Strategy for handling solicitors, neighbors

Solicitors have an advantage, of course.

Whether on the phone or foot, they have their script.

Granted, it’s less effective if they mispronounce your name.

Then you can sound a buzzer and say, “No, there’s no person by that name here, and I’d recommend you not call my wife ‘Occupant.’ It tends to put her in a foul mood.”

But if they get over that hurdle, the script has their backs.

A writer has worked out, in advance, 57 ways to continue the conversation after you’ve said “no.”

That pretty much uses up all the ways your mother taught you to say no and gets you about halfway into the ways your foul-mouthed Great-Aunt Thelma used to say no when some stranger came knocking on her door with what she thought was the intent to take advantage of her in a way that, in truth, would have horrified the solicitor more than Aunt Thelma.

Well, worry no more.

Today, as a public service, I’m going to share with you the techniques I observed over the Memorial Day weekend when an ill-fated phone and cable solicitor solicitor peered over the wooden privacy fence into my friend’s side yard.

“Is one of you Mr. ——?”

At this point, a person might be expected to say “yes,” or, if on the phone, “speaking.”

Instead, I suggest you respond as he did:

“Who’s askin’?”

As a newcomer, you may be tempted to use the longer, if equally impolite, “Who wants to know?”

Don’t.

“Who’s askin’ ” is as direct as a stiff jab, and has similar effect.

It sets the proper tone if you are persuaded, as my friend is, that most solicitors are simply there for the same reason as a guy who shows up on your front porch with a gun: for your money.

My memory of what happened next is a little sketchy.

As the solicitor went through the standard battery of questions about phone, Internet and television use, my friend discussed his disdain for computers and the people who use them, said he got all the channels he wanted with a set of rabbit ears, and argued that we’re alive for so brief a time that we ought to get off our back sides and live our lives.

And while denying the value of what’s being offered is clearly a worthy technique, the more effective part of the strategy was unfolding at the same time in the slow advance his dog was making toward the fence and the solicitor on the other side.

As he advanced, the sounds of a low growl began to grow.

Because my head was swinging back and forth like a cat watching a tennis match, I can’t be sure whether the hair was raising on the back of my friend’s neck, his dog’s neck or both.

But the two of them clearly were on the same wave length.

So teamwork, too, can be effective in combating solicitors.

As the dog arrived at the fence and stood up to do his best Cujo impression, I tried to quiet him. Out of a polite regard for me, he backed off a little bit. But I clearly was not broadcasting on the master-dog radio frequency and was relieved when my friend stepped in.

“Knock it off,” he barked at him.

Then came the line of the day: “Don’t bite him until I tell you to.”

Afterward, when my friend had expressed surprise at my snide remark about his being a warm, welcoming person, he protested, saying, “I was nice to the guy.”

“So, tell me, what part of ‘Don’t bite him until I tell you to’ is nice?” I asked.

“Well, I wanted him to know my dog wasn’t going to just bite him on his own.”

“But if you heard that, wouldn’t you think it included the thought that you might tell the dog to bite him?”

Because he’s my friend, because I want to help him avoid problems and because I have some regard for solicitors, I did everyone a favor as I went out the gate.

I crossed out the word “dog” below the sign that began with “Beware of’” and replaced it with “owner.”

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