from April 1, 2004
Dear Orville Slack IV,
Just as we were sitting down for supper last night, a pair of strangers showed up at the door. They weren’t selling cookies or religion or anything like that, all they wanted to do was check out the place they used to live.
We finally finished our cold supper just before bedtime.
What did we do wrong?
—Fuming in Phoenix.
What you describe is an unusual situation, but it is not unheard of.
Occasionally a pair of strangers will appear at your door, introduce themselves, announce that they used to reside at your address, and ask to see “the old homestead.”
This typically happens in the middle of the evening meal.
Slack warns against inviting these strangers in. No matter how polite, attractive, or interesting they may appear, do not allow them into your home. They will ruin your evening. They will ignore the uneaten food on your table and expect you to give them a full tour. After the tour, which will last an hour and a half, they will stay for two or three more hours, ignoring your growling stomach. The primary topic of conversation will be your home and how you have changed it—which pictures used to hang on which walls, which bedrooms have been converted into studies, etc. And unless your home is a medieval castle or was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it probably merits no more than ten minutes of detailed discussion.
The secondary topic of conversation is commonly the neighborhood— to what degree it has changed and to what degree it has remained the same. You will be quizzed about the current status of neighbors who have either moved far away or gone to their eternal reward. Studies have shown that you will not have known the vast majority of those former neighbors.
As for Slack’s advice in this situation. Simply call 9-1-1. Report a pair of intruders.