I work nights. So when the doorbell rang around noon, I was still on the couch in my underwear having my morning coffee.
Thankfully, I don’t get many visitors, especially unannounced visitors. So I went to the window to look outside to see what was up. All I could see was the top of somebody’s head. I could tell it was a young man. Given the dark hair, I thought maybe it was the neighbor kid who, like his parents, never speaks to me like I understand they don’t speak to anybody else.
I thought if it was the neighbor kid and he finally decided to speak, maybe it was something important. So I decided to answer the doorbell.
I looked around at the piles of clothes. I grabbed what was easiest to throw on. I grabbed a pair of red running shorts and the first t-shirt I saw. It was a white one with “Hulkamania” on the chest. I knew it was too small. But I’ve been too cheap and/or sentimental to get rid of it.
I went to the door. It wasn’t the neighbor kid. It was some other clean-cut kid, maybe 17-years-old.
Since it wasn’t the neighbor kid, I assumed it was gonna be some kind of religious bullshit, especially since they’d left one of those hokey cartoon/comic books on my doorstep a few days earlier. This kid’s clean-cutness only reaffirmed my suspicion.
But the kid hadn’t really done anything wrong. So I decided I needed to be polite, no matter the reason for his interrupting my coffee.
The kid said, “Good afternoon.”
I prepped for the religion spiel and how I was going to cut it short.
He started by saying the names of my neighbors. It was a good tactic. I was unprepared, so I felt immediately disarmed.
“Of course, you know her?” he asked.
I said I didn’t. I didn’t take the time to think if I did or not.
“Well, she’s got carpenter ants.”
Then he started saying and asking things about fleas and chiggers and carpenter ants. He started asking about moles and other pesky little ants and termites.
I wanted to cut to the chase so I could get back to the couch and my coffee. He’d already made it impractical to get back to the underwear, which I prefer with my coffee.
“So what is it, some kind of pest control you’re selling?” I asked him.
The kid stammered.
“Something like pest control,” he said.
“Thanks, but not interested.”
I looked down at my shorts. They were inside-out, with the pockets flopped out like dog ears. And the white, stringed loop was hanging out like a tongue, down to my knees.
“Sharon’s got moles,” he said. “Do you have moles?”
“Yeah,” I said. “But I don’t care.”
I caught on to his sell real quick. His angle was that if my neighbor was concerned about her mole or carpenter ant problem, then I should be too. If I was a concerned enough neighbor, logic was I’d wanna tame my mole or ant problem so it wouldn’t become hers.
I went to shut the door.
I saw his mind flipping through the playbook.
The kid interjected, “What about roaches? Spiders? Millipedes? Silverfish. Pill bugs?”
“I got ’em but I don’t really care.”
“You’ve got what? Spiders?” he asked.
“Yeah. I got some spiders. But they’re no big deal.”
I told the kid, “I’m sorry. But no means no. Especially right here.”
It was harsh but it was true. If no didn’t mean anything on your own turf, it sure as shit wouldn’t mean anything anywhere else, so I didn’t feel too bad in claiming it.
I didn’t wanna be mean. He was just a kid trying to earn a buck. But there I was looking like a fool in a wrinkled Hulkamania t-shirt that was too short and tight and a pair of running shorts turned inside out. The last thing I wanted was some passive-aggressive guilt trip from some kid about the implied morality or ethicality of how I was gonna handle my mole problem.
The kid probably told me to have a good day anyway. Maybe he didn’t. I don’t know. In my mind now, he told me to have a good day. And if he did, I hope I was kind enough to wish him a good day too. In fact, I hope his day was better than dealing with people like me the whole time.