Door To Door
I’m sitting at home eating my late lunch on Sunday because I slept in as usual because I was up late the night before as usual not doing anything too exciting except maybe talking on the phone or looking around the web as is my wont on Saturday mornings at 2AM when my doorbell rings.
I never have unexpected visitors. Never ever in a million years. I seldom have expected visitors. And it was Sunday, so it wasn’t going to be a delivery person. Besides, all my deliveries go to work where there is always someone available to sign for things and always a safe place for the boxes to wait for me to pick them up. So this was either going to be my upstairs neighbor complaining that the stereo was too loud, which he never does, and why would he ring the bell since his door is next to mine inside the foyer, or it was a salesman. But what salesman would be out on a Sunday, and what could he possibly be selling?
“Good afternoon! Have you heard of Watchtower?”
Ring My Bell
I believe I groaned audibly. My body language no doubt displayed my disdain for the interruption to the all-important and on-going stuffing of Lance’s face and this poor guy stood there on the stoop in his blue short-sleeve oxford button-down, his disheveled and extraordinarily ugly tie with his little zippered satchel of Jehovah’s Witness periodicals smiling his beatific smile at me holding the latest copies of Watchtower and Awake! knowing good and well he was facing a disinterested and possibly hostile individual who was possibly armed and probably Jewish.
But more on that later.
It was around 90 degrees on that porch and the humidity was hovering around 70%, meaning that 70% of the average person’s body will be drenched with sweat while the other 30% is merely coated with an attractive sheen. I know this man wanted to come inside my house, but let me tell you I held onto that screen door like there was a tornado coming and it was the only thing standing between me and oblivion. The wind wanted that door opened, so perhaps Jehovah did too, but I would have none of that.
“How are you today?”
I try to assume a manner of someone who is polite, but rude. “Fine.”
“That’s great! Could I talk to you for a few minutes?”
Don’t react. They can smell the fear.
“I wanted to share with you a few words of the Lord. Have you seen these publications before?”
Nod slowly. Be careful to show that you are only displaying recognition of the magazine and not that the man may move closer.
“Jesus Christ has lessons for everyone, even if you aren’t Christians.” Here it comes. “Even for Jewish people.”
Pass The Unleavened Bread!
I was wondering as I stood there, watching the traffic going by, trying to think of a way to say, “You know what? I am so not interested in this conversation it’s scary. Really! I don’t have any intention of looking at the periodicals, I don’t attend church and you know what? I don’t believe in God!” But that Jewish thing just threw me for a loop.
So it occurred to me that maybe too many people are using that excuse to get around the door-to-door Bible thumper. Well, Bible stroker. Like bacteria grown immune to antibiotics or insects no longer bothered by insecticide, the Jehovah’s Witness were using pre-strike tactics to head off possible verbal retaliation. I’m white, and I was certainly not inviting the guy in for tea and cookies while we discuss the coming cultural collapse and eventual rapture when we’ll float carelessly away from this heathen and Godless world, laughing at all the idiots below roasting over open pits toward a Heaven so perfect that all that carnage and any missing friends just won’t matter, anyway. And I was clearly struggling to find an excuse to close the door on this whole thing and escape back to my television nipple and continue my own personal crusade to promote and herald heretical thoughts throughout the world, and I must admit I was thinking about saying, “I’m Jewish,” just to get rid of the man whose Savior I killed.
But he snatched that weapon from my arsenal! Now what?
And I did feel a little sorry for the guy. I mean, I know that they have to witness, hence the name of their entire religion. They have to go out among us and share the word of God with as many as possible, even those relaxing in their air-conditioned homes outside Boston eating chic-sal-sans. I was in the Baptist church for a short and very confused time in High School (While other people were exploring their sexuality, I went to five different churches and explored my soulless existence. Whee!) and I know about religious doctrines and customs. I had several Mormon friends who tried to convert me and they were almost there, those decidedly white, Anglo Saxon and strangely happy people with big teeth, except they had to go on a mission to South America or something and teach the Aztecs about sodomy or bigamy or whatever it is they were doing.
At least the Jehovah’s Witness was grounded in something close to a recognizable religion. What if this was Tom Cruise and John Travolta here trying to get me to believe in flying saucers and white salamanders spewing “Jesus In America” rhetoric on behalf of L. Ron Hubbard’s legacy? On the other hand, I would certainly invite those two inside, if for no other reason than to record their insane ramblings and broadcast them via RealAudio to the world at large. My brush with fame and insanity, at the same time!
So, robbed of Judaism and not even close to being able to fake Taoism, Buddhism, Muslim or any one of the thousand other Protestant offshoots all born from some obscure Biblical text taken as a sign that they are the One True Religion, I considered for a moment actually blurting out, “I’m an Atheist.”
A Sign From God
But I didn’t have to, because while all that was going on in my head and I had been ignoring his reading of the disclaimer inside Watchtower which proclaims that the publication is for everyone no matter what their beliefs or race or sex or favorite color, another Witness was wandering up the street and now stood on the sidewalk behind the guy at the door and, let me just say, this was one scary guy.
Imagine if you will that tall man from Phantasm. You know the guy? Angus Scrim, I think his name is. Except this was Angus with a tie and blue short-sleeve button-down shirt clutching a Bible under one arm, my Grandfather’s glasses across his eyes and not a smile to be seen within 15 feet of him. You could feel him standing down there.
So, now my eyes are darting back and forth between the God salesman at the door and his supervisor, and I’m pulling the screen door a little tighter closed. Flies could get in! Although I had the feeling that no vermin or insect would be within a mile of that guy on the sidewalk. There was no way in the world you could drag the words “I’m an Atheist” from my tonsils at that point. I was sure the man would point a long bony finger at me, whisper “Blasphemer” and up I go like dry kindling. Whoosh! I reached out and took both the offered periodicals. The back cover of one showed what heaven would be like, which resembles (for those wondering) a company picnic held at Busch Gardens, Florida attended by families of four representing every race but all dressed like Pleasantville extras and (Frankly, I wouldn’t want to go to heaven if I have to wear a suit!), for whatever reason, leopards. Lots of leopards.
“Thanks,” said I. The God salesman asked, “Would you mind if I came back in a week to speak with you about the periodicals?” I wanted to say, “Stop calling them that! Only Librarians use that word! Say, ‘Pamphlet!’ “, but instead I said, “I’ll be in New York.” Which was true. “Well, maybe later then.”
I didn’t wait for pleasantries then, I pulled the screen door shut and closed the front door, not even bothering to see the men vanish in shimmering sparkles. As I passed through the kitchen into the living room where my friend, television, was watching my half-finished lunch for me (and he didn’t touch a thing! Goooood TV!) I dropped the periodic… pamphlets in the garbage without cracking the cover.
One mystery was finally solved for me that afternoon, though. When I was little, I often wondered what heaven would be like. At one time, I thought it would be a huge mansion with different pinball and video games in every room, and you’d never get tired of playing them. Another time I thought it was like a huge swim party with all your friends and no chlorine. But heaven is leopards and suits. Heaven is a company picnic surrounded by lovely flowering gardens and big, wide, green lawns but not a Frisbee in site. Just you in a suit with a leopard. I’m just wondering, who gets all the chocolate?
June 28, 1999