Wednesday, November 04, 2009

When pretending not to be home doesn’t work

Note: This column appears in the 11/5 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/6 issue of the Peoria Times

My wife and I are utterly annoyed by –- and sometimes scared of –- people coming to our house and trying to sell us stuff.

This wasn’t much of an issue back east, for the most part. With the exception of Jehovah’s Witnesses –- who, long ago stopped coming to my parent’s house lest they be dragged into a dialogue with my Catholic deacon father -– people stopped ringing doorbells years ago. I think it was 1985 when the chances of getting injured or killed began to outweigh the chances of making of a sale.

And the fear was mutual. One year back in NJ, a few days after she had watched a special on Oprah about home invasions, my wife called me on my cell phone in a panic. She was at home, and pretty much hiding under her bed, and yelling for me to come home because “somebody keeps ringing the doorbell!” Luckily, I was just around the block at my sister’s house. When I pulled up to our place, a frustrated flower delivery guy was standing there on his cell phone. My in-laws had sent my wife flowers. Because it was her birthday.

The fact that we are abnormally skeptical about people coming to our house on our birthday is a testament to the fact that we would prefer that nobody came by during every other day of the calendar year. But alas –- such is not the case here in Arizona. In fact, I am fairly certain that a Valley-wide alert went out to every business within range when we first moved here. Every single time the doorbell rang and I thought it was a friendly neighbor who had baked us a “welcome to the neighborhood” cake, it was instead a 20-year-old dude who wanted to sell us bug spray services, a soft water system, blinds, or the irony of a home security system to keep out intruders.

Shooing away unwanted –- they are all unwanted –- solicitors has not been an issue. Were it not for the hassle of getting to the door, it can be a pleasurable endeavor. But most recently my wife and I have begun the unpopular campaign of shunning children.

I’m just going to say it: Kids selling stuff is the worst. And believe me, because I was one of them. I used to have to sell 800 Reese’s peanut butter cups just so our Little League team could have socks, half of which I ate myself (the candy, not the socks) and my parents had to pay for. But it’s not the kids themselves we’re against –- sort of -– but the entire process.

First of all, kids have no idea what they’re talking about. They can’t give you any information –- you’re just supposed to buy it because they’re kids. Well, that’s not how we roll. Consider us scorned.

A few months after we moved in, two girls came to our door. They were selling candles for school. Why? I don’t know. The one girl talked too fast and the other girl was facing the street. I felt bad, so I ordered one. They didn’t take any of our info -– except our money –- and I got no receipt. About six months later, I suddenly realized we never got our candle. I had to call the school and after weeks of research, we eventually got it.

Since then, we have unabashedly turned kids away.

And so this past weekend we were driving home and saw a woman standing on the corner. We waved. She did not wave back. We pulled into our driveway and began the process of getting the kids and all our bags out of the car. From behind the car emerged a boy scout. Amidst the chaos, he nervously mentioned he was selling popcorn. We realized it was his mother who was standing on the corner. We told him sorry, but it wasn’t a good time.

We didn’t buy popcorn from a boy scout because we were too busy and he was too timid. But mostly because his mother didn’t wave to us.

I don’t think we are getting a cake from our neighbors anytime soon. This is all Oprah’s fault.


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