It’s Saturday morning, around 9:15, as I write this. My morning so far consists of coffee, the Internet, dogs, spinning old Springsteen vinyl, wearing my TARDIS robe, and a little reading and writing. The conspicuous thing missing from my situation is guilt over the fact that I’m NOT out in a beige minivan, dressed in a moderately-priced suit and tie, carrying a book bag filled with Watchtower publications, with 4-5 of my “brothers” and “sisters”, looking for doors to knock on. It’s been nearly 10 years since my Watchtower de-conversion. Nearly 10 years since I tore my old life down and built a new one. Nearly 10 years since I last knocked on a strangers door to offer them the Good News about the New Order.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes (rarely) miss the door to door bit. I know, I know, crazy right? If you met me in the last 10 years, or if you were never a Witness of Jehovah, you might think I’m a loon. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss being a Witness in general. And I would never again want to give away my blissful-coffee-laden-sunshine-through-the-living-room-window relaxing Saturday mornings to a publishing company with delusions of granduer, but door to door was a very interesting experience. It was the sort of thing that sucks as an obligation but is so weird and unique that when you stop doing it you basically will never have an experience like it again.
If I had never gone door to door I would never have encountered my first conspiracy theorist kook, a lovely old man with shining eyes who Freaked. Me. The. Fuck. Out. Raving about which countries on earth today were descended from which of the 12 tribes of Israel, telling me about how Satan was appearing to world leaders under the guise Matreiya and you couldn’t take his picture but then offering to show me a pic 10 minutes later. Connected via pre-Internet BBS systems to an underground community of pre-X-Files wackaloons and just dying to share all of his intel with two teenage Jehovah’s Witness kids to open their eyes. I still don’t know how the dude figured out where I lived and left me a book on my front step the next day. Probably used his spy network.
If I had never gone door to door I would never have seen how so many people live. It’s amazing how more accepting of the lifestyles and economic circumstances of other people you become when you sit in as many strange living rooms as a Witness does. Trailer parks and apartment buildings, McMansions and laundromats, anything on the territory card is fare game for a car group to “work”. It’s like having permission and an excuse (albeit a lame one) to peek in everybody’s house and satisfy your curiousity. Of course you begin to see patterns, you look for them. Signs of children, signs of pets, signs of the personality of the householder, anything that might give you a chance to have a good conversation with them. An opening, an “in”.
If I had never gone door to door I would have a harder time dealing with rejection and disillusionment. Imagine that every day you spend a few hours trying to convince random strangers of something that you think is the single most important thing in the world, a thing that will save their lives, and you fail at it every time. 100%. Total and complete failure. 99% of the time you are told “I’m not interested” or “I have my own religion”. The other 1% you get a flicker of interest, they take a set of magazines, or they’re bored and agree to talk to you for a few minutes. You get your hopes up a little, but the tiny flicker never once turns into a new disciple. What do you do? Do you feel like a failure? No. You learn the Edison trick. You learn that you have not failed, you’ve successfully discovered 10000 ways that don’t work. You’re out there to discover if people have the right heart condition to join God’s People. If they do not, you’ve successfully illustrated that fact. It’s a win every day. Talk about an experience that will help you develop resilience. I had mornings where I sat in the car at the end of service and everyone in the car joked about how “at least no dogs/hoses/baseball bats were used on us today like that one incident with Brother/Sister So-and-So” and “we visited a lot of people today, left some magazines, you never know if a seed was planted”.
Since I stopped going door to door I have occasionally daydreamed about going door to door as a normal person with no message to sell. Altering my presentation from something like “Hello, my name is Ryan and this is my friend <Friendy> and we’ve been out this lovely morning visiting people in your neighborhood to ask them their thoughts on pollution. Do you think mankind will ever find a solution?” to something more like “Hi, my name is Ryan. I represent nobody and am selling nothing. I’m not religious, political, or commercial. I’m just here because people are interesting to me and I wanted to say hi. If you ever feel like having a casual conversation about the total weirdness that is being a sentient being in an uncaring universe, or, I don’t know, cars or food or peregrine falcons or whatever you think is interesting, here’s my email. Could be fun. BTW, I love what you’ve done with the Elvis commemorative plate collection.” I mean seriously, how could you respond with “Not interested” or “I have my own ____”? Nobody does that. Nobody meets random people for no reason with no agenda. It’s too bad. If we all went door to door for literally no reason, the people who go door to door selling candy bars or magazines or vacuum cleaners or soap or politcians or religions wouldn’t be the only ones who get to meet everybody.
Will I show up randomly at your door some Saturday morning to talk about shoes? It’s unlikely, but it doesn’t mean I won’t sometimes think about how sweet ass that would be. Tell you what, if you ever want to form a “car group” and work “territory” going door to door for absolutely no reason other than to say Hi, lemme know. We may never do it, but it would still be fun to chat about.