Friday, November 4, 2011

Past Deadline: You Want Me to What?

Okay. Here’s something weird.

One evening last week I was scrambling (that’s not the weird part) to finish work and shovel through the kitchen in order to start supper.

Of course the doorbell rang. It always does when you are scrambling.

When the doorbell rings at suppertime I always take a deep breath and steel myself to say “No, thank you!” to someone trying to sell me something energy related. (I have learned it is easier to say no to an energy guy up front than it is to say no later.)

Anyway, I opened the door with, I presume, my best scowly face on. There were two teenaged girls standing there. One was holding a box of chocolate Pop Tarts. Must be a school fundraiser, I thought.

I opened the door. One girl smiled and said something like, “Okay…this is going to sound like a really weird question, but could you toast a couple of these for us?”


“We won’t come into your house,” she continued, “but we’re stuck in Perth and we’re hoping someone could toast these for us.”

I honestly don’t remember my exact initial response, but it was something like, “Really?”

Meanwhile, my brain was spinning. I tend to be a charming combination of completely gullible mixed with incredibly suspicious (that last part comes from my dad, the retired conservation officer, I think), which means I do my best analysis of a situation after it is over.

I looked at the girls, who were polite, smiling and did not seem intoxicated or stoned. I tentatively crossed “home invasion” off my mental list, but kept “scam?” highlighted for the moment.

Really, though, my prevailing thought was: “How can I say no to such nerve?”

I shrugged. “Okay. I guess so,” I said.

They smiled and thanked and I took the box into the kitchen while they waited on the porch, door closed.

Girlchild, who had been hovering nearby during the exchange, was quite intrigued by the whole thing. “Can I go and see if they are still there?” she asked.

I was busy fiddling with the unopened box and preparing to get toasting. “Okay,” I said absently. (It later occurred to me that I should probably add “kidnapping?” to my list.)

Meanwhile, the girls had a grand chat. They complimented Girlchild on our Halloween decorations (which I figure may have attracted them to the house to begin with – it is obviously child friendly). They also discussed how good my spaghetti sauce smelled. “Your mom must be a good cook,” one of the girls said.

Despite the blatant flattery, I didn’t invite them in for supper.

I loaded the two Pop Tarts onto paper towels and returned to the door. A third girl had materialized – perhaps she was shy and hid behind a tree at first? I didn’t take time to toast a third one.

They thanked and I asked why they were “stranded” in Perth and the spokesperson explained something about having to go work and then youth group (or vice versa), so I got the idea they were between gigs. Anyway, they wandered off, munching on warm chocolate Pop Tarts.

So weird.

As a teenager, I never would have had the nerve to walk up to a stranger’s door – even a friendly looking stranger – and ask them to toast Pop Tarts for me. I would have eaten them cold. And I would have walked uphill both ways in the snow in bare feet…yadda yadda yadda.

To be honest, I still can’t decide whether I admire them for having the nerve to ask or am flabbergasted by their boldness. Maybe a bit of both.

I have since learned they visited at least one other neighbour on their quest, and were turned down.

So it doesn’t appear as if they were scoping the joint or invading the home or kidnapping the children or running a scam. Maybe it was a dare? Or a psychological experiment for a high school class? Or a random-act-of-kindness survey?

I have no idea. Whatever it was, I suppose it’s kind of neat that they felt comfortable enough in this little town to reach out to a stranger for…um…the use of a toaster.

Published in The Perth Courier, Nov. 3/11

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