Salesman knocks, far from home something's wrong


December 08, 1993|By LARRY STURGILL

It was a drizzly Saturday afternoon, and I had retreated to my basement office to work on this column and catch up on some other work. The knock on the front door came just before 5 p.m. I remembered my wife and the kids were out doing some Christmas shopping, so I raced upstairs.

I opened the front door and was greeted cheerfully by a smiling, very wet and somewhat shabbily dressed young man. He extended his hand and introduced himself.

I'm not sure of his name because it was immediately buried beneath a barrage of babble about a scholarship and something about $1,000.

I stopped him at this point, noticing the small clear plastic folder he was holding in his hand. "Does this have something to do with magazines?" I interrupted.

This was not an unfamiliar presentation. In fact, I had heard it only two weeks before from another young man who had knocked on my door. And there had been others before him.

"Ah-h-h-h . . . not exactly," he replied. Recovering quickly, he immediately continued on with what was obviously a very well rehearsed spiel.

There was look of determination on his face, but his voice betrayed him. It was edged with desperation. I could tell this young salesman had faced adversity before. Many doors had been slammed in his face, and he sensed I was about to do the same.

"Excuse me, sir," he said hurriedly. "This scholarship is important to me."

I was closing the door, but something made me stop. Curiosity perhaps. I wondered how any person would take a thankless job like this, no matter what rewards were promised.

"How did you get this job?" I asked.

He hesitated only a moment before answering. "I answered a newspaper ad."

"You from around here?"

"No," he replied. "Chicago. Oak Park, actually."

I was somewhat stunned. "So, what the heck are you doing a thousand miles from home selling magazines door to door?" I asked. He didn't answer.

I found the whole situation incredible. Here was this young man in front of me, dripping wet, cold and without a jacket. Something was wrong. Why was he here? How did he get here?

"Do you have a supervisor or someone in charge I can talk to?" I asked.

"We have a crew chief," he answered cautiously.

"I'd like to talk to him," I pressed.

"Ah-h-h-h . . . he's not here," the young man replied. I noticed he put the small folder into his back pocket. "I have to go meet him now. It's almost dark."

"I'll walk with you," I said, stepping outside and closing the door behind me.

"Don't do that, mister . . . please. You'll just get me in trouble."

He turned and hurried, almost running, down the sidewalk toward the road. He disappeared quickly into the murkiness. I didn't pursue him. Perhaps I should have followed him. Perhaps I should have confronted the crew chief. Perhaps I should have gone inside and called the police.

I did none of the above. Instead I called after him: "It's almost Christmas," I yelled into the darkness. "You don't belong here. Why don't you go home to your family?"

There was no reply.

There are laws designed to protect residents of Howard County and Columbia from intrusions by door-to-door peddlers and solicitors. Privately owned properties can post "No Soliciting" signs, although these generally seem to be ineffective.

However, all solicitors and peddlers are required to have a Howard County peddler's ID card issued by the county administrator of consumer affairs. If a salesman appears at your door and does not present an ID card upon request, call the police immediately.


The Columbia Craft Association is a new organization which is actively soliciting members from among the many craftsmen living in Columbia and the surrounding area.

Founder Robin Wilson, a local craftswoman, started the association just last month because she was frustrated by the time and energy required to get into the numerous juried crafts shows.

Ms. Wilson's plan is to offer members regularly scheduled venues where they can display and sell their crafts.

To kick things off, the association is sponsoring the Columbia Craft Show in the Physical Education Center at Howard Community College, on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

So far, more than 50 craftsmen have signed up and will be displaying a wide variety of handcrafted items. For those interested, Ms. Wilson says some spaces are still available.

Admission at the door is $1, and this money will be donated to a Columbia charity.

There will be door prizes, and food will also be available. Parking is free.

For additional information, please call Robin Wilson at 730- 0456.


The Columbia Figure Skating Club will sponsor its Sixth Annual Holiday Show at the Columbia Ice Rink on Sunday and Dec. 19. This year it will present "The Nutcracker." Shows will begin at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. each day.

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