Visitors to our home have usually been invited. I guess that 'by arrangement' method of visiting is an indictment of modern society in that our doors tend not to be left open in our communities anymore. There is less of the informal popping back and forth between houses that my generation – brought up in the 60s and 70 – and that of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations enjoyed. (We had to visit other houses because we were bored out of minds most of the time). There was a feeling of more security and trust back then, a feeling that has deteriorated over the years to the point that many of us have been practising self-isolation to a greater or lesser extent.
Visitors are usually a positive thing. But I, like many, have a problem with.unwanted visitors, cold callers. I had such a visit a few weeks back.
I spotted two smartly-dressed men coming up the drive and was immediately suspicious. I can remember being rescued on more than one occasion as a naive lad, caught on the doorstep by similarly attired, well-meaning people wanting to tell me about God and life. I used to hide away but they must get that so much. Closed and locked doors must be soul-destroying (literally, I suppose, for some beliefs). I prefer to open up and politely say something suitable to indicate I am not interested.
Now, before I continue, I have to explain something for context. I don't like my name – Ian – that much. My mum wished she had spelt it the Scottish way with an extra ‘i’. I do too, although Iain still sounds like Ian, however it is spelt. There is something about being an Ian that has connotations. I started writing a story about all things ‘Ianish’ and had to stop because it got a little too depressing. I’m grateful that my parents did not name me Barbara or Enid but that does not lessen my antipathy towards being called Ian.
So, I opened the door to these two pleasant, smiling gentlemen. ‘At this time of uncertainty...’ one of them began, a phrase that has been oft used subsequently, ‘we wondered whether we could share with you some words of comfort?’ As reassuring as that sounded, I was ready to come out with a brush-off, but was stopped in my tracks by what he said next. ‘Let me introduce ourselves: my name is Ian and this,’ he said pointing to the other man, ‘is also Ian.’
I’ve met many Ians in my time but I have never been part of a trio of Ians. This was unusual and it stirred something inside of me. I felt a connection, an obligation to engage. What were the chances, I wondered, of 3 Ians being on a doorstep together at the same time? I didn’t know the rate of positive engagements they usually got through cold-calling, but I was convinced that the chances of a triple ‘Iangagement’ had to be extremely low.
It felt like a moment of Ianlightenment, a religious experience, almost. The holy ‘trIanity’.
I was in a quandary, suddenly lost for words.They spotted my hesitation, a chIank in the armour (that might be pushing the Iansertions a bit too far). They were expectant, all smiles still, but they had a sudden edge, evangelical lions ready to pounce. An opportunity to talk, maybe even convert, had presented itself. How many times that day had this kind, compassionate Ian-combo been ignored, shunned, even abused? The door had not yet been shut and they were preparing to take full advantage. They sensed an epiphIany in the making.
I paused, our Ianish eyes flicked from one set to another. I drew breath...
My brain said, ‘That’s funny, my name is Ian, too!’
My mouth said, ‘I’m sorry. I’m a Catholic.’
Their hopes of a conversIan dashed, the smiles dropped a little and, with a polite goodbye, they moved on.
As I shut the door, I breathed a sigh of relief. I am very open to attitudes and views of all types, particularly if they come from a place of good, but I don’t want to have a deep discussion on my doorstep at a time not of my choosing. I had nearly succumbed. What might I have divulged about my feelings, my views, my beliefs? And to complete strangers! This had been a trap – a machIanation (I am so sorry about this – I can’t help it). Their wily Iany ways had nearly worked. That had been way too close for comfort. I had to take action.
Visitors – all visitors, I decided, regardless of background or religIan – are a risk. A risk to every single one of us. Opening the door to your home can be like opening the door to your soul.
I vowed that I – in fact, all of us – should never be subjected to visitors.
Well, I say ‘never’ – let’s have a trial 3 week period and then review.*
* a period of reflectIan, reconsideratIan, a revisIan, if you will.
PS There were lots of other opportunities to slot in more Ians. We are everywhere. Can you spot any in the text? Contact me with your own ideas too.