Sunday, November 11, 2007

door-to-door in the online age

I miss door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen. I remember them as late as the early eighties, when I lived in a village of 1300 people, and traveling salesman was still a valid profession. They'd come by on weekend afternoons. Usually my parents wouldn't let them inside, and they'd make their pitch through the screen door. They always wore suits, except for the occasional college student selling magazine subscriptions. One guy stood in our dining room and basically made us feel that his life would be over if we didn't agree to a year's worth of Chatelaine. It felt like a low-rent version of Glengarry Glen Ross, complete with the damp-armpit stink of desperation.

Do they exist anymore? I can't imagine someone knocking on doors in this day and age to peddle vacuum cleaners or the World Book Encyclopedia. There must be places in the world where traveling salesman still roam the streets. Savage, backward places, where civilization is a paper-thin skin over pure atavism and chaos. Places like South Dakota.

What I'd really like to see is a door-to-door Wikipedia salesman. He'd sell you a set of blank books for sale with a fancy pen. 'You can fill it in on any subject you like. A bunch of nerds will show up to edit your entries, delete the ones they don't like, and argue with you about the use of shivs in The Chronicles of Riddick! Whaddya say?'



Marie said...

A few days before we moved from Florida to New Mexico a man knocked on our door trying to sell us a squirt bottle of clenaing solution for $50. It had a picture of a man with a giant afro on it. I let him clean a few spots on the carpet with it before I told him that I wouldn't even consider spending $5 on a clenaing solution, no matter how great it was. I enjoyed the encounter though. He really knew his stuff, it was like watching a really good theater monologue.

Anonymous said...

I gladly embrace this herald of the death of a salesman. I eagerly look forward to the end of door-to-door Jehovah witnesses too. It is always such a bother to strip down to open the door to them and then explaining to them that your actually Santa-ist awaiting a meeting with your weekly Reindeer Cabal.

witchypoo said...

Back in the day when door to door salesmen still went, well, door to door, my father beat one up who wouldn't leave.
Nobody ever rang the doorbell of the crazy man who beat up salesmen again.

Anonymous said...

I work at World Book, in Chicago. The company still exists, just doesn't sell door to door. Good luck on your surgery--I hope it brings you relief!

palinode said...

marie - I've never been privy to that kind of performance. It's kind of too bad that I'll likely never see it happen.

anonymous #1 - There will always be door-to-door Mormons to terrorize.

witchypoo - Holy crap. But wow.

anonymous #2 - I have so many childhood memories mixed up with reading copies of World Book. Thanks for the information.