She had a simple choice. She could hold her ground or give in to the situation.
But looking at who stood in the doorway, it was clear that he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. Every part of her wanted to run, but her old bones wouldn’t get her very far. Instead, she hatched a clever plan.
For 60-year-old Ethel Mills, having random people show up on her doorstep was a bit of a mixed blessing.
On one hand, it was nice to have company and a chat, even if it was brief. On the other, who knows who could darken her doorway. It was a quiet Thursday afternoon, when one such visit turned sour.
Door-to-door salesmen were a common thing long ago, but they were now a dying breed.
So, when Mills got a knock on her door from one such person, she was more than shocked. He flashed a bright smile and extended his hand. “Hello, ma’am. I’m from Markems Home Services.”
The conversation started as a pleasant exchange then the man dove into his sales pitch.
“Carpet cleaning services are often though as a last resort.” He went on to describe how they were giving away large-square-footage evaluations as well as one free small rug cleaning. To Mills, the word “free” was like music to her ears. There was just one problem.
Something unnerving lingered in the back of her mind.
The idea of a stranger coming into her house didn’t sit well at all. And she had been alive long enough to know that anything that seems too good to be true often is.
She flashed a grateful, wrinkled smile and politely rejected the offer.
She would, however, take a business card and think on it. But the man’s smile wavered. “But it’s totally free.” Mills tried to explain that it wasn’t a good time, and when she tried to shut the door, the salesman wedged his foot in the opening.
Pushy salespeople weren’t the problem.
Mills knew people had to make a living, and sometimes that meant being more forceful than your average retail worker. However, the chill than ran down her spin was undeniable. There was something wrong with this man. What would happen if she said no again?
Mills might have been an old woman, but her mind was just as spry as when she was in her youth.
The salesman had a firm grip on her front door. It was clear he wasn’t going anywhere. Did he think just because she was elderly that she was going to be an easy target? So, she formed a simple plan.
“I don’t really have anything that needs that kind of cleaning at the moment,” she said, trying to keep the fear at bay.
The man’s eyes darkened. “But come to think of it, my property next door could use a good sprucing up.” The man’s smile returned, and he eagerly followed her down the walkway.
Mills pulled out her keys as if she was going to open the door.
But instead of reaching for the lock, she rang the doorbell. She could hear someone approaching, and she knew exactly who it was. The door swung open, and a towering man stood before them. The salesman’s face turned pale.
It wasn’t just the neighbor’s impressive height that was intimidating.
It was the bulk of muscles, chiselled face, and no-nonsense demeanor that would send anyone running to the hills. For a wonderful, extra bonus he was still in part of his military uniform. Mills immediately explained what was going on.
“Really?” her Marine neighbor asked, raising an eyebrow.
With one swift movement, he reached out and grabbed the man by the collar. “I think we should wait here while the cops show up. You know, just in case.” The salesman tried to squirm free and claim he was just collecting on a “cleaning debt”, but one menacing glare from the neighbor mad him freeze.
“It’s okay, Mrs. Mill. You can go back home and wait,” the neighbor said with a warm smile.
To any decent person, this Marine was the nicest, most helpful person you would ever meet. He was always there to help her with difficult chores or just to say hello.
However, if someone was not a good person, it was a quick shift in attitude.
The day ended with the man being taken away by police for questioning. Apparently there had been problems in their area with one particular scam that had left more than one person devastated.
The free cleaning was just a ruse to case whatever target the criminals wanted to rob.
Mills chuckled at her own cleverness, as well as the unforgettable image of the “salesman” dangling helplessly from her neighbor’s grip.