What It Takes

What It Takes

Stick It To The Doorknob

By Callie Oettinger | Published: October 24, 2014

My neighbor called yesterday. She was in the hospital and her husband’s cell phone wasn’t working. He’d forgotten to bring a few things with him and was on his way back home to pack another bag for her. Would I pop over and ask him to grab a few extra things to bring back to the hospital?

I adore these neighbors and would do anything to help them, so I dropped what I was doing and stuck my head outside. Empty car port.

Back inside, I grabbed a sticky pad and pen and scribbled a note with the items she needed, then headed to the kitchen for a plastic bag. It was raining and I needed the note to survive. Only gallon-sized freezer bags were in the designated baggie-tin-foil-and-cling-wrap drawer. (Noted to self: Buy more sandwich-sized bags and hide from 6-year-old who hordes them for random rocks, pilfered coins, and other bric-a-brac).

No Scotch-tape in site (also most-likely claimed by the 6-year-old), I grabbed a tape gun, tucked it under my arm and headed back outside, note-stuffed gallon bag in one hand and umbrella in the other.

Not wanting to risk paint pulling from their door if I taped the note to it (and thus a call from the horrid HOA to repaint, which is the horrid HOA’s M.O.), I stared, wondering about the best placement. The door knocker made the most sense. It was centered, toward the top of the door. Because the note was in a gallon-sized plastic bag, it would hang below the knocker, at about my neighbor’s eye-level, note facing out through the clear plastic.

A few minutes after drying off inside, I heard his car. Moving faster than a TMZ informer sniffing out a payday, I stuck my head back out. The note was still on the front door as he shut it behind him.

What to do?

Did he see it and leave it because he was in a rush? Or did he tell himself he’d read it on the way out?

The Type A cloth from which I was cut demanded me back outside to double-check. I bypassed the soggy tennis shoes and pulled out my flip-flops this time, hoping they wouldn’t hydroplane over the sidewalk and land me in a puddle, grabbed the umbrella and headed back out.

At their door, I pulled off the note and knocked.

A few seconds of silence later, I could hear footsteps approaching the door.

“Hi, John. Joan called and asked me to give you this note. I just wanted to make sure you saw it.”

Furrowed brows. Pause. (Insert good-natured English-accent, because it changes things up when you read, and imagine a thick-salt-and-pepper haired 70ish fellow with a mustache and smiling eyes, too, if you’d like.) “No, I didn’t. Were you just putting it up?”

Smile. (Drop the English accent for my comments.) “No, it was on your door when you opened it.”

Laugh. Head shake. “I didn’t even see it. I was rushing and focused on getting in the door.”

I shook my head and laughed. “Men . . .”

He smiled and made a joke about running around. He and his wife have a wonderful sense of humor. He’s always teasing, and that’s the nature of our relationship—good-natured teasing, even during awful situations. Helps keep a positive outlook, though we do go straight-serious at times, too.

After an update on his wife’s health, he thanked me, and then was off again.

I walked back home, thinking about how fortunate I am to have them in my life and about how I hope she feels better soon, as my less-emotional, uncompassionate  inner Type-A made a mental note to tape future notes onto door handles instead of door knockers.

Why am I sharing this?

Because, in addition to loving my neighbors and enjoying the smile that thinking about them puts on my face as I type this, I’m also obsessed with how messages are shared.

In such a simple situation, I placed a message in what I thought was the best position: The door knocker.

There was one better: The doorknob.

Morals of the story: 1) Think about your messaging and placement. What you consider great placement — an obvious place that you can’t imagine anyone missing — might go unseen. 2) Lessons arrive at the oddest times.

Posted in What It Takes

9 Responses to “Stick It To The Doorknob”

  1. Mary Doyle
    October 24, 2014 at 5:38 am

    Love this – a simple story and a valuable lesson! A perfect way to end a week that I’m thankful to see come to a close. Message received Callie – thank you!

  2. October 24, 2014 at 7:12 am

    This a quintessential Alex situation! haha… I would’ve done the exact same thing, and gone through the same thought process. Good lesson to learn.

    Could there be a third lesson?-different groups need different buttons pushed? In regards to writing, a good chunk of it is a numbers’ game, a large output guarantees success even with individual failures being inevitable.

  3. Sonja
    October 24, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I liked this! I message wrapped inside a good deed. Thanks for taking us along on the ride. : )

  4. Basilis
    October 25, 2014 at 12:50 am

    I agree, Callie.

  5. October 25, 2014 at 6:55 am

    Great illustration, Callie. And I am probably going to think of it everytime I leave a note on someone’s door.
    Also, wondering if something even more metaphorical is going on here? People will use the knocker to announce themselves, then wait passively for an answer, but the knob means actively turning something, then entering.
    Told ya: you got me thinking.
    Thank you.

    • Callie Oettinger
      October 28, 2014 at 8:03 am

      “People will use the knocker to announce themselves, then wait passively for an answer, but the knob means actively turning something, then entering.”

      This reminds me of 90’s era sites, many of which I remember having a “welcome screen” as their first page, which had to be clicked upon before entering the main site. I remember seeing one for a printer I worked with at the time and not knowing I was supposed to click on the box in the middle to enter. It made sense to them, but I kept looking for a menu or something with instructions. Though more of us know how to navigate sites now, the placement/priority of content is still a problem.

      Your comment got me thinking about another issue, too: Checking to make sure someone – or the right person – is at home.

      I few years ago, I was the managing editor of a site that ran quite a few book excerpts. Though I haven’t worked on it in over a year, I continue to receive books in the mail, for consideration for the site. The book is sent out, yet follow-up is lacking. Those sending the books knocked, but never circled around to make sure the right person was home.

  6. October 25, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    It doesn’t matter WHERE you put it: if he’s in a hurry, he’ll tell himself, “I’ll deal with it later.”

    The only way that would work is to waylay him as you did, get personal and close, and give him the message directly.

    I have a rule: if I call someone, and she isn’t there, and I give the message to any of the following:
    Child
    Neighbor
    Babysitter
    Mother
    Mother-in-law
    Husband
    Random stranger
    Pet
    I consider that the message has NOT been delivered – and call back.

    Husbands are the worst. They sound like grownups, will even pretend they’re writing it down, and completely forget the minute the earpiece leaves their ear.

    Why? Because it’s not important to THEM.

    If you want the message to get through, you must require an awful lot more than you think. With emails and texts, I require a response that repeats the information back, int eh recipient’s own words.

    Keep control in your own hands: “When should I call back if I don’t hear from your Mommy?”

    This is entirely separate from the problem of making sure you get the ACTION you called about in the first place.

    Live and learn.

    • Callie Oettinger
      October 28, 2014 at 8:06 am

      Thanks for this, Alicia.

      “Live and learn,” indeed. I know there’s still much to learn, but remain surprised how/when/where the lessons present themselves.

      Best,

      Callie

  7. Camden
    October 25, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    This is just plain silly, why even take the time to write it?