My children say that I'm getting grouchy and bitter in my old age, to which I reply, "First of all, I'm not old, Kirk Douglas is old. Second, if I'm grouchy and bitter, it's partly because of all the damn door-to-door salesmen and phone solicitors that are out there these days."
It's getting out of hand. Seriously, I've never been the type to lock my door in the middle of the afternoon, or deliberately ignore my phone -- because someone important might be calling -- but after what's been happening around here lately, I think I may have to start.
For example, this past Christmas, our family went on holidays to the Caribbean with a few friends. We hadn't been back for more than two days, when our son's BFF got a call saying that he'd won a vacation package to the same resort from which we'd just returned.
What made it seem real was the fact that the scammers knew so much of his personal information. They knew when and where he'd stayed -- the exact room number even -- his home address, and of course, his phone number.
For a few hours, they had him convinced that he was a winner, until they started giving him the run around, and asking him for money.
Then something similarly disturbing happened again a few weeks ago -- on Good Friday, no less. We were just sitting down to have dinner, when someone knocked at the door. "I'll get it," my oldest son said. He's 21.
After a brief chat, he returned to the table.
"Who was it?" I asked.
"Some guy in a uniform. I told him we were eating, and he said he'd come back."
"Was it the police?" I tend to think the worst.
"No. He said something about testing our water, and that it was important."
"It's always important," my husband retorted. And it's true. They do tend to say that.
When the man showed up again half an hour later, my father jumped up to answer. "I'll handle it," he snapped. My father can be a bit of a shit-disturber. I knew the guy would have his work cut out for him.
After a few minutes of "whatever you're selling, we don't want any... we don't drink water... I don't care if you are the freakin' chief of police, you are not coming in... listen buddy, I chop people up in my basement for fun," my father shut the door, and that was it. The man left.
"Can you believe that guy?" my father said. "The first thing he asked was if he should 'take his shoes off outside or wait until he got in the house to do it?' As if." We all agreed -- it was pretty presumptuous.
The next day, my husband went over to ask the neighbors if they'd experienced the same thing, only to find out that the "guy in the uniform" had actually made it through their front door. Yes, they'd succumbed to his "it's important" speech. In the end, they had to threaten him to get him to leave, after which they called the police.
There have been a few other incidents in recent memory as well, like when I signed us up with some "cheaper, better" gas company when we were already committed to another. My husband nearly killed me for that one. He had to do some fancy talking to avoid paying six hundred dollars to break the contract.
Also, a few months ago, we had some men come to our door canvassing for donations for a particular not-for-profit organization -- I won't say which one. When my husband told them politely, "Not today. We have our dedicated charities," it was as if he'd just kicked a small child off the steps. How could he be such a horrible person? Obviously, we had the money. Couldn't we give even a little? They weren't taking "no" for an answer.
It makes me unbelievably annoyed that I have to put up with this crap. I just want to trust people. I just want to be able to open my door, and answer my damn phone without someone trying to get something from me. But how can I when companies are using such elaborate and aggressive schemes these days?
And you know, I get it. With the economy the way it is, lots of people are having trouble making ends meet. They're desperate. Sadly however, their desperation is changing me (and probably others too). It's a cycle of negativity.
I feel like saying, "If you are trying to rob or trick me, I'm not buying it. Now leave me the f*ck alone before I sic my dog on you." And I don't even have a dog.
My daughter calls me on my attitude quite frequently. People will phone our house and I'll tell them I'm not interested -- in my angry voice. Or I'll simply hang up. "They are just trying to make a living," she'll say. "Can't you be nicer?" Not if they're going to be so persistent. After a while, a person's patience wears thin.
I know what you're thinking -- just be cool. If you are pleasant yet assertive, you'll get your point across. I don't know about that. Those guys who came to our house asking for donations - well, my husband almost punched one of them in the face after being "polite and assertive" for a good twenty minutes.
Of course there is always the "answer the door in your birthday suit" option to keep them away. I may have to actually try it sometime. What the heck? I'm getting older. I could use the thrill. My address is 111 F*ckyoubuddy Avenue. Come on over.
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