Earlier this morning I was a temporary prisoner in my own house.
I was eating some waffles and watching Live with Regis and Kelly (Regis has been slowly slipping into dementia over the past year and it’s sort of interesting to watch the progression) when there was a rap on the door. We live in sort of a quiet neighborhood where everyone mostly keeps to themselves, so if someone is at the door it’s either UPS or FedEx dropping off or a religious zealot of some type.
I snuck a look through the peephole and saw a couple of gentlemen standing on the stoop. They were senior citizens and their finery included ties and blazers last seen in the 1976 Montgomery Ward catalog. I pegged them as either Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormans.
I didn’t bother answering the door because I didn’t want to make the effort to shoo them away in a polite fashion. Doing what they do I figure these people must get a lot of doors slammed in their faces. I could never do that. I’m pretty good at shutting them down before they get too far into their spiel, but wordlessly slamming the door is just too rude for me. So instead, I went back to the couch and silently waited for them to leave. They knew I was in there. The windows behind the couch were open and anyone walking up the path to our door can clearly hear if the television is on, but after knocking a second time they gave up and went next door.
What sort of possible success rate can people who go door-to-door spreading the good news about their religion have? It was 9:30 on a weekday morning, so for the most part the only people they’re going to find at home are housewives, waffle-eating freelance writers, and retirees.
Let’s say they visit a hundred homes. And out of that number, let’s say that ten percent have people actually at home. Then, figure that only five percent have people home who will actually answer the door. So, out of knocking on a hundred doors, they only see five people. I’d be willing to bet that at least two of them slam or quickly shut the door as soon as they recognize the nature of the caller. Perhaps another two listen to their introductory spiel and tell them thanks-but-no- thanks, and take a copy of Awake magazine in case they want to learn more. That leaves one person who may invite them in and listen to what they have to say. That one soul, who is either genuinely interested in what the door-to-door zealots have to say, or lack the intestinal fortitude to either slam the door in their faces or tell them thanks-but-no-thanks.
Underneath their plaid blazers, the two fellows that knocked on my door this morning must have a pretty thick skin to survive that kind of rejection rate. Or maybe they just don’t care about the slammed doors and they do it for the exercise. Or maybe they’re in it for the chicks. The Jehovah’ Witnesses is a pretty massive organization and they might have some swinging singles nights. (I remember reading once that their monthly Awake magazine has a print run in the millions.) So who knows? Maybe walking door-to-door spreading the good news genuinely makes these people happy. I don’t know.
I’m a fallen Catholic and don’t have much interest in any organized religions—some seem relatively benign and harmless while others promote ugliness and bitter hatred toward non-believers—but whatever gets you through the night, I guess.