Thursday, October 18, 2007

Don't Answer the Door

By Nichole Giles

These days everything has a sign. Business signs, traffic signs, for sale signs, do not disturb signs, and a myriad of others we stick on our doors or windows to announce our intentions to the world. Usually people watch for these signs. They help us make important decisions on where we are going next, or what we’re going to do when we get there.

But there is one sign—one magical, seemingly invisible sign that lives on the doors or in the windows of many private homes and businesses—that seems to go mostly unnoticed or ignored in my neighborhood. If you live in my house, that sign says, “NO SOLICITING.”

Now, when I bought my sign it was with the intention of politely asking the door-to-door sales persons or politicians who might be tempted to knock, to respect my right for privacy and refrain from ringing my doorbell the minute I jump in the shower. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask, does it? I also harbored the hope that I could sit in my den—which has a window looking out on the front porch—and write while my children are in school without the worry of rude interruptions. There’s nothing like a ringing doorbell to pull you out of your fantasy world and force you back into reality. It’s a writer’s nightmare.

I have nothing against door-to-door salespersons. Even though they have chosen a job that is grueling and unpleasant, which requires them to knock on doors to sell vacuums and cleaning products that most people can buy at a store if they really want them. I do have a problem with people who blatantly ignore a clearly posted sign telling them to please go away.

Take, for instance, the political campaigner who rang my doorbell the other day. Of course, it was during the school day, so I was in the middle of furious writing. I had a self-imposed deadline to make. I was deep into the story, and on the verge of a major plotline. Now, I’ll take some blame. I should have stayed sitting in my little drama and ignored the incessant door dinging. But, by the second ring, I was pulled out of the story anyway, and so…I paused my play list, saved my document, and went to answer the door.

“Mrs. Giles?” said the man. He had a clipboard in his hand and an official looking polo shirt on his back.

“Yes,” I said, leery. Door to door sales persons don’t usually know your name unless your oh-so-kind neighbors gave it to them. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, assuming my neighbors were all at work.

“I’m here with the such-and-such political party, are you familiar with this-and-that bill?” (Obviously I don’t want to spark political debate by telling all the facts here, but you get my drift, right?)

Sigh. Of course I’ve heard of it. I looked across the street to my neighbor’s lawn and the bill supporting sign staked there. “Yes, I’m familiar with it.”

“So,” the man lifted his clip board, “can I put you down in support of it?”

I looked to the left of me at the bill opposing sign posted almost exactly opposite of the first, on a different neighbor’s lawn. Suddenly, I was irritated. At that moment, it hit me that the bill this politician was pushing had pitted my usually peaceful neighbors against each other in a sign-posting war. Not only had this man ignored my sign—the one requesting that he NOT ring my doorbell—but he had interrupted me while I sat at my desk bleeding onto the pages of my open computer file. Now he stood on my porch asking me to make an uninformed decision so he could check a box on a pre-poll poll.

Irritation flared, and I snapped. “No,” I said. “You cannot put me down. Wait,” I said, needing clarification. “Did you say you are for or against this bill?”

“For,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. “Well then, go ahead and put me down for against.” And then I shut the door in his face. Rude, I know. And so unlike me. But here’s the thing. All political agendas aside, how can I give support to any political campaign when the politicians involved in pushing it don’t even have the consideration to READ MY SIGN?

I’ve tried and tried to justify the man’s position, since even my seven-year-old knows what “No Soliciting” means. And I’ve almost forgiven that poor unfortunate soul for his ignorance because the only excuse I can come up with is illiteracy. Why else would a middle aged man who should know better ignore a clearly posted sign? Either that or he just didn’t care enough to notice. The sad thing is, whatever my previous view was on the bill he was pushing, I’m still considering voting against it just for spite.

The lesson of the day—for the door-to-door people—is pay attention to people’s signs. You never know when you might be interrupting a writer who has just opened a vein. And if you happen to be that bleeding writer, do yourself a favor. Learn a lesson from me and don’t answer the door.


Tristi Pinkston said...

Sort of unrelated but not really :) I hate it when people get mad at me when I don't answer my phone. They'll call me back later. "I called you at three and you didn't answer," they say, their voices dripping with accusation.

Well, I have any variety of good reasons for not answering. Sometimes I'm in the shower. Sometimes I'm in the middle of a poopy diaper. And -- shocker -- sometimes I'm not home. I don't recall any law saying that to possess a phone means that one will answer it every time it rings and never leave home for fear of missing a call!

Can you tell that irks me? :)

Nichole Giles said...

Yep, Tristi, I can. Shall we come up with a phone message as well? How about "Please don't be angry if I don't answer. I'm in the middle of writing my next New York Times bestseller. If you leave me a message, I'll call you back when I find time to remember the little people." Or something to that effect?

Thanks for commenting.


G. Parker said...

I've been told that if you are writing, you should turn the ringer off, or just ignore it. If someone gives you a bad time, you say you are working!! lol. My brother works from home, and he says the hardest part is convincing his children that he is working, not playing and that he should taxi them everywhere. I think a little of that is turnabout's fair play, but I understood totally. Good blog!

Darvell Hunt said...

That's funny, Tristi. In our modern world, nothing seems more compelling than a ringing phone.

A few years ago, I bought a condo in Vegas for me to stay in while working in Las Vegas, which I used to do a lot. For a long time, I didn't get a phone, but finally got service when I wanted the Internet. I gave the number out to NO ONE, but the phone was always ringing. I never answered it. EVER. Anybody I knew would call me on my cell phone.

The experience cured me of the need to answer my phone when it rang.

Text messages are another story.