Friday, January 26, 2024

Insight: Don’t knock it until you try it

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Not long ago I watched footage of a Ring doorbell video which had captured a neighbor’s dog in Virginia ringing a resident’s doorbell at 4 a.m. It was hilarious to see the dog’s expression when he heard the chime and how it excited him at that hour of the night.

That got me to thinking about the reasons that people now ring my doorbell today compared to when I was growing up in the 1960s. Modern digital doorbells showcase many different ringtones, music, cameras, and chimes and are much more elaborate than the standard “Ding Dong” doorbell of years past.

I compiled a list of individuals who have rung my doorbell in the past five months and came up with an interesting list.

About 9 a.m. two Saturdays ago, a group of Boy Scouts were collecting glass for a bottle drive to fund a camping trip this coming summer. Then there were two college students wanting me to sign a petition having something to do with beach erosion.

Last fall, I had several representatives ring the bell wanting me to switch my internet provider to a cheaper alternative startup or upgrade my internet speed because of new fiber internet availability in my neighborhood.

At least four different political candidates stopped by to encourage me to vote for them. Another fellow wanted me to sign a petition to limit heating oil lobbies in Maine. Of course, those visits usually happened just as my wife and I were just sitting down to have dinner.

Our front doorbell rang 62 different times on Halloween night for trick-or-treaters. On a Saturday afternoon in November, a neighbor girl from our street pushed the doorbell wanting to see if we wanted to purchase her remaining 12 boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

Back in early December when we both were suffering from bothersome colds, a contractor working on a home nearby stopped in to see if we needed a new water main installed while he was there and he was insistent that many water mains on our street needed immediate replacement.

Years ago, it was always a surprise when the doorbell rang, and we certainly had many different types of visitors back then.

I can recall my mother answering the doorbell in the 1960s and inviting the salesperson inside while she looked over their list of magazines available for subscription. There seemed to be a never-ending parade of salespeople offering vacuum cleaners, Fuller Brushes, Charles Chips, or diaper services.

And I remember my father once buying a set of encyclopedias from a young man who told us he was working his way through college. My father also ordered a box of neckties for work from a textile company representative going door to door. Fortunately, we never had bill collectors ring the doorbell, but I did know some friends who did.

My brother and I would spot teams of Jehovah’s Witnesses dressed in white shirts wearing ties and black pants who were out ringing doorbells in our neighborhood. Even though we were Catholic, my mother always found time to chat with them. She said that she enjoyed discussing matters of spirituality with them and she’d engage them or ask their opinion about articles she read in the Watchtower magazines they had left for her previously.

Growing up in the 1960s, we knew our neighbors very well and frequently my mother would send me next door to see if they would happen to have a cup of sugar or a cup of flour that she could borrow when she was baking a cake.

One of our neighbors also had her own business and would stop by and ring our doorbell to sell Avon beauty products to my mother. Because my mother didn’t drive, my father’s Christmas stocking almost always included a fancy bottle of aftershave from Avon that resembled an antique automobile or something similar.

My brother and I rang plenty of doorbells trick-or-treating ourselves every Halloween. As a teenager though, my brother once got in trouble for being part of a group that placed dog doo-doo in a brown paper bag on a neighbor’s doorstep, set it on fire, rang the doorbell, and ran away.

When I turned 12, I was old enough to start my own paper route and delivered the afternoon newspaper each day after school let out. Believe it or not, the worst part of that job was not delivering papers in the rain or snow but having to ring my subscribers’ doorbells to collect payment for the newspapers.

I would approach a subscriber’s home at 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday evening and could hear music playing inside or see lights on, yet for some reason, they wouldn’t answer the door. It got to the point that some subscribers would owe me more than $10 and at that point I asked my father for advice. He told me to change the time I was collecting to Saturday mornings. I found it was easier to collect from people standing in their driveway than ringing their doorbell later that evening.

Half a century later, it’s probably safe to say that doorbells continue to press my buttons.

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