When I walk up to a door, whether it's the first time I've knocked on that particular door or the seventh, I feel my heart pound. My shoulders tense and my head separates from the rest of my body as if that minor area -- I believe it's called the neck -- simply doesn't exist. I search for clues -- things like, do they keep their plants up? People who garden just have to be nice, right? Or if they have a package on the doorstep, is it from an organic food delivery service or an obscure militia mail-order company? Searching for clues is my favorite part of the job. I could search for clues forever. But I know it's just avoiding the inevitable: I have to knock on that door.
If you had told me that, at this time in my life, I'd be working for a social science research company, visiting complete strangers in their homes in hopes of adminisitering a survey to them, I would have laughed you out of my clubhouse. But here I am doing something that -- for me at least -- is as difficult the fiftieth time as it was the first. You see, despite my bubbly persona, Louise Bice is not a people person. Or should I say, I don't run toward people. I inch over sideways, preferably holding a martini in my hand. I am a recovering misanthrope, still acting like the open-hearted, nonjudgemental person I aim to be in hopes of taking on those qualities for real.
But knocking on doors has led me to more surprises than I could possibly keep track of. There was the old Armenian man who invited me into his home and even if he couldn't speak a lick of English, we had a fantastic conversation. There was the Steve, the painter who told me stories about the 60's including how, in basic training and about to ship out to Vietnam, he refused to fire a gun, so they dismissed him from the army. There was the crazy woman who was convinced people were trying to kill her grandchildren.
Meeting these people has made me realize that's what this job is about.