It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon the first part of April 2016 and I should have been outside doing something constructive like Weed 'n Feeding the lawn or washing the pickup, but that stack of bills had haunted me all day. Grumbling under my breath I placed the mound of bills on the kitchen table and armed with a checkbook and my favorite gel pen, I sat down to begin the dubious task. But before I could pick up the pen a knock came at the door. I sighed and squinted my eyes. Likely some of those Jehova Witness folks have returned to tell me how misguided I am with my Southern Baptist beliefs, I thought as I rose from the table.
I opened the front door just wide enough to peek out and behold, there stood a most beautiful young woman on my porch. My heart pounded in my chest as I wondered if God had finally sent me a woman after all this time. A fine job He did, I marveled as I eagerly swung the door open. This little lady was calendar girl material, standing a bit past five feet tall, maybe tipping the scales at a hundred pounds, her brunette hair blowing slightly in the breeze. Her green eyes locked onto mine as a warm smile came across her face.
"Hieee! My name is...well, I don't remember...and I'm representing a new company who specializes in floor maintenance."
Her eyes glanced down at the wood floor just inside the door as she continued, "We're out and about today just letting people know about us. How would you like for us to come in and buff those beautiful wood floors for you, no charge?"
My brain was now working at full speed as I responded, "Wow, that'd be great...you can buff my floor anytime, calendar girl."
Okay, I didn't really say that last part out loud but I admit it almost came out of my mouth. With my affirmation, she turned and motioned toward a car in the drive. A seemingly large crowd of people emerged and instantly appeared, bustling about my living room with alarming speed, unpacking several boxes of equipment and supplies. I blinked...and they disappeared before my very eyes, the calendar girl along with them. The only person left standing before me was a chubby little girl, definitely not calendar girl material. I peered out the window and saw the vehicle speeding away, like gypsies in the wind.
The chubby girl smiled and began her well-rehearsed speech.
"So, are you familiar with Kirby vacuum cleaners?"
I scowled, "Is this what you people are up to? Look, missy, I don't need a Kirby vacuum cleaner. I have one rug in the living room and carpet in my bedroom."
"Oh, these machines do so much more than vacuum your floor." she replied as she dutifully buffed about a one square foot section of my wood floor, "See, look at that shine!"
She then changed attachments and moved on to my rug, literally sucking the design off of it. I watched as I realized I was stuck with this chicklet until, well, who knows when. She had been abandoned at my doorstep like a burlap sack full of kittens.
Over the course of the next two hours, I watched as she sucked the mites out of my mattress, the feathers out of my pillows, and the demonstration of how this nifty machine could even be used as a screwdriver, I had to admit, was impressive. Finally, a knock came at the door and one lone person stepped into my living room. He introduced himself as the regional manager of the Kirby vacuum cleaner company, and wasn't I just completely overwhelmed with this machine? And...because I seemed like a wonderful guy in dire need of this contraption, I could purchase one for my very own for...not the regular price of two thousand dollars. No, today only it could be mine for the low price of seven hundred bucks and some change.
"Mister," I replied, "I need one of these like I need a boat out here in the desert of west Texas!"
I watched as they drove away, knowing that I had dodged a bullet. Had the calendar girl sucked the mites out of my mattress instead of Miss Chubby...I would have jumped at the chance to buy her machine. Had they only known my one weakness, they definitely would have left her behind.
I tell that story to tell this one:
It was a year ago that life around here became a living hell. I had a senior on the verge of graduating. If you've been there, you will readily relate. Colleges and universities begin terrorizing entire families in the months leading up to graduation. Recruiters, usually nothing more than students themselves, begin making contact, no, not with parents, but with these kids. It begins with letters that read like this:
Dear (insert student name here)
Due to your exemplary scholastic achievement, our university has awarded you (insert tens of thousands of dollars here.)
My daughter received several of these letters. One was for the generous amount of fifty-four thousand dollars. Another was in the neighborhood of thirty-five thousand. Me, being...I dunno...stupid, I guess, literally fell to my knees thanking the Lord. A tiny voice came back...
"Not so fast, buddy!"
Upon investigation, I discovered that these private universities, even with their generous awards, would still cost between seventy to one-hundred thousand dollars for a four-year degree.
Enter the recruiters: As I mentioned, these people aren't calling me. They are spending hours talking to and texting my child, twisting her naive mind into knots. They have convinced her that any education other than one obtained from their university is no education at all.
Suddenly, all those plans that I as a parent have harbored since her first day of kindergarten have been trampled underfoot. In the back of my mind for nearly two decades, I had resolved that she'd attend the college just up the road. It was affordable and my child would be less than thirty minutes away. It was a parent's dream...until those evil college recruiters reared their heads, spewing venom and creating havoc within our daily lives.
Like the Kirby vacuum people, they were relentless. With a heavy heart, I began succumbing to university tours with daughter in tow, knowing there was no possible way I could afford to send her to any of these institutions. The feelings of failure began to overtake me with every tour. Our daily family life became consumed with the impossible dreams of an education only the very wealthy could ever afford. Gloom and depression hung in the air like smoke from a Camel cigarette. And the texts and phone calls kept coming, day after day after day.
Then one evening my daughter sat down to dinner and said, "You know dad, I think I've decided to go to the college up the road. It makes more sense, don't you think?"
And it was over and life returned to normal.
I have to give them credit, Kirby people, and private universities. They have the art of salesmanship finely tuned like a muscle car. Their technique is simply to wear the buyer down to the point of relenting just to find peace within themselves. But, if either wish to make a sale to this old goat, they'd be best advised to send a calendar girl over to knock on my door. Yep, that would probably be all it takes to break me...