Personal, Uncategorized

No Thank You

Sometimes I feel guilty for not answering the door when I see a salesman standing on the porch or when I interrupt callers to say, “No thank you” before they can even get to their sales pitch.

Then, I tell myself I come by it naturally.  I come from a long line of cynics, people who torment both the well-intentioned, honorable salespeople of the world and the nasty no-gooders out to swindle the innocent or naïve.

If it weren’t for her cynicism, my mom would believe she’s the luckiest woman in the world.

All she has to do is answer her phone and people want to give her money – millions of dollars just for answering her phone.

At 76 years old, she’s a target for these types of calls.

A recent conversation went like this:

“Hello,” she cheerfully answered.

“Mrs. Snow?” the caller said. “I’m calling with some good news!  You’ve one 1.5 million dollars!”

“Oh really?” She sarcastically responded.

“Yes!  We’re so excited to award you your prize money, and a brand new BMW.”

“Oh, money and a car?” she asked, pretending to bubble over with joy.

“Yes, isn’t that exciting?” the caller said.

“Well, I’ll say,” she said leading him on.

“When can we stop by to give it to you?”

“Oh, I don’t need you to come to my house.  You can just send a check in the mail.”

“But what about the car?” the scammer asked.  “We have to come to your house to give you the car and the cash.”

“Oh, you’re giving me cash?”

“Yes, cash and the car. So, when can we come by to give it to you?”

Knowing there was a catch lurking behind this overly generous gift she said, “Well, I don’t really need a car and I don’t want to be bothered with that much cash, so I’d rather just get a check in the mail.  That way I can just take the check to the bank.”

“But, we need to deliver the prizes in person.”

“Well then never mind.  I don’t really need that much money anyway.”

And she hung up the phone.

A week later the phone rang again.  Another caller wanted to give her money. He had the same accent as the last caller.  (The scam eventually was traced to Jamaica.)

“Congratulations!  You’ve won $800,000!”

“Only $800,000?  Last week someone was going to give me over a million.  Why do I only get $800,000 now?”

“Oh, well, $800,000 is still a lot of money,” the caller said.

“Well, if it’s less than a million, it’s not worth my time.”


A boy in the neighborhood asked if he she could give him one hour to hear his presentation to sell knives.  She didn’t need to buy anything.  She just needed to listen and he would get paid for the presentation. She reluctantly agreed.

He came, made the presentation, showed her how the knives could cut through rope and other things she never planned to cut, then he asked her for a list of all her friends so that he could call them and give them presentations and sell them his amazing knives. (I actually listened to this presentation too and bought the knives!)

“No way,” she said standing up from her kitchen table.

“Really?” he asked with a shocked look on his face.

“Yes really! That’s the best way I know to lose friends.  And our hour is up anyway, so it’s time for you to go now,” she said standing up to escort him out the door.

I told my brother about these mom stories and he said he feels sorry for salesmen that call our family.

“Don’t you remember when that vacuum salesman came to our house? Dad said, ‘I’ll tell you what, if you can beat me in a game of checkers, I’ll buy two vacuums.’”


I couldn’t remember but it didn’t surprise me.  Dad thought he was the master checkers player.

The befuddled salesman must have sensed the possibility of a sale so he agreed, sat down at the kitchen table, and dad set up the checkerboard, visited with the salesman while they played, summarily beat him, and then turned up his palms, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, fair is fair.  Good luck selling those vacuums.”

Hearing these stories washes away my guilt, and gives me new perspective.  Cutting off an unwanted caller mid-sentence with a polite “no thank you” amounts to a gentler refusal than my mother’s method of mocking or her blunt refusal to drive away her friends by sharing their names with a salesman.

My checker game skills are a little rusty so if I tried my dad’s drive-away-a -salesman strategy, I’d probably end up with two vacuums.

I think I’ll take the guilt.


Giggling Girls

Just a typical night at our house.

I settle into a long-awaited moment of quiet.

Finally, it’s the end of the day.

Time for pajamas, a good book, a television show,

a quiet conversation with my husband.

Then the door bursts open.

Giggling girls bust into the room.

Hi Mrs. Turner!

The cupboards fly open.

The ice machine roars.

The snacks come out.

It is girl time.

On the night before high school graduation,

it’s different, more somber.

A sudden downpour soaked their pretty party dresses

and their perfectly straightened hair is dripping wet.

“We’re here to help Annie pack for college!” Zoe says.

High school senior one day,

college freshman the next.

This is the Turner way.

I expect a long night of Facebook stalking,

and countless graduation ceremony outfits

organized on the bedroom floor

with piles of accessories strewn around empty suitcases.

The noise settles and I look over to see Annie and Zoe hugging.

“Don’t start that already,” Chloe says.

“I can’t help it,” Zoe says with reddened eyes.

My daughter Sara smiles and says, “Oh no, here we go.”

Three years ago Sara and her friends played out this exact scene

before Sara left the day after graduation for summer term at BYU.


The girls stampede upstairs and all we hear are roars of laughter

Interrupted by fits of giggling.

The garage door flies open and another friend has arrived.

“They’re upstairs,” I say.

Sara shakes her head.

“Trust me this is just a repeat of how it was when you were in high school,” I tell her.

Somehow it seems like a lifetime ago for her.

After about an hour of listening to drawers open and close,

I check in on their progress.


I’m impressed.

Rows of color coordinated tee-shirts are neatly rolled up in the bottom of one suit case.

Stacks of preppy-looking outfits stacked on the floor.

There’s even a graduation ceremony ensemble pulled together

with a coral dress, a white J.Crew cardigan, and a funky belt and shoes to go with it.

Tissues are scattered across the carpet

and the girls have all changed from their wet dresses

into Annie’s shorts and t-shirts.

I try to assure them that they’ll always be friends.

I tell them about my high school friends

and how we still try to see each other at least annually.

That sounds horrifying to them

when they’ve been spending every day together

for four years or more.

They continue to pack, giggle, and cry as I crawl into bed.

I will miss those girls and their giggles.

When the house is quiet, the girls are gone

and the giggles don’t charge the air with their energy and happiness,

I will look at the garage door

and wonder when it’s going to fly open again

with one more friend.


I don’t think it will be just the girls needing the tissues today…


Missing My Dad

This is an essay I had published in the Washington Post June 21, 2004 to honor my dad on Father’s Day.  

It’s as relevant today as it was then…

When I was 8 years old, I found a small black-and-white photograph of my dad on the kitchen table.

I picked it up and stared at it for the longest time.

After a heartfelt sigh, I said, “Oh, he’s a beautiful man.”

That seemed to sum up my complete adoration of him.

I’m sure that by any worldly standard, he was just an average, small-town man.

He owned a dairy and was known as the town milkman.

He knew everyone in town and they knew him.

He delivered the school milk, and I was always so proud to point out that he was my dad.

He was a quiet man and only said what needed to be said.

He never felt a need to fill empty spaces with empty words.

There were times when that bothered me.

I was sure his head was full of profound thoughts.

I wanted to know them all.

He had a few simple philosophies that governed his life.

Pay yourself first, then pay everyone else.

When you build up a little savings,

put some in the stock market and some in the bank.

If you gamble,

only risk what you can afford to lose,

and never expect to win.

He dropped out of high school during his senior year

because his father had a heart attack and needed help with the dairy.

After his dad died, he felt obligated to keep the business going.

He left his own dreams behind.

He wanted to own a fishing lodge

and take tourists on fly fishing trips to his favorite, secret holes.

He was a master fly fisherman.

No one knew the local mountains and rivers better.

He gave little advice.

So when he doled it out I paid close attention.

When I went to college, I majored in business because it was practical.

He asked whether I liked it.

I said it was boring.

Study what you love or you’ll never be happy, he told me.

He was right.

I changed my major to journalism and never regretted it.

He had other good advice, too, like

never buy a Chevy truck because they’re for sissies,

and never buy a used car because you’re just buying someone else’s problem.

Pay your bills.

Never lie and never try to be someone you’re not.

He hated phony people and hypocrites most of all.

I remember when he took my mom to see John Wayne in the movie The Cowboys.

When they came home,

she couldn’t wait to tell us that Dad actually laughed out loud in the movie.

We couldn’t believe it.

He was too reserved to really laugh out loud.

To prove it she took us all back to the theater with them to see the movie.

There was a scene when John Wayne taunted a stuttering boy until he was so mad

that he unleashed a stutter-less string of obscenities.

And then it happened:

Dad laughed out loud.

It was a memory for the family history books.

19  years ago my dad died of a heart attack.

He was only 57 years old.

His advice still runs through my head and influences my life.

I have never bought a Chevy truck and I only bought used cars while I was in college.

I pay my bills, invest in the stock market, and always try to be honest.

I still yearn for his straight talk,

his way of cutting to the core and saying only what needs to be said,

and nothing more.

These 19 years of his pure silence have been deafening.

The shock of his sudden death has worn off.

The grief is gone.

The mourning is over.

But the missing him never stops.

When I moved away from home,

I rarely talked to him on Father’s Day

because he was always fishing.

Even though I knew he wouldn’t be home, I’d still call.

I needed him to know I was thinking of him.

I adore him as much today as I did when I was a little girl looking at that picture of him.

Nineteen years have come and gone;

yet each year, on Father’s Day,

I still feel like I need to let him know

I’m thinking of him.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company