A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Nina Pajak
I should know better than to answer the door without looking. Aside from my morbid obsession with the threat of a violent home invasion, I was raised with a healthy mistrust for any stranger who might try to approach me, talk to me, ask me for something, or smile at me for no reason—let alone walk up and ring my doorbell. And yet, twice in the past week I’ve naively opened the door expecting the UPS guy and facing someone asking me for money.
At least they weren’t asking me to convert to a new religion. That dude stopped coming around a while ago, thank goodness.
I would have thought that in this day and age, the door-to-door proselytizing and pitching had gone by the wayside. The world is a dangerous place, and most people in our fair city have read too many horror stories. Plus, the Internet makes this whole arrangement somewhat obsolete. With the convenience, lack of intrusion, and capacity for making a hard-hitting, multimedia appeal that computers offer, it’s hard to see why anyone would choose the in-person alternative. Say what you will about eye contact and a personal appeal, but I don’t think people have been very receptive to being interrupted at their home since the heyday of the Avon Lady. Why buy a vacuum cleaner from Willy Loman when you can get twice the information in half the time and spare him a trip? Unless you’re a little kid selling cookies or wrapping paper, you’ve got an uphill battle ahead of you when you press that buzzer.
Be that as it may, it seems as though I live in a pocket of the city which time has forgotten. There’s a fair amount of ding-donging around here.
In fairness, the people who darkened my doorway were both requesting charitable contributions for admirable, do-good causes. One guy was collecting for a city-funded youth group that gets at-risk kids off the street. He made a half-hearted attempt to showcase his wares but made it refreshingly clear that he didn’t expect me to think a crappy tin piggy bank was worth a $20 donation. Because he was sweet and made it snappy and didn’t try to hawk a box of $2 chocolates for ten times the value, and because he caught me off guard, I coughed up a check. Point: door-to-door.
Lest you think this proves anything, however, I’ll tell you about the second incident. The other guy showed up on a 95° day, sweating and earnestly waxing poetic about the dangers of fracking in our state. Despite my many attempts to ask him politely to speed it up and my forthright and immediate warning that I would not be able to give him any money, he seemed incapable of editing his spiel on the fly. In the end, he reluctantly handed me a pamphlet and left empty-handed, thanking me for not slamming the door in his face “like a lot of other people.”
One point deducted. The two experiences cancel each other out.
While I don’t necessarily regret forking over $20 to a youth group, and while the fracking guy didn’t exactly ruin my day, I can’t say I understand or appreciate this approach any more than I did before. I still find it intrusive and a little nerve-wracking. I think I’ll be doing a little more recon from the window before I blindly answer the door anymore. Unless I see a Girl Scout, in which case I’m giving her a key to the back door so that she can more easily unload the multiple pallets of Samoas and Thin Mints I plan to order. Note to Girl Scouts: Ring my doorbell! SELL ME COOKIES. I WILL BUY THEM ALL.
Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!