Every time the dog barks, my heart stops and sinks.
If it’s a friend, neighbour or delivery that’s making him yap, my blood pumps again.
But if it’s someone with a clipboard, I freeze. I want to hide, but my legs can’t move. My mouth dries up. I usually croak ‘shit’.
And then, like an obedient little girl, I open the door. Because I am utterly unable to say no to salesmen and people who want my money.
Some years ago, on a summer night, at that bewitching hour when the kids were feral and my fuse was short, I heard a knock on my door. I opened it frazzled and flustered. Behold! An extremely spunky young guy with olive skin, green eyes and great hair.
“Do you like art?” he asked. In spite of my surliness, I heard myself say: “Yes”.
Why? Because I knew that no one else in the street would have said yes. I knew he’d had rejection for hours, and I wanted him to have hope – all the time knowing that I’d end up angry at my weakness, willingness and need to be nice. I gave him a cold beer and he showed me terrible art.
They were rude copies of Rembrandt, vivid versions of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and pretend Picassos. They were so bad I laughed. He looked crushed and started telling me about his poor friends who had come to Australia for peace and relief from the stress of Israel.
And so I spent $120 on a painting I hated.
It wasn’t even framed. It was a piece of crap on canvas and it went into the garage until it went mouldy and got thrown on a council clean-up pile.
My husband is usually good natured about my problem. He laughed about the Israeli artist, even taking people to the garage and showing them the terrible artwork. Months later he stopped laughing when an electricity provider cold-knocked and I changed supplier. "They were a new company, they were into green energy, they will eventually get cheaper," I told him.
It cost us hundreds.
It's as if salesmen can smell my weakness. They are usually smiling broadly before they begin their sunny, up, positive psychobabble, down-on-their-luck story or 'think of the children/heart disease/animals/fire department/disabled' spiel. There's just something about me that must reek of sucker.
I try to say "Sorry, I'm not interested" but it comes out as "would you like a hot cup of tea?" I try to say "I already donate to many charities" but instead I say "how much?" And they lick their lips and they get out the receipt book.