You’re not going to believe this. I wouldn’t, if I were you. But I promise you, I’m a third child, a copycat; my mind rarely comes up with an original thought of its own, so I’m no good at making up stuff like this (although, it occurs to me, I seem to be getting better and better at lying). To pretend this had happened, and to make it sound far more interesting and amusing than it was, is the sort of thing I wish my mind could do.
Yesterday, the chimney sweeper called me. He called on my business phone line, not my home phone line, which I tend to answer even when the caller i.d. gives me an unfamiliar number. Thus, he caught me completely off-guard (the pattern when it comes to these unwanted visitors who seem to have been invented to plague telecommuters -- sort of the home equivalent of that constant chatterer at the office who hovers over your shoulder refusing to leave no matter how busy you try to make yourself seem).
I’d love to say I’ve become very wise and tough and expertly got him off the phone, leaving him without an inkling of a doubt as to whether or not he’d ever be allowed into my house. But we all know that would be the made up story. If only our house didn’t have a chimney. Even I can envision myself happily telling someone, “Sorry, we don’t have a chimney.” Too bad I never get unsolicited calls from the Jaguar mechanic. As long as I don’t have to pretend I would never need a good or service, ever, I have absolutely no problem getting rid of people. It’s when I have to lie in order to get people to go away that things become problematic.
But I had to lie to get rid of this guy. I know our heating company provides some sort of chimney cleaning service, but I also know perfectly well that what they provide isn’t enough, and that we do, every so often, have to have our chimney cleaned, which is something we haven't done in ages. However, I also know we haven’t been using the fireplace much while Bob’s been in school, which allows me to pretend it probably isn’t all that dirty. I also happen to know that my father-in-law recently made the mistake of scheduling a cleaning from one of these unsolicited calls, and the chimney sweeper made a huge mess, which he then didn't clean up. Thus, I knew (even without the imagination that eagerly summons images of rapists and murderers who make up stories to gain entrance into unsuspecting victims’ homes), I didn’t want someone I’d never heard of, who claims to be a chimney sweeper, coming to my house.
Luckily, for me, he didn’t sound suitably enough like Dick Van Dyke to really capture my attention, let alone my business. In fact, he didn’t sound like Dick Van Dyke at all. If he had, my imagination would have been out of luck with its conjured evil chimney sweeps (who probably also dress up as clowns and chase teenagers on merry-go-rounds at summer carnivals), which would have been completely shut out by images of Dick Van Dyke, all legs and blackened cheeks, dancing around with Julie Andrews. I would have invited him over and asked if he’d like a spoonful of sugar to go with the cup of tea I'd have offered him.
So, you see, it wasn’t hard for me truthfully to tell him our heating company is under contract to check our chimney, and when he pushed me on that, knowing that heating companies don’t do the whole chimney, to lie, telling him we’d just had the rest done, too. What was hard was not adding that I’d take his name and number and maybe give him a call next time our chimney needed cleaning. I said “maybe,” though. If Bert happens to show up, unannounced at my door, carrying Mary Poppins’s umbrella, I’m giving him the job.