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7.24.2007

You Move me

A little break from the Rwandans, today's upi column

So There I was...

On my front porch. I live in a nice old school kind of neighborhood. The housing is mixed, the mature trees are breaking up the sidewalks, front porches often have furniture, the people walking by will usually greet you, and the mosquitoes being not too bad, nothing is screened in. This I like.

Being that kind of neighborhood we have people going door to door. The occasional uniformed cookie salesperson still pulls a flexible flyer up the sidewalk – I would expect that the devil himself would be selling thin mints – they are that tempting. We get religious people, usually the Witnesses or the Mormons – I try and be polite. Oregon has a political climate that makes it easy to get things on the ballots so we get petitioners, some of them fervent volunteers and some paid by the signature. I won’t sign when they are doing it for the bucks. And we get regular salespeople of several varieties. Except for the cookie imps, I refuse sales at my front door, I prefer to decide when I am going to shop.

Then up came this young man, and he found me in a pretty good mood, and he was a pretty boy. College vacation job, no doubt.
So I was a little more tolerant than usual.

“Hi!, could I please ask you a question?”
(points for not calling me ma’m – points for saying please)
“Oh, sure, ask away, but I may not answer.”” Do you rent or own this home?””Well, that’s a mighty personal question to ask a stranger.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m Dan, and I’m with Blah Blah Security Systems.”
“Nice, to meet you Dan. I’m Peggy. Selling Security then?”
“Oh No, I’m not selling anything today, I am the point man for our company and today I am just out gathering marketing research. But we are concerned with security…”

Then he launched into a spiel about the dangers of living in “Crime soaked” Salem, Oregon. It was really pretty funny. I smiled a lot, but didn’t quite laugh. See top paragraph about front porch living – until last year when I dog died I never had a key to my own house, I mostly didn’t lock it when I was away and cannot conceive of locking it while I am home and awake. (My conscientious husband likes to lock the doors at night, but the kids know which windows never get locked.) Eventually, I interrupted Dan.

“Son, for the sake of honesty, I need to tell you that you are actually wasting your time here on this porch.”
“Aren’t you concerned about security?”
“Never felt safer anywhere, anytime.”

I didn’t bother to tell him about my recent trip to a war zone, or the fact that I pack my sense of safety with me, so that I almost never feel less safe either. He tried to restart the line.

“Peggy, a lot of your neighbors are worried about their security…”
OK – then I laughed.
“Son, you aren’t going to sell me a security system.”
“Ah, but see here’s the thing! I am not trying to sell you a security system today. We are just trying to make a presence in the neighborhood. We would like to PAY YOU to put our sign in your window for your neighbors to see. Then, when our sales people come around folks will have seen the name, and will feel like if you trust our company with your safety then maybe they should too. And the thieves will THINK you have the system, so it will deter them as well. Cool huh?”
“So you think false advertising is cool? Really?””Nothing false about it!””I am not afraid of crime, but you want me to pretend that I am so that my neighbors sense of concern will rise, and they will think that I have installed this system, even though I haven’t, and I am going to try and fake out the thieves, and you want me to do this for money, and you don’t call that false?”

Danny boy was starting to look a wee bit confused.
For the third time I tried the simple truth.

“Truly, Dan, you are actually talking to the wrong woman, I can’t say it any plainer than that. Have a nice day, son.”
I walked in the house.

“DON”T YOU EVEN WANT TO KNOW HOW MUCH WE WILL PAY YOU?!?!” Dan shouted after me.
“No, I don’t, it makes no difference.”
Dan went down the stairs, confused, mildly disturbed, dejected.

Poor Dan, he had his pitch down so nicely. I wonder how transparent they were at sales-boy school; did they tell him that they were selling on the two pillars of fear and greed? I wonder if they had numbers for how many people are motivated by these things. He certainly was presuming that I was. He was confused when it did not work.

Motivation – that which moves you – that which underlies your actions – this is a good thing to be acquainted with. If you know what moves you, and even better, if you can influence or even choose what moves you, you will have the power to resist those who would move you in their own interests.

But to look at your own motivations you have to be willing to look at your own dark side. Young Dan had no idea that the middle aged lady before him would be much more moved by power and control than by fear and greed. But even if he had, it would not have done him much good because I know those things about myself. I have taken them off auto-pilot and cruise control. I have surrendered them to a higher power. That’s my security system. If they get the better of me, it is not without plenty of warning, plenty of chances to turn another way. I am not likely to confuse them with better motivations like compassion and loyalty as I would have in the past. I am not perfectly secure from the darkness, but I am not an easy target. I bet my soul has a sign in the window.

I walked around my neighborhood last evening. I could not find a single house with the security company sign in their window. I am proud to live in this neighborhood. I feel kind of sorry for Dan, but we all have our lessons to learn.


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