The Door-to-Door Salesperson I invited to Dinner

Nothing can inspire fear like a door-to-door salesperson. In sensible people, that is. I want to know all about the religion, the organization, the person at my doorstep. This could get me into trouble. I have disappointed very sincere LDS (Mormon) missionaries.

After a while, it is not fair to let these people return in good faith that they have saved a soul or made a sale, so I have to let it go. I did go just a bit overboard the other day when I heard so much of the young magazine salespersons life story, fictional or not, that I had to invite him in to dinner. We were alone that evening, kids elsewhere, and this young man, from Youngstown, Ohio, about the age of one of our boys. We had discussed the Boys & Girls Clubs. We had discussed the GED and passing the five-paragraph essay by using an example to back up the topic sentences of the three body paragraphs. It was only later that I recalled that he kept mentioning foster homes. I asked him, not knowing his religion, whether he minded if I had a glass of wine with dinner and offered him water or milk. He asked for milk, please, and said his mother sometimes has a glass of wine with dinner.

Does he have a mother with whom he lived? Will this organization really improve his prospects for the future? I fail to see how anyone can afford to go to Paris, much less a bunch of city kids in a van. Was I helping or making things worse? I wish we had a bigger dinner that night, and was glad that we have rich and filling whole milk at home–no skim milk here. He said that he was looking forward to the Chinese food he would have when they got back to the hotel in Cherry Hill. It was 8pm, and I was hungry, so suggeated he eat with us first and with his group later. He was skinny enough.

Two things bother me most about this encounter, aside from not being able to have another conversation. When I asked about girls or young women in the program, he said that the grandmother of the only two girls had asked to have them dropped off at her place in Atlantic City, and they might rejoin the group in September. It struck me later that I wasn’t quite as dumb as I felt because it had taken Grandma a while to catch on, too. Either there is a really Good Samaritan from North Philly putting up kids, and helping them off the streets with haircuts and dress shirts, or there is someone taking advantage of inner-city kids.

The other thing that concerns me is lesser, but I do wish I had stuck with my instinct of saying I had no checks and paying cash. Somewhere a guy may be figuring out how to access our checking account. Any suggestions? Call the bank to alert for any large check or ACH withdrawal? It seems odd that the check has not been cashed. I certainly want no magazines, and most people loathe the conversation most of all. Business can’t be so good that there is no need to deposit checks. It’s not the young salesman I don’t trust; it is some force working behind the scenes, of which he may not be aware. If this Saint Philadelphia had not been starving the kids, I wouldn’t feel quite so suspicious.

The young man took the few remaining cherry tomatoes I had picked and set in a little bowl on the dinner table in hand as he left, saying how good they were. Jersey tomatoes are delicious, and maybe he was just being polite, since I am proud of my little garden. I digress a bit, but the garden is not doing terribly well. I currently mourn one summer squash plant that succumbed to the western exposure and near hundred-degree heat. We also lost our first, early pumpkin last night while it was still green. We suspect a squirrel attack night, so I am in mourning over that, too. The pumpkin plant is a volunteer, and the plant is too large and wild to be enclosed. How can I protect the next pumpkins as they grow?

Why do I have weak moments for door-to-door salespersons? I was once an Avon…girl. Lonely people let me in their homes, and told me their stories. An elderly lady ordered one tiny liostick to be sure that I would return. I wish I had returned many times, just to visit, and that we had become friends.

Not many years later I boldly ventured forth, a Realtor in a short, purple cap-sleeved square-necked dress with matching purple kitten heel pumps. Wearing this possibly unparalleled garb, I knocked on doors, and asked those who answered whether they would like to list their house with me. Even more amazing than the outfit is the fact that some said “yes,” and did so. I did a fine job, and graduated in short order to wearing skirt suits.

A few years after that, I sold all but one of the suits at a garage sale. It was time to stay home with baby and young child. The orange suit still hangs in the basement. The ocean blue and turquoise suits more appropriate for San Diego were sold within ten minutes. My best friend had an aquamarine one, the color of her eyes. Her mom took a picture of us wearing the aquamarine and orange suits, so that is the one that is emblematic of that phase of my life, and time spent with my dear friend, Ann. We didn’t always work and wear suits. We made time for fun, too. Realtors work on weekends, early in the morning, and late at night, so we sometimes took time off to meet and park at 19th Street in Del Mar for a short beach run. We took Thursdays off, and took the kids to a local park or to Sea World. After our excursions, her daughter would take a proper nap of two or three hours, and my energetic son would swing from the pantry doors.

So…that is why I don’t always pretend not to be home when young salespeople come around. People not only invited me into their homes, they trusted me with their life savings. More poignantly, the elderly lady trusted me enough to invite me in, and the teenage mother, who should have been in high school, or maybe even in middle school, trusted me to be in her parents home with her baby.

I will have to find and include the iconic California Realtor photo by the beach in Del Mar, or at least a picture of the suit or pumps. Should I share my trade secrets with those distributing various earnest literature? Looking less serious worked for me.

Disappointed in myself, I will call the bank tomorrow, and let them know the amount for which the check was written. I am normally pretty sensible and consult Charity Navigator before making any donation, but the occasional “random act of kindness” can’t hurt. Or can it? Is that young man stuck in a situation he can’t escape? Did I contribute to that situation, or is the dying business of magazine sales really a ticket to Paris? Have I unwisely jeopardized our son’s not-yet-begun college education by putting us at financial risk?

Yes, I am prone to “escalating thinking.” If I don’t make my very small donation to MSF orUNICEF polio will not be eradicated. It’s not that I am burdened by a sense of my own importance, and definitely not by wealth: My simple, firm belief is that everything everyone does matters all the time.

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