KnocksI think one of the most overlooked benefits of rural living is the fact that it’s less convenient for people selling things to disturb you in person. I’m tempted to put a sign out front that reads “Beware of dog: He likes salesmen, but prefers steak.”

Not everyone ringing your doorbell is a nuisance. Often you’ll be asked to buy things from neighborhood children with good intentions. A common campaign in our area offers a box of chocolate-covered almonds for $5.95, with the proceeds going to a foundation which helps keep children off the street and away from crime. I always buy a box, but I can’t help thinking that selling a dozen chocolate-covered nuts for six bucks actually is a crime. When I’m asked to buy cookies from a youth organization I always do, as long as they’re not smoking when they ask me. I find it unusual that they ask if you want cookies, go away for weeks, and then come back with the cookies you ordered. It’s like they had the cookies baked especially for you. I suppose that is flattering. I try to have the correct amount of money set aside, to save them from making another trip with the change in a couple of months.

I like those tricycles attached to coolers that ice cream vendors ride in the summer. It doesn’t trigger any childhood memories for me, since I grew up on a farm; it’s just that I’d get more use out of a cycle like that, with built-in snacks, than one like the forgotten exercise bike in the spare bedroom.

Years ago my wife and I agreed to watch a home demonstration of a vacuum cleaner in order to claim a prize. Before the salesman arrived, we vowed that we’d watch the sales pitch to get the prize but definitely not buy a vacuum cleaner. The prize was a voucher for accommodations in Florida which turned out to be worthless. For the price of just the flight to their hotel, you could get a package deal including flight with better accommodations. By the way, the good news is that the vacuum cleaner we bought is still running just fine.

In winter, a common door to door proposition involves a child with a snow shovel. Unfortunately, the kids on my street seem to be most enterprising after light snowfalls; when there’s a good ten inches in the driveway I find that I’m pretty much on my own. So when I’m asked if I want snow shoveled I usually thank the kid and decline, saying that’s precisely the kind of exercise that I could really use… And hope he doesn’t come back later and notice my wife doing it. The child with the snow shovel has the advantage of knowing whether or not you have snow in your driveway. Sometimes telephone salespeople will try to sell you something you can’t use. For example, sometimes I’ll be offered a good deal on having my hot air ducts cleaned. At that point, I tell the person that our house has electric heat, and they get off the line immediately. Some telemarketers call offering to clean carpeting. I know people with carpets who’ll say that they have all hardwood floors just to get out of the conversation. I just tell the truth, because I’m afraid that I’d be offered duct cleaning, and get confused and say that I have hardwood floors which has nothing to do with whether I have ducts or not.

At least these experiences have given me insight into urban people; now I know why they line up on expressways to get out of town on summer weekends. 

By Rick Dickert.