I used to live in a secure access apartment building in a nice downtown location during my first 4 years in Denver. The only stranger who ever came to my door was the occasional buzzed-in person knocking on the wrong look-a-alike door or a mom and her daughter (tenants from the building) who were selling cookies. I want to add that the Mom had some healthy force behind her knock. My friend Laura calls it the Cop knock. Anyway, The Cop knock made me spring off my sofa in a tangle of blankets annually. The first time I looked through the peep hole, I expected to see some thug coming to collect his debts at the wrong door. Instead, I saw a sweet blonde girl in her green Girl Scout vest asking if I’d like to buy some cookies. Sure kid, as soon as I unglue myself from the ceiling.
I never heard a doorbell at that apartment. When someone buzzed at the front door, my phone rang. I forgot they existed.
Now I live in on a street dotted with charming bungalows and I’m noticing something different. People ring door bells. The old apartment still had me deprogrammed, so I’m startled every time.
1.) Because I thought that door-to-door solicitation ended not long after my parents bought the Encyclopedia Britannica from a guy in a suit.
2.) I have an old timey doorbell that sounds like a mouse hits the chime with a hammer in a quick one-two stroke and then runs away. It’s a sound I enjoy but don’t hear often. When I’m expecting friends, the door is just open.
This probably isn’t a big revelation for anyone who lives in a neighborhood where kids are selling things. But the last two people at my door were adults. One was selling oranges out of his truck the other was a roofer in the neighborhood giving out his business flyer.
I answered the door suspiciously, especially with the orange guy. With no truck (that I could see), no business cards, two oranges in his hand and a paring knife in a makeshift cardboard sleeve, I knew whatever he was about to tell me, I was not going to reach for my purse. He tried to sell me a box of fruit for $45, then $35, and finally did an about face at $25 and crossed the street to the next house. I love fruit, but how many oranges can a single girl eat?
Besides, I couldn’t quite tell if he was a legit business man. I really like the idea of buying direct from someone’s farm. Love the idea. Only I didn’t see any proof that this was real. He was also rather abrupt with me. All I kept thinking is that this guy is talking too fast, I have the screen door open and he has small knife in his hand. I didn’t feel threatened in the slightest but it occurred to me that the older I get the more suspicious I am of people’s intentions.
I am glad for my common sense, but I realized how things have changed since I was a kid.
I used to be one of those door-to-door kids in my old neighborhood in Lowell. First I sold Donna Deanne chocolate bars (Plain, Almond or Crispy) $1 each. I toted them around in a cardboard carrying case to help raise money for my school. Sometimes I would just throw the money right into the box or slip the dollar bills into an envelope. Quarters would jingle. I feel like an alien when I say, kids handled cash! People trusted them! Kids went door to door alone!
I remember my brothers and me eating a whole box. We had to tell my mom she owed the school $12, or was it $24? She wasn’t very happy with us. We just loved those Crispy ones. I walked to every house in my neighborhood trying to sell my candy bars. I even went to weird apartment buildings, all in the name of trying to win a prize. If I remember correctly: Sell $50,000 worth and get a t-shirt. Sell $1,000,000 and win a Boom Box (cassette recorder included). I exaggerate of course, but when you’re a kid, those goals seemed that huge. Over the eight years I sold things in school, I mapped out the best houses. Remembered which people didn’t answer their doors. Who had broken doorbells and who were repeat supporters.
God Bless Mr. Ouellette and Mr. Flynn, neighbors on either side of our house, who were my biggest customers no matter if I was selling chocolate, stamps, wrapping paper, magazines or overpriced cookie tins, they bought whatever I was selling. I could count on them in part of my tally. I never sold enough to get the Boom Box but it didn’t stop me from dreaming of making a big sale.
So, it turns out the orange guy is legit. I asked my neighbor, and she has seen his truck. That made me feel good, although I thought his prices were steep and he could work on his customer service delivery. Still, he’s just trying to make a sale. I wonder if he’s mapping out the best houses. If he remembers one house from the next. If he’ll try again.
Funny what memories get called up with the sound of a doorbell.