We were visited by a door-to-door charity spokesperson last Saturday. My son stood next to me at our half-opened flat door with me in my sleeping clothes as the guy on the other side immediately raised his house solicitation card and his other hand in defense, blurting out as his first words of greeting, “Don’t worry, sir. I am not trying to sell you anything.”
Thanks to my rather well-documented dealings with various telemarketers and over-enthusiastic salespeople, I instinctively knew I was gonna have fun with this one.
In the middle of his well-rehearsed introduction, he said this: “… we’re encouraging working adults to go for health screening and also introduce our donation drive. Are you a working adult, sir?”
“No,” I said. My son was still next to me.
“Oh,” the volunteer said, face drawing a blank. Then the short little man stretched his neck and looked over my shoulder, and he asked me, “Is there a working adult I could speak to?”
I looked at him. Hard. “I am an adult. But I am not working. This is my son standing next to me. I own this flat. Can you clarify your use of the term ‘working adult’? You seem to be assuming only ‘working adults’ are qualified to listen to what you have to say.”
Our little hero was visibly growing even more little as he struggled to find an answer to my question. “Er, actually that’s the term we were taught to use.”
“Well, could you go back to your teacher and feedback to him or her to use another term? You have effectively lost me at ‘working adult’.”
Now visibly shaken, the little guy tried to maintain his composure and asked me in his bravest voice, “Sorry, sir. Are you still interested in findi–”
“Yup. Okay.” And he left.
I went back to the living room. My wife asked me who it was, and I told her, “Charity. Little fella. Assumed I was a ‘working adult’.”
She looked puzzled. “But you are a working adult what.”
I smiled. “What if I wasn’t?”
To the little hero (and anyone out there who is in danger of becoming another of my currently 7 little heroes and counting),
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to save the world or sell someone a 240-in-1 can opener. Please, if you’re going to read from a script, at least understand what you’re reading, and don’t take for granted that your script was written by someone who knew what he or she was doing. If I can – and I will – catch you not thinking about what you’re saying, I’m sure somewhere down the road, as long as you keep to the same schtick, it’s only going to get uglier for you.
Please, learn to be sensitive with your audience, or you’ll get nowhere very, very fast. And with me, often you won’t even know what hit you.