The time the Avon lady came calling for help


(Mike Royko is on vacation until June 17. While he is away,we are reprinting some of his favorite columns. This one appeared in the Chicago Tribune Sept.7,1984.)

AT ONE TIME OR another, most of us have heard the doorbell ring and a female voice say "Avon calling."

But I doubt if we've heard it quite the way a young man named Eddie O'Brien recently did.

Let me start at the beginning.

O'Brien, 18, has a kid sister, Lisa, 15, and Lisa had a part-time job selling Avon cosmetics.

One day, Lisa's supervisor phoned to ask about Lisa's sales. Lisa hadn't been selling much; so the supervisor said she would come over with some sales instruction books. They made an appointment to meet the next morning at the O'Brien home.

The next day, Lisa waited, but the morning passed without the Avon supervisor appearing.

Lisa had a baby-sitting job that afternoon, so she finally hopped on her bike and left for it.

Eddie was home at the time, but he didn't know anything about Lisa's appointment with the Avon supervisor.

A little while after Lisa left, the Avon lady showed up. She rang the doorbell, but nobody answered.

That's because Eddie had gone into the bathroom to take a shower.

Seeing that the door was unlocked, the Avon lady let herself into the house.

This was a mistake because the O'Briens have a dog. Although it is a small dog, a terrier, it has a fierce nature and sharp teeth.

So as the Avon lady walked through the house,looking for Lisa, the dog darted out from under a table, leaped into the air and nipped the Avon lady on her bottom.

Naturally, this made her scream. It also caused her to try to escape from the dog.

Seeing a door slightly open, she ran to it, rushed into the room and closed the door behind her.

It turned out to be the downstairs bathroom. And in it, behind sliding shower doors, was young Eddie.

Because of the noise of the shower and his own singing, and because the bathroom door had been almost closed, Eddie had been unaware of the presence of the Avon lady and her encounter with his dog.

All he knew was that the bathroom door had suddenly opened and closed and through the glass he could see the silhouette of another human being.

It scared the hell out of him.

And that's understandable. When you think about it, there are few moments when we are as totally vulnerable and defenseless as when we are standing bare-bottomed naked in the shower. Maybe Anthony Perkins, in the movie "Psycho," planted the seeds of fear deep in our subconscious.

Eddie opened the shower door an inch or two and peered out.

There, in his bathroom, stood a total stranger. True, the stranger was a woman. But who says women can't be homicidal maniacs or fiends?

So Eddie screamed: "Who are you?"

"I'm the Avon lady," she said.

Now, what would you think upon hearing those words under those circumstances? Right. You would think that you were dealing with a complete loony. Which is exactly what Eddie thought.

"Avon lady?" Eddie screamed. "Avon lady? What are you doing in my bathroom?"

"I was bitten by your dog."

"My dog bit you?"

"Yes, I'm hiding from your dog."

"I don't understand any of this," Eddie said.

The woman explained and the thumping of Eddie's heart subsided enough for him to say: "What do you want me to do?"

"Do something about your dog."

"But I don't have any clothes in here."

That problem was solved when she handed him a towel.

"Turn around," Eddie said.

In a few minutes, Eddie had corralled the raging little beast in the kitchen and the Avon lady was on her way to seek medical treatment.

That wasn't the last that the O'Briens heard from the Avon lady.

"The letter said that our dog caused her great bodily injury," said Eddie's mother, Maria.

"Well, I don't know about that," Maria said. "But I'll tell you one thing. She didn't do much good for Eddie's nerves."

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