The Haught guide to Jehovah’s Witnesses
Years before I became a worldly, cynical and wildly popular blogger, Jehovah’s Witnesses preyed on me like I was a baby wildebeest with polio who’d been isolated from the herd and was click-clacking around the savannah in ill-fitting wildebeest calipers.
What started with polite questions about my beliefs, turned into requests for me to read passages from their Bible on my doorstep, to do “a little Truth Jig” as one of them played a ukulele and, once even, to sing a country and western song called “You’re transfusin’ for a bruisin’”. Naive and meek, I duly acceded to every one.
This was in the days before I had become a highly competent liar and accomplished squib, many years before I had hidden in a Barcelona lavatory to avoid flamenco dancing or hidden in a cupboard while my wife went and told off the men next door who were making too much noise tending their grapes.
It was a harrowing experience, made worse by the fact that my mother found it so amusing. Mum would see the duo coming from the front room of the house and then shepherd my dad and brother quietly towards the back of the house, sometimes out into the garden, usually without them or me realising what was going on. (She was and remains a sadist.)
This left me to answer the door.
Even when she didn’t see them coming and so answered the door to the polite pair herself, instead of telling them to hit the road as she must so dearly have wanted to, she instead would yell “Jonathan! There’s someone here to see you!” She would then sneak around the corner out of view but within earshot and try to stifle her snorts as the humiliation unfolded.
I think Mum wanted to teach me the power of the words “go and get stuffed, you relentless loons”. And I did. Or would have had I ever used them.
Actually, I continued to indulge them. Of course, whenever they went in for the kill, I pumped my little polio-ravaged legs, and made sure the ever-so-mannerly predators didn’t bring me down, but I always let them enjoy the thrill of the chase.
About 15 visits in I got the distinct impression they had run out of standard proselytising material and were desperately ad libbing. I remember one of them said “OK, well we’ve covered a lot of The Bible and the next issue of Watchtower isn’t due out for a little while yet so… uh… this doorbell… let’s talk about whether this doorbell will be here after Armageddon…”
Then, one day, the pair just stopped turning up, apparently having exhausted their evangelical repertoire.
In all our meetings I never told them I had something else to do. I never came to the door with a green visor on, a cigar in my mouth, a five o’clock shadow and a handful of playing cards. I never told them to get fucked. I never told them I thought their ideas were absurd, although I found almost every single one utterly preposterous.
In fact, if I learnt anything from them it was that meticulous courtesy can be a weapon of attrition.
An edited version of this article first appeared in the MyCareer section of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
You can read the column – Benign to Five – in those papers every Saturday, and if you miss it, you can look it up online in the BusinessDay section of The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times, WAToday and Brisbane Times. (I now wankishly call myself a “syndicated columnist” on my CV.)