I spend most of most days sitting at home, in my home office, in front of my laptop. I sit here, under a photo of Bobby Orr’s “The Goal”, and I type away. I chat, and I make those funny comments on Facebook, I tweet, I email, and I write stories.
I still tell people how great it is to work late at night when the family has gone to bed, “because there are no interruptions, the phone won’t ring”, but I don’t know why I say that. The phone never rings.
During the day, if the phone rings, it’s either Wife (who calls that number because it’s cheaper than calling my mobile and she’s cute that way) or a telemarketer. Mostly, it’s the telemarketers that call me. (Even they don’t most often call me, but instead, ask for Wife).
I used to get sucked into buying something, because I’m a nice guy, and don’t want to take the bread out of the mouth of a person who I picture to be an otherwise-unemployed person at the other end of the line. But I’ve gotten better.
It’s harder with the people knocking on the door. They look so innocent, so optimistic, so … full of life. They do, they all do, whether they’re trying to get to me join Greenpeace, or sell me a new electricity deal.
I always say I don’t have any cash, but they have elaborate systems these days.
“Just sign here, and you’ll get a bill in the mail,” they tell me.
“I can’t read or write,” I say.
The kid who was selling roses so that his soccer team could travel to Malta fell for it, but it made me feel so bad that I miraculously found some cash in my jeans pocket – who knew! – and bought some flowers off his hands.
Kids. They’re the worst.
Except my kids. They’re the best.
Apparently, in Swede, there’s a real tradition of sending kids to sell magazines and other stuff door-to-door. I remember sitting on the subway, and wondering about the The Salami King’s ads. According to the Salami King, selling sausages was a great way for a hockey team or a school class to raise some money.
There are also several companies that send “Christmas magazine” catalogues to the mothers of the eligible kids, so that they can, in turn, send the kids out to do some business.
I don’t generally speaking like kids being turned into salespeople because the first group of clients are their relatives. I’m still wearing underwear I bought from Wife’s sister ten years ago, when she was in her early teens and selling stuff so that her soccer team could do something.
Last year, Wife thought that Son was a little too little for the sales business, but in 2011, the boy seems to be ready.
This morning, Wife explained the concept to Son, and as soon as she got to the prizes he will get for reaching different point levels, he was sold. Well, as soon as he saw the Nintendo. The top level. He seems to have my sucker gene, poor guy.
A few practice speeches, and some memorized rules later, Son grabbed the catalogue, two pencils, his order forms, and an umbrella, and ran out. He targeted our most immediate neighbours, and he was confident. Maybe he would get to the Nintendo level simply by talking to them?
His buddy’s mother bought three things, his other buddy’s dad one. And then he came home to count his points. And then he went back out, a little farther out. And then a little farther, to unknown territory: Strangers.
It’s not always easy to meet people you don’t know, let alone try to get them to buy something. Even if the cause is good, and the salesman cute.
I know, because I’ve been on that side of the door, too.
The Salami King is right, of course. Selling sausage is a good way to raise money for a hockey team or a school class. One time, my class – like all other school classes in Finland – went out to raise money for the Red Cross.
What we were selling were cute, plastic, three-dimensional red cross puzzles, that doubled as key rings.
I was out with a buddy of mine, and we divided the houses on each street. I would take the ones on one side of the street, and he’d work on the other side. We were on the other side of the tracks, pretty far from home base, it had been a long day, and we were pretty desperate.
We had tried every speech, every angle, every trick, even the oldest one: “This is my last red cross, and if you buy this one off my hands, I’ll be done with this shit.”
It’s old, but it’s not very good.
I walked to the door of a nice red-brick house and pressed the door bell. Under the bell, there was a name: “Rinne”. While I waited for the door to open, I rehearsed my pitch in my head.
“Hi, my name is Risto, I’m a fourth-grader, and we’re all going around trying to help the Red Cross, and I was wondering if you’d be interested in helping, too.”
The door opened, but just a little. Barely enough for me to see the man who opened the door. I saw a mustache and launched my pitch.
“Hi, my name is Risto, I’m a…”
“What do you want?”
“… fourth-grader in the local school here and we’re trying to help the Red Cross and I was wondering if…”
“… you’d be interested in helping, too.”
“What?” said the old man.
“Would you like to buy one of these?” I said, and showed him the red puzzle cross.
“It’s pretty neat, you press here, and here, and this halfway like so, to take it apart. And then, like this, push this here, and this here,” I said, and clicked the cross back together.
“Not interested,” said the man and moved away from the door.
“But it’s my last one…” I said, but the door was already closed.
Obviously, it wasn’t my first rejection. But it was the best one, because the man in his 80s was Joel Rinne, a famous Finnish actor who had played one of my great detective heroes, one Inspector Palmu of the Helsinki police department’s homicide group.
Getting the door slammed in my face by him was like Peter Falk asking me one more question about the pretty, red puzzle things. Inspector Palmu was supposed to be a grumpy old man.
It was perfect.
Son went out one more time, got two new clients and called it a day. He’s a few thousand points from the Nintendo. But he’s still optimistic. Especially about the houses on the other side of our street.