I can always tell when the political atmosphere is heating up because my phone rings off the hook from various parties: “Unavailable,” callers identified only by state names ranging from Texas to Michigan to California, someplace called Telefund Inc., and Gallup Polls. I generally never answer these, though one Fundywhatsit phone bank was so offensively persistent that I finally answered, waited until the caller asked for me by name and told him to please stop. He was calling “on behalf of” WETA, the public broadcasting outlet that runs the local classical radio station — which I gladly support with a ten dollar monthly automatic donation.
This is the curse of being glad to support anything; worse, of supporting anything and living in one of the richest Zip Codes in the nation. People with a cause to fund see you as a sponge to be wrung dry, even if you personally are not doing much more than pay your bills with your bare hands. And now they all have computer diallers and they call you forty times a day until whatever campaign they are working is concluded. At the height of one such arc of interruptions I found myself flinging a throw pillow toward the telephone, shouting “Fuck you, Michigan!!!!” And I’m on the Do Not Call Registry.
This Zip Code thing is a minor martyrdom. The longstanding local paper even sticks a thing on its masthead, to attract advertisers, saying it serves “the most affluent communities in the Washington DC area.” Thanks loads. Along with the phone crap all year round, in warm weather we get the door to door people, hell bent on juicy pickings. Religious hucksters have respected my No Solicitors sign since I put it up, but I still get the odd charity-cause importuner, legitimate and otherwise.
The screwball who knocked on my door last night was wearing a polo shirt engrossed with an embroidered logo, something about the Community Services Board of some township downstate — Hampton Roads, Roanoke or Norfolk, I forget (because of the terminal K sound I am always mixing those last two up so it was probably one of them). I was getting started with a new client and shooed him away, feeling slightly rattled and saying something like “I work out of my house and am with a client so it’ll have to be another time.”
He must have been watching for the minute my client left because he was right back at the door, knocking “Shave and a haircut” (I hate people who do that) as soon as the car was out of the driveway. I ignored him. He shaved and haircutted two more times and then went away.
Tonight I had a long dinner break, and sure enough, there on the porch was old Shavey Haircut — a trim black man who had not been shaving many years himself, sporting a laminated necktag: Entrepeneur Sales, and asking if I were “the owner.” Of the house I guess.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I am not interested in people coming to my door to raise funds or sell me things.”
“You told me to come,” he insisted. He waved the tag around, giving his name (as God is my witness) as Michael Jackson, and quoting my unfortunate phrase “another time.” I pointed out the No Soliciting sign and explained its meaning in words of one syllable. He began to raise his voice. “You said come back another time and now I think you’re trying to make a joke out of me!” The pepper spray was handy on the sofa table. “Okay, you need to leave now,” I said in a loud level voice, illustrating the concept by gesturing in the direction of Gone with both forefingers. “Well you told me to come back and I wouldnta come back but you making me into a fool–” “You need to be gone.” This time I added a pinky finger, for extra apotropaic effect.
He continued sputtering about the apparent permanent injury to his amour propre I had inflicted. “Do you want me to call a policeman?” I overrode him. What exactly he hoped to accomplish at this point was unclear. He slouched off and up the street, still fuming.
I called a policeman. Actually I got a policeman and a policewoman. She did a fruitless driveabout looking for Shavey Haircut around the hood.
“Every year when the weather gets warm we get inundated by these guys,” said Guy Cop. “They don’t have a permit anyway, it’s illegal for them to even knock. We can summons them. Thanks for calling.”
“I don’t usually feel the need over people who knock on my door, but he wasn’t wrapped too tight,” I said.
I checked the locks on everything after the cop left, just to be sure. I probably have thirty pounds on the little fucker, and Capstun, but who needs the grief.
At least it makes screaming at Michigan seem like a minor nuisance.
I need a Zip Code transplant.