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The Shortest Horror Story:

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room.  There was a knock on the door.

— Frederic Brown


It was probably just a Jehovah’s Witness.  And they’re not that scary.  They’re quite friendly, in fact – and more than happy to go away and knock on someone else’s door if you’re polite to them.  And they probably get their feelings hurt if you’re rude and shout at them and slam the door.

So don’t do that.

The moral of the story?  Don’t be so rude and you won’t be alone.

I think.

Here’s another:

When people come and knock at your door asking for donations, conversions, signatures or to secure the purchase of sugary treats, you have a series of choices to make.

First of all, would you like to be a Mormon, give money to whateveritis, sign something obscure or purchase some stale chocolate?  Yes?  Then have at it.  No?  Well then…

You can say, sweetly, but not condescendingly, “No, thank you, but have a pleasant (morning/afternoon/evening/what are you doing out this time of night anyway).”

Or you can get all huffy and shout and slam doors and run over and post to your social media of choice about how dreadful they are.  But what’s the point?

Displaying your nastiness for general consumption may work in the fast food industry, but look where that’s getting us.

Why not take the time to say Thank you after that No?  What’s your rush?

In the race to be on top, we can’t be put upon at all.  No, we have to be smashed in on all sides by boosters and yes-persons, sycophants in the echo-chamber of our lives, constantly stroking and being stroked about how we told so-and-so off and how very clever we were with our insults to our intellectual inferiors (Where do you find them? wonders Mrs. Parker), and when we come up against the inevitable telling off of our own sweet, put-upon souls, the same cadre of know-nothings and think-lesses are there to tell us how stupid their argument was and how wronged we were again and – inevitably as well – we are condemned to torment in our beds, thinking of that great put-down hours too late, as l’esprit d’escalier turns into l’esprit du lit.  

Pathetic.  All of it.  And terribly, insufferably, rude.

But don’t get me wrong – it is r e a l l y irritating to sit down to dinner, have the First Footman whisk the sterling silver dome off your delicious meal and hear the doorbell ring.

God, this is why we live in the country…

But there are ways around that.  A “No Solicitors” sign really dresses up a doorbell, and due to the shocking rate of illiteracy, even that may have to include an expanded definition of who should knock and when.  I saw a rather cheeky sign (ok, made) that read, in its entirety:

Please – No Solicitors, Bible Salesmen, Jesus Freaks, Snake Handlers or other assorted Side Show Wrigglers; Environmentalists, Politicians, Petitioners, Peddlers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Canvassers, Concerned Citizens or other Meat Purveyors; Post No Pamphlets, Coupons, Advertisements, Menus, Offers, Theses or Treaties; and No Aquitaine for John.

Girl Scouts are exempt from these Rules.  Thank you very much.  Have a wonderful life. –Mgt.

You will note that I start with please, end with thank you, and throw in a handful of literary and cultural references to keep people entertained.  Smarmy, sure – smug, definitely, but it isn’t rude.  

They don’t have to walk up to my door… uh, the door.  They don’t have to read that sign.  They don’t have the standing to be offended.

Isn’t etiquette delightful?

But don’t you worry.  I’ve been interrupted numerous times anyway, with people saying they “…aren’t solicitors because they’re collecting money for the environment,” or whatever.  And I’ve been told off by the Vice-President in Charge of Memos of my neighborhood association for not including an exemption for the neighborhood newsletter.

Quel dommage.

The important thing, other than, perhaps, having a stack of the definition of the word “solicitor” handy, is to smile, say “No, thank you,” and gently close the door.

I’m sure the footman knows how to keep your coq au vin quite hot for you when you return.

It just doesn’t take that long to not be rude.



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