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  • Saturday, January 26, 2008


    By Sean Ripple

    The da da da da da…………DA DA! knock at the door disrupted my work on a project. In the split of an instant, I went from paying it no mind to deciding to go to the door to see who might be knocking at 2:00 on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The knock was friendly…and I’m one who loves an unexpected visit from a friend, so there’s the explanation for the split of an instant change in response to the knock at the door…what a sucker I am. I eyed through the peephole and saw a stranger walking back to the street from where he came. He turned to look at my door twice. Lured by the hope (or was it desperation?) apparent in that second look back, I opened the door and walked out to the sidewalk to meet the stranger.

    “Hello sir…I’m here representing some organization I’ve never heard of whose mission it is to teach young individuals like myself the proper work skills…more of the idealistic mission statement rhetoric piled on to more of the idealistic mission statement rhetoric… “I need to gain 2500 points and right now I’m at…” I need some money from you is all I really hear.

    Now it's not as though I don’t feel for the guy’s situation (What’s his situation exactly? He’s a young black man trying to make his way in the world – whatever that means – the best I can tell. If he is trying to make his way in the world, I’d say first thing’s first…he should ditch working this door-to-door gig…don’t care what you’re representing…door-to-door has been thoroughly abused as a conversion strategy…its scarce rewards are one step removed from a bank heist or hostage-taking. I don’t think there are even many Girl Scout troops left who find the door-to-door method to be effective…mostly they just hang out in malls and outside shops and grocery stores to sell you their cookies), but what can I really do for this guy if I don’t want to give him money. I talk to him for a bit…

    “How do you go about gaining your points?”

    “I sell magazine subscriptions for these fine publications.”

    This jogs my memory.

    “My wife has subscribed to two separate magazines through your organization.”

    “No she hasn’t…we’re pretty new”

    “Ok…well, if it’s not your organization, then it’s an organization similar to yours”

    “How was it similar?”

    “It was an organization that was trying to rehabilitate young men by having them sell magazine subscriptions door-to-door”

    “I don’t know nothing about rehabilitation man…this isn’t for people coming off…..crack or something. This organization is trying to teach young people a good work ethic.”


    “Let me ask you, did your job pick you or did you pick your job?”

    “I’d say it was a little of both.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I was looking for a job, and the company I work for was looking for someone to fill a job.”

    “Well you’re happy to have your job right? I mean it’s a career you’re passionate about.”

    “I wouldn’t say that…I’m thankful for my position, but I’d prefer to be able to work as an artist full-time.”

    “Right, but you’re thankful…it helps you out…it’s a good career.”


    “So this organization is trying to do the same for me. Also, it’s trying to help the economy because, as you know, the most crucial age group for our economy is individuals 18-30. If individuals in this age bracket are in trouble, our economy is in trouble.”

    “Right…like I said, my wife has already subscribed to two separate magazines trying to help an organization similar to yours so I don’t think I’ll be subscribing to any magazines today.”

    “When did she subscribe?”

    “Uh...Rolling Stone in…2006? and Elle in 2007?”

    “Have a good day.”

    He walked off obviously ticked that I’d refused to help him earn his points, and I felt exposed – was I a more sophisticated form of racist for incorrectly presuming he represented rehabilitation efforts? Would offering up my money to buy a magazine subscription have cleansed me of such a sin? By answering the door, I felt as though I had become the face for a little part of what’s wrong with the world…as egotistical as that may be. I then started thinking that as an act of revenge for misunderstanding his situation in addition to refusing to help him once his situation had been somewhat clarified, he might come back and break into my home and steal my possessions – a deeper more venomous strain of my racism for sure. Did my fears even have anything to do with his race or was it his person or was it both of these things or neither of these things?

    The distance is so wide between one and an other. How can we ever hope to bridge it?

    I walked inside and closed the door…saddened by the state of things.

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