intentioned societies. And if you're from somewhere, then you already have native societies and regional societies and the Western Bohemia Society and what have you. I have it all written down somewhere which societies I'm in," said the man, looking through his pockets. "I don't know, there has to be a limit. You know, so a man doesn't have to be in all these societies. There should be some protection against this, or a law. For example, that no one can be forced to be in more than twenty societies."
"That's difficult," Mr. Lederer said. "It might not be possible to arrange such a law, our country has its defenders of freedom, as they are called."
"Fine freedom this is," the man spoke bitterly. "You cannot do anything without there being some society for it. I say we should get organized somehow. We should get everyone together who has had enough of these societies, and make it so that this societal pressure is reduced. Twenty societies ought to be enough, right? I think we should be organized..."
"We'd have to hammer out a new society for it," the man spoke, immersed in thought. "I think a lot of people would join. We would just have to get organized... Create some sort of active society or league for it...and create offices for it, to battle for our members burdened with excessive responsibilities of membership. Just found a proper society for it, sir!"
LN 10 May, 1936