Archived Story

Enough is definitely enough

Published 9:18pm Thursday, April 25, 2013

We’ve been quibbling for decades over things like taxes, capital punishment and what the Civil War was really about, but I’d like to see a national debate on something overlooked for “more important” issues.

How late is too late for door-to-door salesmen?

Monday was a windy evening, and when I pulled into the garage at 10 p.m., killed the engine, hit the door remote, then seconds later heard an out-of-place knock behind me, I first thought it was a tree branch.

I felt uneasy as I popped the trunk and retrieved my backpack and lunch bag.

The unease spiked when an unfamiliar voice called from the ill-lit void behind the roller door: “Mr. Ward? Can I talk to you for a moment?”

Then my mind raced back to a conversation with my wife 10 hours earlier, and I instantly knew the score.

Unease gave way to anger.

A security system salesman — though he wouldn’t call himself that, for he was offering the system “absolutely free” — had disturbed my wife that morning.

She had been trying to nap before the night shift at the hospital and (I hope fuzzy-sleep-brain explains why) like a scene from “Mad Men” — actually, I sincerely hope not — she invited him past the threshold to pinpoint the best corners of our home for locating motion sensors.

According to my wife, our border collie barked a few times in a desultory fashion before settling at the stranger’s feet.

To get rid of him she had to employ the line: “I can’t make a decision — you will have to come back and speak to my husband.”

So that’s who was disturbing the peace two hours before midnight on a weeknight. Returning to speak to her husband.

I won’t recount in precise detail what I said to the man, for I know he was only doing his job and I almost feel bad about it now, but I informed him of the time, that we are not interested in a “free” security system — “No, my wife is not interested, regardless of what you say she told you” — and bade him farewell.

To help get the ball rolling on this national debate, here’s a nutshell of the city of Suffolk’s applicable regulations:

“Solicitors” have to register with the chief of police, pay a fee for an investigation, and also foot a $500 bond.

Five proscribed acts include ignoring any “No Soliciting” sign or request to leave, but there’s nothing about coming knocking when most people are toddling off to bed, and neither is there on the books of Portsmouth, where we actually live, I should point out.

Incidentally, when my wife arrived at work that day, colleagues convinced her to report the salesman to police, arguing he could have been casing our joint to burglarize it.

When the cops dutifully came knocking on our front door, no one was there to answer it. Ringing the cellphone number my wife had provided, they asked her to open the door.

“I rang you from work,” she told them.

I hope this clears up any misconceptions among our friendly neighbors.


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