But importunity keeps trying to claw its way past the security screens…
I have sometimes been very remiss in my social relations. I’ve failed to address requests and demands in a proper way – never more so than when I’ve not given people the correct response to importunate demand.
In my defence, these sorts of things don’t happen very often, and I’m generally not prepared for that first assault. The beggar in the car park of the local shopping centre, the telephone solicitor, the strange caller at the doorstep…they all take me unawares and I am on the back foot for some time. I may acquiesce out of surprise. But the same should not happen if it is a repeated thing – I should be able to knock it on the head by the second contact. But so often I’ve just let it go on.
Oh, I’ve tried all sorts of ways to slide past the beggars – cultural dodges like the Japanese ” That, urrr, may be difficult…” or the British ” Oh, My Dear Fellow, how tiresome…” or the Canadian ” Well, I’ll be darned, eh? ” All of these are intended to be genteel signals that wave off the approach but they only work if the pest knows the culture. And even then they may not work if money is involved. I’ve been at wit’s end to know how to deal with some plaintiffs.
But recently I read a biography of a film star and discovered the perfect social response.
The bio was of Paul Newman – sometime rear gunner on a Navy Avenger aircraft and spaghetti sauce salesman. And Cool Hand Luke. He was importuned by Hollywood paparazzi to provide poses and pics out on the street and he evolved a standard response: ” I don’t do that.”
Brilliant. It does not say that he refuses the particular applicant and it makes no judgement about the request. It is self-centred in the best way. And it sounds official enough and final enough to stop further nagging.
I shall apply it when I am solicited to give money for someone else’s charity, to supply free files from my studio records, or to provide free shoots and graphic designs for no reward. Hopefully I can do it in the urbane and measured way that Newman adopted, and hopefully it will not lead to unpleasantness.
At least it will mean the in the future we don’t have ” a failure to communicate “.