Things I’ve Learned About Solicitors Offering Me Bug Extermination Services:
1. If you say “We don’t have a bug problem” or “We don’t need exterminators” or “We don’t really mind the bugs”, the person at the door will argue with you and tell you that EVERYBODY has a bug problem and that you may need exterminators more than you even KNOW (suggesting that perhaps you have termites in the attic or a giant wasp nest* or gremlins). But if you smile and phrase your refusal this way—“No thanks, we live in peace with our bugs”—the solicitor will smile back uncomfortably and say okay and tell you to have a nice day before backing off your porch. (I can only assume he thought we were Buddhists or something and had nothing in his salesman’s kit to combat religious objection.)
2. If you decide to humor the guy at the door and let him give you his spiel—“Well actually, yes, we have seen twelve scorpions in our house in the past month and we are slightly concerned that one half of our attic is nothing but a giant wasp hive”—and if you engage his attention with friendly banter long enough, he will eventually tell you things that his boss probably does not want him to tell you. Such as…
Me: “I’m definitely not going to buy anything today (or ever) but you can leave me your contact info if you want (so I know what company not to hire).”
Him: “Ok, but I’ll only be here until August 15th, so you need to decide by then.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Him: “I don’t live here, I’m from Utah.”
Me: (Ah-ha, your summer job is to go to Texas and sucker people out of their money, huh?) “We have better bugs than you do in Utah, right?”
Him: “You definitely have MORE bugs! My job is easy down here, I don’t even have to BS people!”
And, for the record, I am not purposely protecting this guy or his company. I accidently recycled his info and can’t remember who he was.
3. Despite the fact that it is sometimes fun to reveal solicitors as idiots, I have decided henceforth to stop opening my door to strangers. Though (and this is a real piece of advice from the police and everything) I will also not take the coward’s way out and pretend to not be home, because that can tell the solicitor-burglar hybrid that it’s ok to kick your door down and rob you. So from now on, I will say, “Who is it?!” And then if it’s not a friend or a neighbor or a pizza or a puppy or Google Fiber, I will say, “No thank you! Go away now!”
Things I’ve Learned About Baby Screech Owls:
1. They are adorable.
2. They are born with only one emotion: SURPRISE.
3. When they are first learning how to screech, they sort of sound like a mockingbird with a cicada stuck in its throat. Or maybe a cicada with a mockingbird stuck in its throat. *
* In the absence of a video of baby screech owls screeching, I instead offer you this fifteen-second video of a goat at the Capital of Texas Zoo.
Things I’ve Learned About Doing Research For My Writing:
1. If you are writing a short story with a Chihuahua as a character and you are trying to find out whether or not to capitalize the word “Chihuahua” (the answer is yes) when it is referring to a dog breed and not the place (still yes) and you do a lot of Googling about Chihuahuas, Facebook will decide that you really love (and need lots of) Chihuahuas and will show you several ads like this:
2. If you decide to mess with Facebook by Googling poisons for fifteen minutes or so (clicking on such links as “10 Poisons Used to Kill People” and “The Deadliest Poisons in History and Why People Stopped Using Them”), Facebook will stop showing you Chihuahuas and will instead start showing you sunglasses and jewelry and Toyotas and swimsuits (all things you have never shopped for online) because Facebook is worried about you and these are the things Facebook thinks might make you happy and pull you back from the brink. Because people who drive Corollas while wearing swimsuits, sunglasses, and earrings never want to poison themselves or those around them.
3. If a scene in your short story takes place in Torchy’s Tacos and you decide to have lunch there in order to do “research” and you spend your whole visit jotting down notes on a pad of paper, you will get the BEST service anyone has ever gotten at a Torchy’s Tacos ever.
* Number of times an employee asked me, “How is everything?” = 3
* Number of times an employee asked if they could throw away my trash for me = 2
* Number of times an employee gave me a nervous smile = 4
(I was not trying to give the poor guys an anxiety attack—I was just too wrapped up in my note-taking to realize they thought I was a restaurant critic until after I left. Rest easy, Torchy’s. I enjoyed my green chili pork taco.)