You have to admire people who wander door to door doing whatever it is that they do.
It can't be easy. If you're a salesman, going door to door in hopes of making A sale, it must take some determination to keep going. The fact that sales and advertising have so infiltrated everything in our lives, it seems that, despite our evolution into laziness, door-to-door sales must be the next step in this invasiveness.
Advertisements already appear smeared across public transportation, gets thrust into your hand on the sidewalk, pops up on your computer monitor (any second now), and even protects our hands on those cardboard sleeves aroud coffee cups. Why then does it seem to be obsolete for it to ring your doorbell?
I can imagine answering my door, wondering who it can be. The little peephole, which has proven itself to be completely useless, except during paranoid delusions when "they are coming to get me," would not exist in this alternate universe.
If I answer the door, and there is a two to three second pause before the cheery voice says, "How are you doing today, sir? My name is XXXXXXXXX, and I am visiting on behalf of...," I am then confronted with a choice. Do I immediately slam the door shut in hopes that they take the hint and will not come knocking again? OR Do I brace myself for a lengthy spiel (with apology and statement of not wanting to take up TOO much of my time, to which I will undoubtedly reply "No thank you." ? We'll train ourselves to know that if that pause is there, a computer has rang our doorbell and it isn't a friend or relative.
Maybe finer homes will come with a different kind of caller ID. Special doors will let me know who is calling. It will tell me know when the visitor is unknown, and my paranoid friends (hey, like attracts like) will have to enter a code before ringing or knocking to let me know it is them.
Of course, in all of my nostalgia (can I call it that?) for door-to-door salesmen (or women, but in my fantasy...), the only thing I can ever call to mind from Paper Moon is Madeline Kahn saying, "Let Tricksy sit up front with her big ole tits."
It is still good to know that the art is still kept alive by those whose faith sends them out to spread the word. The word is now spreadable, and probably comes in chive and french onion flavourings. Look for Low Fat Word at your local grocery store.
I have the profoundest lack of respect for these people. I really do admire the amount of faith and determination it takes to go about the neighborhoods to be repeatedly rejected. I wonder if the occassional person who does allow them to come in and talk ends up being worth it. How often does one wish that they had just slammed the door?
There are plenty of scary people out there. Like me.
I have always been the one sent to answer the door. Maybe it's because I am more inclined to get up and answer the door (ahhh nostalgia). Perhaps everyone knows that I will do a good job scaring off whoever it might be. Friends of the family always let themsleves in. They're family. Come in!
Only strangers knock...or live here.
My family took great pride in my ability to scare off the missioneers. They take pride in me for other reasons, but this one is relevant here. They are good church-going, faith practicing people. They know their faith and are comfortable with it. They therefore do not need to be told and aren't particularly wild about strangers coming onto our property, rented though it may be. (reminder to me...tell the nice people someday about dad, the .22 and the promiscuous neighborhood dogs someday)
I would always answer the door and have something quick to say:
"You selling God? How much?"
"Jesus doesn't live here anymore!"
I've been known to make eyes at whoever answer the door. Men, women...and of course, children. I would imagine that missioneers must think that bringing an innocent child on these door-to-door treks must make an impression of family, comfort, innocence and love. They have always left our house with a sense of creepiness and dread.
I'd answer the door and raise my eyebrows seductively (try to imagine that, if you will...ask my boyfriend, it's pretty goofy) at whoever was there. There was always the quick motion to draw the present child safely close as they watched my gaze move tenderly down to the minor on our doorstep. Have I scarred lives? Plenty.
My ultimate was undoubtedly the day the Mormons paid us a visit while I was living in Santa Cruz. I was sharing this large house with some girls into organic farming (a stretch in Santa Cruz, but try to suspend your disbelief) for a brief period. The reality is they let me move into one of the vacant bedrooms after my claustrophobia got the better of me living in a tent in the strawberry patch in the back yard. After hearing about the natural cure for yeast infections, I started buying my own cloves of garlic for the traditional Santa Cruz communal stir fry. But i digress...
Our kitchen looked over the drought-resistant garden in the front yard. The "front" door was on the side of the house. We were all standing around the kitchen one afternoon discussing the dangers of commercial cotton used in tampons and the need for the proliferation of organic cotton, when one of my house-mates cuaght a glimpse of white shirts and dark ties out the window.
The girls commenced to panic. What we we to do? Hide! Don't answer the door! Duck!
I stepped in at this point. "No, wait! I have a better idea!"
Shedding every last bit of clothing, with the exception of my baseball hat, I quickly took control of the situation, quieted the girls and went to answer the door. I moved slowly, so as not to give the impression that I was lying in wait.
Unlike telemarketers, there was no three second pause. I had just begun to open the door when one of the boys proceeded to say "Good afternoon, we're from the Church of Jesus Christ and....WHOA!"
Their horrified faces turned to the side. You could see the flash of wide-eyed terror before averting their eyes in modesty. From then on, the two boys only looked to the side, occassionally stealing glances back towards me, hoping that it was a mirage and I really wasn't as naked as the day I was born (save for the backwards baseball cap). No such luck.
"Umm, we seem to...uh...have caught you at a bad time, sir."
"No time like the present. What can I do for you all?" That line, "No time like the present," was to follow me around for the rest of my days in Santa Cruz. Not because I maintained that attitude in my every day life, but purely because of this encounter with the boys from, as my brother calls it, The Church of Jesus Christ and Shutes and Ladders Day Saints.
The lead boy, tried to continue with his mission, probably suppressing the desire to move on to greener preaching pastures: "Well, um, we are from the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, and um....well, we were walking through the neighbourhood, and um, you see (still occassionally looking nervously in my direction)...we were looking for some folks who would be interested in sitting down, and, uh, having a discussion about our Lord and Savious Jesus Christ."
I was really quite proud of him for managing to get it all out. He was struggling. It was obvious. I think his partner was paralyzed. He stood so stiffly.
At this point I was faced with a decision. These boys displayed such courage not running away at the site of my not so flattering physique. I'm not horrible, but hardly am I something to open a magazine to the centre-fold in search of. They showed perseverance of faith. I respect that. Should I invite them in, or alleviate their worries and send them along like the other, albeit clothed, heathens they encounter on their missions?
The girls. They were doing a good job of holding in their giggles at the site of my backside in the doorway holding a conversation with two young mormon missioneers. "There's no time like the present." They wouldn't let me live that one down.
I thought it would be fun to have them in for a chat, some tea (herbal...of some sort), maybe some vegan "treats" (read: dog treats sans animal matter) , and a hearty discussion on the nature of salvation. Maybe I could put a pillow on my lap to make them feel more comfortable. I was in a good enough mood to hold back my argumentative side, and I could play gracious mediator with my Jewish and mother-goddess worshipping house-mates. I'd be in peak performance.
Dammit. The girls have clothes on. It wouldn't work. There's no way this could come off if the girls were there fully dressed.
There was only one thing left to do. The nieghbours across the street were evil red-necks who liked to get drunk and work on the Camaro in their driveway at all hours. they were obnoxious Hill folk sho somehow were able to afford living closer to the water than most. There were car parts and trash strewn about their lawn. They made noise and revved their motors. My kind of folk had I been honest with myself and wasn't playing sophisticated Earth-guy in Santa Crud.
"Well," I said. "I think the people who live across the street are into that kind of thing."
They breathed such a sigh of relief. A weight had been lifted from the burden of their faith. They gave a hurried "thank you" and scurried away.
At that moment, gales of laughter broke out from within the house. The girls, finally able to let loose, were rolling on the floor. I closed the door and turned to face them.
"There's no time like the present?" one of them said through tears, handing me my clothes.
I'm probably going to hell.