Through the years, I have developed a long standing record of odd encounters with door-to-door salespeople. As your average to extreme introvert, it is inherently uncomfortable to me that someone could just walk up to my door and expect me to talk to them at any given moment. What is that? That is my hell. I need to rehearse my social interactions, and hearing the doorbell ring is the equivalent of a pop quiz in a class you aren’t even enrolled in. Which is probably why I panic beyond reason, every time I’m faced with a sales pitch that interrupts my Pinterest surfing and imaginary arguments in my head that I am totally winning. This fear plagued me for years, generating countless interactions that ended in my pure embarrassment, moments that will haunt me for years to come.
There was the cold winter night when I was 11, one of the first times I was allowed to stay home alone while my parents went out Christmas shopping. I had been told my grandmother might drop in to visit. When the doorbell rang, I opened the door eagerly, expecting to see my grandmother standing there, and was met by a jolly looking old man holding a box of books, I’m assuming bibles for some reason.
“Happy Holidays Miss”, he beamed, seconds before I stuttered a quick, “Sorry, thought you were Grandma,” and slammed the door swiftly in his innocent old man face. Grandma didn’t even use the doorbell.
Once, in the spring of my seventh grade year, I was returning home from a walk with one of my best friends. Everything was going just great, until, while approaching my house, I spotted a man standing on the porch, blocking the front door, or as I saw it the portal to my introvert cave. I slowed my pace as he looked over his shoulder, as if maybe he wouldn’t notice the awkward girl standing in the open with a face paralyzed with social oblivion. Just as him and I made eye contact, I snapped.
“Run!” I yelled to my friend as I took off, my legs carrying me as fast as they could to the sweet salvation of my own back yard, sure to be safe from nonsense like social interactions. My friend, used to my antics, didn’t question it, and ran along beside me, neither one expecting to realize that the “man” on my porch was actually none other than the cutest boy in the seventh grade, only there to hand out fliers for a baseball fundraiser. He looked tall in baseball pants. Not my fault. I recognized him about the time I reached a full sprint, but it was too late. I just kept going, it was well beyond the point of recovery of social graces.
My mom ended up opening the door as we hid in the back yard. After he walked away, she came to the back window, laughing as she yelled to us about how hilarious it was that we were too scared to talk to the “cute boy”. Unfortunately, cute boy was only at my neighbors house at that point, and we heard him laugh at my mom’s exclamation. I never made eye contact with him again. Ever.
And finally, the one that more than likely landed my house on the caution list for salesmen, should one actually exist. It was the last few weeks of my senior year in high school. I was taking an anatomy class that required that we dissect a fetal pig. It was gross enough when it happened in class, but one part of the project included a take-home portion. Yes, we had to take home a dead pig. Well, part of a dead pig, the leg to be specific. I worried all through the school day that my locker partners would grow curious of the mystery tupperware container on the top shelf, and open it, only to discover that their quiet locker mate was harboring a dark secret. Luckily, that didn’t happen, and I thought I was in the clear once I reached the comforts of home. I got to work right away, wanting to be done before my family was home for the day, because I just didn’t want to explain this.
The project required me to boil the leg and then skin it, only to maliciously break the bones apart, and glue them on construction paper to label. I always look back at this, thankful that I now know how to accurately identify the bones that make up a pig leg, because that is so relevant in my everyday life.
Anyway, as you can imagine, after boiling the body parts of innocent farm animals, I felt as if I needed some fresh air, so after the leg was adequately boiled, I scooped it up in a paper towel and headed out to our front porch. Armed with tweezers, scissors, and of course, a leg, I sat myself down on the porch swing. Determined to finish this disgusting project as quickly as possible, I got to work, hacking away at the remaining skin that had not been boiled off in my parent’s kitchen. I zoned out, listening to my iPod as I continued to methodically mutilate the leg.
I never saw the cable guy making his way up the sidewalk. I’m not sure how long he stood there, but when I glanced up from my project, he was there, staring in horror at my task.
My heart raced. Not again, not another salesman. Images of the past 18 years of my life flashed before me. The shame, the awkward. And something…snapped. I needed to take my own house back. No more cowering in fear at the thought of being caught awkwardly explaining that I don’t need a magazine subscription, or faster internet connection, all while stumbling over my words and praying that my legs don’t give out on me as I struggle to maintain any composure whatsoever. No more ducking on the couch when the door bell rang. I was taking a stand, and that stand started with a pig’s leg. I took a deep breath, ready for battle.
Slowly, I removed my ear buds, smiling politely at the man, who still stood there, stunned. He never took his eyes off the leg.
“Hello Miss,” his voice was deflated, face twisted in what I thought was disgust, maybe fear.
“Hi,” I made myself monotone and continued peeling the skin, staring straight ahead of me, secretly hoping the man would make eye contact.
“Are the homeowners here?” His eyes still don’t move from their fixed place on the leg.
“Nope, not anymore.”
His eyes grew wider, he shifted his weight too many times back and forth, paused to long between his words.
“Oh, well then, I can just leave them this survey, um, maybe you can ask them to take a look at it, we’re offering great deals on..uh, cable.”
He set the paper on the banister, and slowly turned to walk away.
“Uh, have a…good day miss”, he called over his shoulder as he made his way down the sidewalk.
“You too sir.” I watched him all the way down the block, until he got in his car, and immediately left m street. He didn’t even bother with the dozen houses he had left, houses without mutilated farm animals on the porch swing.
I almost felt bad. I know the man was just trying to do his job, but an introvert in distress doesn’t have many options. Maybe it’s my imagination, but since that day, I’ve had very few encounters with salesmen. Maybe the market is just changing, but part of me just likes to believe that word got around about the house with the creepy girl on the swing. And that, is why salesmen probably skip my parents house now.