My local mom’s group listserv was on fire this last week. By far the most talked about topic OF THE YEAR involved a young college-aged man who was selling educational books door to door. The comments were all over the board. Some were kind saying give the kid a break and offer him a bottle of water (we were in the middle of a heat wave). The vast majority were decidedly wary and/or fearful and full of questions. A fair number simply did not like his manner or his “name dropping” of other mom’s names in the neighborhood. Many thought he was too “aggressive” because he would not take no for an answer. One mom was trying to get out of her driveway when he drove up and parked behind her. She said he wouldn’t move his car. He should have. That was wrong.
He did come to my door and tried hard to make a sale. I twice told him firmly that I was “not interested” and when he did not stop talking, I just shut the door on him. End of story. I did not feel rude in the least. Many wondered whether he even had the right to sell door to door. Some encouraged calling the police. A couple of moms could not believe that he would actually park his car in their driveway. Where is this concern coming from?
We are a quiet suburb between Boston and Providence. Sure we’ve had some break-ins of cars and houses (while the owners are away), but for the most part, this is a safe community. We also have a long history of door- to-door salesman in this country. At this juncture, I question whether this is a viable sales method anymore. Still, I occasionally get people selling lawn and other home services and sometimes black suited young persons trying to “sell” me on religion. Do I like door to door salesman? No. Was I annoyed to have to answer the door? Sure. My air conditioner was on and I didn’t want to let all that hot air in. I listened to about 10 seconds of his pitch before cutting him off. He drove off and that was that.
What was so objectionable about this young man that warranted dozens of posters to comment on it? In contrast, a few months ago, a very earnest young woman came to my door touting a cable package (with a free gift card) if I switched cable companies. I know she visited a lot of houses in the area. She didn’t park in my driveway. She arrived on foot. I’m not sure where she parked. No outrage from the moms. Not a peep. So an “aggressive” college male selling educational books who parks in their driveway warrants this dialog but a similarly aged woman selling cable services on foot does not. Is it a gender thing? Have we become so fearful of young males that we do not feel safe having them park in our driveway and come to our door? I sure hope not.
Of course, I could not write this post without mentioning the elephant in the room and another young male that someone questioned his right to be in their neighborhood–the Zimmerman case. I’m not saying that we need to stop employing common sense wariness of strangers that come to our door. However, many argue that our society has become defined by a culture of fear and that our perception of danger has increased but not the actual level of risk. Do we give in to this fearfulness and believe that danger lurks everywhere? That is the question.