Wow. I had a nice little blog about weird foodstuffs all ready to roll, and then this afternoon I heard a knock at the front door. Usually I hide beneath the computer desk until the knocking subsides, since I dislike confrontation and still cringe when I remember how I attempted to dismiss two young Mormon men with an awkward waving of the arms and a high-pitched, “Uhhmmm, no no no, I’m sorry, no thank you, no, sorry, no soliciting, sorry!” segueing into a graceless closing of the front door in their faces…cue the guilt, AAAANNNND … SCENE!
But the sound of that knock…it sounded like a—could it be—a BLOG ENTRY on my porch?!?! Why yes it was!
Daisy was going ballistic, barking and jumping at the door, tail-wagging, eager to accidentally-on-purpose pee on the new visitor in her enthusiasm. When I scooped her up, I discovered my mystery solicitor was a young African-American man in a white cowboy hat and a South Park tie. His smile was wide and disarming, and he had a duffle bag full of some kind of portable consumer product. He had brochures. He had hustling skills that PT Barnum would have wept in envy of.
He was peddling a multipurpose concentrated household cleaner called “Advanage.” No, there is no ‘T.’ He called it a wonder cleaner and proceeded to elaborate on the many surfaces and substances Advantage could clean. He scribbled on a white towel with a black marker, whipped out a small spray bottle of Advanage, and—Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, with just a few scrubs the mark disappeared before my very eyes! He even cleaned the glass on my front door, and then attempted to scuff it up again with his bare hand—yet the amazing Advanage repelled his fingerprints with some sort of magical force field!
Floors, kitchens, bathrooms, cars, carpets, walls, even the garden ... no place was safe from the sanitizing tentacles of Advanage.
Still, despite the product's Manifest Destiny flexibility, I was reluctant to buy.
He tried humor…jokes about Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson, and ham hocks. All of which are, of course, the first three things I think of when I wish to scour my bathroom sink.
Yet my inner cheapskate balked at the price: $35 (not including tax) for a liter of what probably amounted to diluted shampoo.
He tried sweet-talkin’ flattery. (“I didn’t know there were supermodels in this neighborhood!” and “You got the best roses here. Everybody talking about these flowers.”)
While my inner Ralph Furley was blushing and Aw-shucksing it up, my inner skeptic was loath to part with a check containing pertinent personal and financial information.
He tried the bandwagon approach, going so far as to show me the receipt from my neighbor’s purchase. Still, despite how much I enjoy emulating my neighbors in every way (especially fighting in public and filling the yard with plastic lawn décor), I hesitated.
He even tried evidence, quoting statistics about laboratory tests that pit this “non-toxic, environmentally-friendly” product against other brands, yet Advanage the Wonder Cleaner won every race.
I studied the Velveetaesque brochure, trying to buy time and weigh my options, panic stretching and doing warm-up sprints behind my ears.
How to get out of this with everyone leaving happy? Curse you, Midwestern people-pleasing upbringing!
Jess’s Brain? Yes, I have a collect call from the Rest of Jess. She’s looking for an exit strategy from the Prince O’ Pitch.
But my mind was lounging by a pool somewhere, reading Entertainment Weekly and slamming Kamikaze shooters. It sent the cabana boy over with a scribbled note: “Tell him money’s tight, and how about he leaves you a brochure and you think about it.”
Lame! This wasn’t the heavy artillery I needed to fight the Tsunami of Tsales.
Plus, as soon as I said, “I’m kinda broke right now,” I realized what an asshole I looked like. Because clearly, only broke people have enough expensive flowers gaudying up their porch to stock a funeral home for the summer accident season.
Despite myself, I was beginning to enjoy the show. There are hustlers, and then there are hustlers. This guy? He could convince Rush Limbaugh to make a sizeable donation to PETA. He could talk Phil Spector into a hairstyle that doesn't make me want to smother a live grenade with my general eye region.
Then, he pulled out his trump card. “It’s for a good cause, too. Because it benefits inner city youth, providing positive career paths and building job skills.” I can’t remember his exact words, because at the time I was feeling more overwhelmed than Tom Sizemore’s rehab caseworker. He told me a little about his troubled past in Detroit, and how the Advanage sales opportunity has benefited him.
I heard myself slowly begin to speak: “Tell me more about this youth program.”
Damn you, white liberal guilt! DAMN YOU!!!
Thirty-seven dollars later, I have squeaky clean windows that smell of fake green apples and are probably off-gassing fumes that will melt my liver in my sleep tonight. “Your husband’s a lucky man,” my Favorite Salesman said before he left. “Many blessings upon you, and thank you so much.” He also said a bunch of other stuff, but I’m too exhausted to remember any of it.
Two minutes later I saw our neighbor’s surly teenage kids laughing at his jokes and writing him a check, their new bottle of Advanage gleaming on the roof of their car in the late afternoon sunlight.