Ding dong, Jehovah calling….

"My grandmother and the doorstep deweller," drawn by the little MM, aged 4 (+40).

“My grandmother and the doorstep dweller,” drawn by the little MM, aged 4 (+40).

Nobody ever turns up on my doorstep to sell me anything, be it carpets, frozen food or tickets for the school raffle. Yet last weekend I was surprised to see a gentleman standing patiently outside my door. He was carefully groomed, and was dressed in a shirt, tie and suit. My visitor was dancing an impromptu Foxtrot in the amusing belief that he could avoid getting his smart black trousers covered in dog hair: Smelly Dog had achieved her usual epic guard dog fail, and was surgically attached to his leg, tail wagging and ball in mouth.

Confused, I looked behind him for the hearse, and then checked his pocket for Agent K’s magic sunglasses and zapper pen. (I’d love to have one of those. Just for one day – I’d start with my bank manager, then move on to the Élysée.)

As I reached for the door handle, my eye fell on the black leather satchel and I reached my final diagnosis: In the same way that Avon rings the doorbell with promises to renovate sagging facades with miracle cosmetics, I was opening the door to a door-to-door salesman of spiritual make-overs. This doorstep-dwelling species offers you salvation -trade in your tarnished, sinner’s soul over the doorstep and get a gleaming new stainless one with 50% extra heaven in return.

His blue eyes locked earnestly on to mine. I recognised with a sinking heart that very peculiar expression – a strange combination of a drug addict crossed with a Rottweiler that has just clapped eyes on a sirloin steak.

Now, MM is one of a long line of champions for getting shot of penance pedlars. My maternal Grandmother had pedigree status: when a bible-brandishing visitor announced that he was Jesus, she welcomed him with a booming “Come in! I’m Pontius Pilate”. So I really can’t help it – when I have a visitor intent on saving my soul, I get an irrepressible urge to grab a bottle of gin in one hand and a packet of Marlboro in the other, then jig up and down on the spot in my underwear singing songs from The Life of Brian. Irreverent and rude? No, not at all – anyone who turns up at my home expecting me to discuss my personal beliefs with a complete stranger must presume that I’ve got a very laid-back attitude to life.

The visitor pushed Smelly Dog away with the tip of a well polished shoe. “Hello! I just happened to be in your neighbourhood”. My eyebrows shot skywards. You have to try very hard to “happen” to be in my neighbourhood (the GPS says “go to the end of the Universe, turn left and left again”). Our building is run down and decrepit; the kind of place a well-meaning soul may mistakenly expect to find an ageing hermit with lots of money in need of company. (And yes, that sentence was deliberately ambiguous.)

The hand slipped down to the satchel and unsheathed its weapon. “I’ve brought you some reading,”he beamed, thrusting it towards me. It was of the pseudo biblical variety, with a good satanic twist to give readers a severe case of the collywobbles. I sighed. If I want to read something full of spelling mistakes and badly researched stories, I just have to buy a copy of the local newspaper.

I considered telling him I couldn’t read, then decided against it in case he had a copy of “Learn to read with Jehovah” tucked in his sock.

“That’s very kind of you, but I’ve got plenty to read”. My interlocutor stared back at me. The enthusiasm had waned. “But I’ve brought you hope!” he spluttered. “Oh, I’ve got bags of that inside too, thanks.”

Salt peanuts

Peanuts for a soothed and satisfied soul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Silence ensued. I sucked air through my teeth and tried to find that legendary cool that the French mistakenly think we Brits possess. Belief is a bit like your privates: it’s highly personal. So you don’t pull it out in public, even if you are proud of it, and you don’t ask anyone else to show you theirs, because it’s…. well….. private. What works for you may not work for me, even if you have the best intentions. Laughter and peanuts do the trick for me, but may not work for anyone else. So in the same way that I don’t hammer people’s doors down to force them to accept a handful of peanuts and a Peter Kay video and invite them to my next Peanut Addicts Anonymous meeting, I don’t expect them to impose their views on me.

So MM smiled her best “not missing you already” smile. “Well, thanks for your visit. Have a good day,” I said, and started closing the door. “Wait! Wait!” He jiggled up and down as Smelly Dog obligingly dribbled on his shoes. “Does anyone else live here?” His eyes darted along the façade of the building, and spotted a figure pulling his bike out of the garage. “Ah, I see someone. Wonderful! Good bye….” The black shoes crunched their way down the gravel, magazine primed and ready to sell hope to Gargamel. I suspected that the end was nigh.

Disclaimer. MMM (M.M’s Mum) says I should put something here to say that this is just my opinion. I (nearly) always do what my mummy says. So: “This is my opinion, and should be taken as such”. Voilà.

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36 thoughts on “Ding dong, Jehovah calling….

  1. The Jehovah’s Witnesses used to call in France…they call here, tramping out into the wilds every so often.
    I take the copies of The Watchtower which they offer – very good for language improvement, just think of Wellington learning Portugese from a prayer book while sailing to Lisbon to start the Peninsular campaigns – and explain that I have my own views.
    They were and are polite….so I am too.

    I see the Mormons in the little town…two very American looking lads in white shirts and black trousers with little labels reading ‘Elder so and so’…who are they trying to kid? Elder my foot!
    So far they have not braved the gravel road to my door.

    I’ve never minded being asked what I think or believe….as long as there is no hostile intent or attempt to impose someone else’s will…..and I prefer the Witnesses to the cold calling double glazing crooks I used to get on the blower in France who always seemed to ring just as I had settled down for the glass which not only cheers but, with a bit of luck, inebriates. The response they got wasn’t all that polite and was conducted at speed.

    • Hello Helen! You’re probably an exception to the rule for them. I’m now imagining Wellington going from door to door with copies of the Watchtower stuffed down his wellies….. I’ve seen most of the range of “alternative religions” on the doorstep in my life, and they get the same reception as cold callers, as for me they are doing the same thing- invading my privacy- except they’re asking about things that are none of their business. I’m polite, but I’m not interested.

  2. We get old ladies here, I mean really old, so fragile that they are inevitably propped up by someone 50 years younger. I normally smile and tell them that my father is a man of the cloth too and a school governor for a C of E school and they normally politely head off before being submitted to any more smug/proud daughter-ness. The others who come to mind are a pack of well-suited Jehovah’s Witnesses who nearly came to grief on one of my early cycling lessons, my instructor had to point out to them that we would all be safer if they walked on the pavement rather than down the middle of the road. But none of them come close to the smooth-talking doorstepping energy salesman who tried to invite himself in when I said I didn’t do unsolicited financial transactions on the doorstep. I was so furious that my neighbour was watching out of her window, and the guy’s boss came over to see what had happened….

    • I think if I started talking about my parents’ beliefs I’d be nailed as a lost soul…. I give the minimum amount of info: in other words, nothing at all. Glad you din’t get bits of Jehovah’s witness stuck in your bicycle chain, it must be messy to clean up. We all seem to agree that salesmen are obnoxious- I would have slapped the cheeky whatnot. One asked me once if I was interested in his phone services, and when I said no he said “I want to talk to the head of the household”. Bad move.

  3. My mother tells a story about the fastest cold call in history. My mother answered the door with my brother covered in chicken pox. The retreated immediately. I do avoid them completely myself. I once saw one of these fellows in a super market in Pnom Penh. I turned and walked in the opposite direction.

  4. it’s incredible how quickly they find people who have just moved into an area..it’s as though they have a deal with immobiliers or the notaire’s office. I usually greet them with a pithy “Fuck off”. Seems to work.

    • I hadn’t thought of that- an insider selling off addresses. Your solution sounds very straightforward…. otherwise you could do a Paddington Bear Colin Firth take on it, with a bit of “bugggerdy buggerdy buggerdy”. I loved it, I must be too easily amused.

  5. Anyone coming to my door to sell me religion gets a polite ‘no thanks, I’m not interested’ and the door firmly shut in their face

    the only time someone selling something has been allowed through my front door was some years ago when I still lived in Scotland and a gypsy girl asked if I wanted to buy some clothes pegs. I didn’t – but I bought some anyway because . . .

    a. she was very pretty 😆
    b. one of my aunts married into a family of ‘travellers’ so I felt a ‘kinship’ with the girl
    c. I didn’t want to risk her cursing me if I refused. 😳

  6. They arrived here once, In my wonderful Italian I managed to say Io sono inglese…( I am English) they quickly left. In the UK my favourite phrase was, I am Mormon, come in, come in and meet the wives….

  7. The only unexpected visitors I get are trying to sell me eiderdowns – If a couple of JWs made it to me door in Turkey, I’d feel obliged to sit them down and offer them a beer and a grilling. They probably wouldn’t stay long.

  8. I don’t think I’ve had a close call with a JW for many years now. I don’t miss the cut and thrust of the front door battle at all. I get regular cold calls on the phone though which I usually manage to head off. The last was a basket of Italian speciality foods, sounded quite nice, but I didn’t eat a lot of it (ready-made sauces) and as it all came in trial sized packs, I suspect it was quite a pricey special offer.

    Anyway, despite saying that it was a one-off offer, the woman on the phone said that she was let me know next time they were doing a deal. Riiight…

    • I don’t do cut and thrust any more either, things go quite quickly now I’ve sussed them out. I’ve sorted the cold callers too- I tell them that I’m passing them to the household decision-maker, then I put the phone in the dog’s basket.

  9. I’ve never had to deal with a Jehova’s Witness in Germany, but I’ve seen the mormons hanging around. You can always spot them by their crisply ironed shirts! I actually have mormon relatives (my dad refers to them as “the morons”!), but they’ve given up trying to convert me 😉

    • Maybe you could give them your ironing? Anyone who is overtly obsessed by their religion worries me – the worst I encountered were 7th Day Adventists who actually let themselves in and walked into my living room. Needless to say, they didn’t get a cup of tea.

  10. This is so funny!! I haven’t had a Jehovah’s Witness come to my door in many years. My brother-in-law is a non-practicing JW. When he first married my sister, they didn’t celebrate birthdays or holidays and it was really strange (and hard for my sis). But now they celebrate special occasions, especially now that they have a toddler.

    And at our old apartment, we had this woman who lived above us who was Mormon. Very persistent with “sharing the good news” with us. Yet, she always had a new boyfriend and loved telling us way too much personal information about her sex life. It was so creepy!

    I know I’ve said this before but I really do love your writing style!

    • Hello Jenn! I’m guessing that non-practicing means “non-door-knocking”? I’m glad that he has come roud to celebrations- it must be hard for a child. I hope he will never be in a situation where he has to decide about a blood transfusion for a family member – that’s one thing I’ve never understood…. As for the Mormon neighbour…. brrrrr!!!! Thanks for the compliment, much appreciated 😉

  11. We get these visitors even at the end of our no-through-road high in the Welsh hills, MM. In my vicaring days it was fun to answer the door in full clericals and watch them try to convert me. 🙂

  12. I usually just say ‘sorry not interested’ and close the door before anything more can be said. I use to try and let them down gently but I found I just couldn’t get away! Love the Paddington clip, maybe I’ll just let out a chant of ‘buggerdy buggerdy buggerdy!’ next time I get collared and maybe let Mutley jump all over them after a nicely timed walk in the muddy woods! 🙂

  13. Engaging post! You make your point without being rude at all. I wrote a similar story in my own blog, but with nowhere near the entertaining hilarity. Thank you! For the first time I think I can even see a reason why it would be good to have a Smelly Dog of my own. 😉

    • Hi Crystal, and thanks for your visit! None of his pals has been back since, so I reckon I’ve been put on a black list of irretrievable souls. I’ll get over it.
      Smelly Dogs are very good company, although to be efficient they need to be big and enjoy rolling in badger poo.

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