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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, December 11, 2006

Too good to be true

Sorry about the postless day, folks. One of those days.

I admit I gripe a lot that there are a lot of people who through and through are just not nice - so much so that when I do meet a random nice person it's a pleasant surprise. And my reaction can be almost goofy 'cause I'm thrilled like I just discovered gold or figured out how to split the atom.

So last evening we were making dinner and toolin' around the house when there was a knock at the front door.

I answered and two young women stood there smiling.

They didn't have anything in their hands - no briefcases, no pamphlets, etc., so I figured they weren't trying to proselytize us or anything. And before I could say anything one of them blurted out "Don't worry; we're not psycho or anything."

Her friend followed up quickly with "Listen, it's holiday time and we're just going around trying to meet 200 nice people. You look nice. So hi! I'm ---, and this is ---."

I won't lie. I smiled back, big. I accepted the hand nice-people-girl offered, and shook her friend's hand, and I got goofy. I thought it was some sort of pay-it-forward thing.

I stammered something about this being really cool, told them to have good evening and good luck on their "mission." And I turned to go back inside and tell my wife about it.

And then don't-worry-we're-not-psycho girl deftly slipped the pamphlet out of her back pocket and began peddling magazine subscriptions. That's right, they were selling magazines.

The irony is at that point I recognized the con, 'cause I got roped into it in high school back in the late '80s/early '90s. Magazine subscriptions for a front company that purported to be a branch of some national scholastic society. The sales kids - always seemed to be a group of ragamuffins, a bunch of Oliver Twists desperate for porridge - were always told to suggest the magazines would benefit charity. I sold a few subscriptions, but never got paid. None of us did.

I feel bad for these girls that this was the work they had to do. But it would have been really cool
if they really were just going around the neighborhood saying hi.

Seriously, when I get tired my sucker side starts rising to the surface.

At any rate, any shine on this apple faded over the next 30 minutes as two more mag sellers made their way to our door. Fully recovered, I let 'em know their friends had already tried and told 'em to scram.

My favorite saying: Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out.

Yes, I'm exhausted this evening, but don't try to sell me any bridges. I won't fall for it.

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  • I had one come to my door at dusk two weeks ago. ALL Alone. We have a nice neighborhood, but.....
    Shivering,jiggling, looking most uncomfortable! My mom sense kicked in and I asked her if she needed to use the bathroom. She was in there like lightning. She said, "Yes, Ma'am, Thank you Ma'am" which told me she was from the South.

    Do they make any $$ doing that?

    By Blogger Pamela, at 1:11 AM  

  • James Burnett, if they come back could you renew my Guns and Ammo subscription?

    It's hard to be a nice single girl in the burbs without protection, you know what I'm saying?

    By Blogger 123Valerie, at 1:57 AM  

  • Man, James, as I was reading it and you said that there were these two girls just wanting to meet nice people...and knowing you live in Miami, I was very skeptical. Actually, I wouldn't have been a bit surprised had you said that they ended up robbing you or something!!

    By Blogger Claudia, at 1:58 AM  

  • Nah, Claudia, I was safe. They could've tried if they wanted. But they would've met a super hero - Batman - when me and my Louisville Slugger implemented our anti-robber beatdown program.

    Pamela, I doubt they make much money. For the week or so I did it in high school I sold a few hundred dollars worth of subscriptions but never received a penny from the boss.

    And 123Valerie, I'll let 'em know if they come back by. Get a stun gun. Less messy.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 2:59 AM  

  • You know, James, civilisation has come to something when people only come to your door (uninvited) cos they have to sell you something.

    What happened to friendliness & neighbourliness?

    Mind you, people rarely come to our door these nights, not even carols singers (w00t! cos most of 'em can't sing). It's been too cold & rainy, as well as dark.

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 5:20 AM  

  • I wasn't even aware that people still try to sell things off line. Are you sure you're not making this story up James?

    By Blogger captain corky, at 7:36 AM  

  • Dude, it's a cute story even though it's a bid sad. Perhaps you should take up the gauntlet and start something yourself -- knocking on folks doors just to meet them. Or just smiling and saying hi to passers-by wherever you go.

    Gandhi said that we must be the change we want to see in the world. If we would like folks to stop by just to say hi, let's start doing it ourselves.

    You go first! ;)

    By Blogger Dan, at 10:58 AM  

  • I feel bad for these girls that this was the work they had to do.

    Those girls have plenty of other employment options. Just look at Craig's List.

    By Blogger Matt, at 11:48 AM  

  • Bronchitikat, you're right. It's been since I was a child that I've had neighbors who felt comfortable just walking up to each other's doors to say hi.

    Two exceptions were when I lived in Milwaukee. I was in a loft apartment building downtown, and while my neighbors who were my age were zombies (like me), my elderly neighbors were really friendly to me, always inquiring about life, work, family, etc.

    And Dan, I know you're right. It's still a hard thing. That's what excited me about this encounter at first: that a neighbor was stepping out on a limb to be friendly. I consider myself a semi-nice guy and I'm not even willing to do that.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 11:53 AM  

  • We've had the scammers off and on-love the ones who namedrop a street near yours. And say they're in high school when they're 30 if a day.
    Our neighbors come to our doors, but lately it's their KIDS who are selling stuff for fundraisers. You can't win.

    On the other hand, I was just humbled by receiving a thank you call from someone who has been a burr under our butts at times recently. He's really a nice guy. And he thanked me for the work I do. I just about cried.

    By Anonymous Kim, at 12:00 PM  

  • I love magazines. I get more than I can read. I buy subscriptions from the little kids in the neighborhood. I think that's a tax write-off.

    By Blogger Mist, at 12:27 PM  

  • Next thing you know, you'll start getting mail that LOOKS official, but is actually advertising. Or perhaps you'll hear a commercial on TV with a loud alarm or teletype sound with a rolling banner that will, in fact, also be some sort of advertising. What's the world coming to when companies need to resort to diversionary tactics to get you to notice their products?

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 5:14 PM  

  • No way, mist1. Next mag seller to stop by my house gets a lump of coal. And it'll be coming at 'em at about 65 MPH.

    And Matt, ha ha! I said I could be a sucker when I was tired, not stupid.

    Diversionary would have been if they'd approached my door w/an arm full of mags and tried to mess w/me by flaunting their beauty. But there are two problems w/that theory: they showed up empty-handed, and they weren't good looking. And even if they had been, my wife was 50 feet away in another room with a clear view of the front door. I wasn't diverted by anything but their faux kindness up front.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 5:26 PM  

  • Ah - that sucks you got so excited to only be minipulated into trying to buy something. My father was a Decon in the Catholic church and when Jahovas Witnesses came to our preaching, he would gladly greet them with the bible in his hand and start doing exactly what they were doing. It was so funny and he used to get so excited when he saw them coming. Maybe you should try to sell them something and see how they like it...

    By Blogger Erica Putis, at 7:12 PM  

  • Erica, my dad, a pastor, used to do the same thing as yours. Still does. I'll bet his house gets avoided by solicitors these days because of his willingness to talk.

    And selling something wouldn't work. Only thing I have to offer is me and a knuckle sammich. And I wouldn't look good on the 'ho stroll, and I'm too pretty to go to jail.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 8:15 PM  

  • JB, you should be glad they were selling magazines--otherwise, the purpose of the visit was to case your crib for a later rip-off.
    Champ, no matter how nice someone is, they're not going to go door to door to share the feeling. Not in South Florida.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 1:49 PM  

  • I'm evil. When we used to get these people @ our apartment complex I used to call the managment and have them run off. muahahahahahaha

    By Anonymous dayngr, at 11:17 PM  

  • Wow, this is happening a lot in my area.. What I want to know is why are they using these young kids?

    By Blogger Winter, at 12:32 PM  

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