I was parked at the entrance to a cul-de-sac in Schaumburg. The evening was warm with a pleasant breeze, so I had the car windows open. A gang of a dozen or so kids was playing on the lawns and driveways, enjoying the first 80-degree day of the year. My daughter was in the middle of a voice lesson in one of the nearby houses, and I was waiting to take her home. I had my feet on the dashboard, a book in one hand and a Diet Pepsi in the other.
I glanced up as an Asian gentleman strolled along the sidewalk across the street. He made eye contact and said “Hello.”
I don’t generally strike up conversations in situations like this, but it occurred to me that the cul-de-sac might be his neighborhood and one or more of the kids might be his. He might have been wondering why a stranger had picked that spot to park. To allay his fears, I smiled and said, “Hi” (in accordance with my principles of one-downmanship in greetings).
I was somewhat startled to see him turn and walk toward me. As he approached my open window, he said, in a strong accent, “It’s a beautiful day.”
I replied, “It is indeed.”
He asked, “You are waiting for someone?”
I’m a suspicious person by nature, and all the flags were up, but there was still the possibility that I was parked in front of his house and that he wanted to know why. I said, “Yes, my daughter has a voice lesson.” This is much more information than I usually give out, but if he did live nearby, he probably knew that one of his neighbors was a voice teacher and all his doubts about my presence would disintegrate.
Then he asked, “Do you drink coffee or tea?” (He pronounced tea as “tease.”) This question caught me off guard. I wasn’t sure I understood, so I asked him to repeat it. When he did, I knew — I’d been accosted by a salesman.
With every bit of body language I could summon to discourage him, I said “no,” and held up my Diet Pepsi.
But he wasn’t put off that easily. He said, “I have some wonderful tea. Our immune system needs to be rebuilt.” He pointed to his heart as he said this.
I don’t drink tea. I don’t like tea, any kind of tea. On at least three occasions in my life, I have deliberately set out to learn to like tea. It can’t be done. I also have a principle that I adhere to firmly — I never buy anything from a salesman on a cold call.
I shook my head no and returned to my book. But he was going for the kill. He took a look at my bald head and said, “You know what happened?” He took off his hat and tugged on a hair on top of his head. “My hair begin to come back.”
This might have been a compelling argument for his tea except for one minor fact. He had less hair than I do.
I shook my head again and returned to my reading. He hesitated a moment, then trudged off to ring doorbells. I suspect he didn’t make a lot of sales.