I was in the basement when the doorbell rang.
Often I’m tempted to just ignore it. Half the time it’s just some random stranger who wants money. But half the time it’s UPS or FedEx trying to deliver something my husband ordered, and if they can’t get a signature they’ll take it back to their depot which is only open from 6:47 to 6:53 p.m. every other Tuesday, and my husband will have to try and chase down the package before it gets returned to the sender. So I dragged myself up the stairs to answer the door.
And knew, as soon as I saw the unfamiliar teenager, that she was selling magazine subscriptions.
“Hi!” she enthused, “We’re having a contest to see who can get the most points—I just came from your neighbor Mrs. H, she helped us out.”
“I was kind of in the middle of something,” I said, hoping that would be enough. But they train ’em to be persistent.
“Oh, this’ll only take a sec!” She handed me the little laminated paper they always have, explaining how many “points” they need for whatever “award” their handlers have told them they’ll get.
In my younger, wimpier days I would actually buy these magazines, in an attempt to be nice. Most of the time I’d cancel the order the next day; the rates they offer are not good, and I usually regret my impulse purchases. As I get older, though, I get bitchier (there’s a scary thought), and have less urge to be nice to strangers who come to my home uninvited.
“We really don’t have room in the budget for magazine subscriptions,” I told her, trying to hand back her laminated paper.
“Oh, nobody said anything about money! It’s a contest, the boys against the girls—”
I interrupted her again as she was proffering her hot list. “Really, I’ve seen this before, and we don’t have the budget for a subscription.”
She was losing hope, but she kept trying. “It’s a really good price! And if you buy some from me you get a sticker to put on your door to keep all the other guys from bugging you!”
More likely, the sticker tells other door-to-door salesmen that a sucker lives here, I thought. “No, thank you. But good luck in the contest.”
“Okay, I guess the boys will win, then,” she sulked a bit as she turned away.
Alas, I have no new magazine subscriptions today, and my callous refusal probably cost the girls’ team the victory. Nonetheless, I hope she’s okay—I’ve read the horror stories about the travelling mag crews—at the very least, the kids are driven far from home so they have no family to help them, and then aren’t given the money they were promised so they can’t leave. I think I’ll print up my own little flyers with information for Parent Watch, Inc. to give them when they turn up at my door.