A Silver Spring man writes, "If you print this in your column, for heaven's sake don't mention my name or address. The reason will be obvious to you.
"Saturday night I received a call from a man who said he represented Rollins Protective Services, Inc. (a local burglar alarm company). There had been a robbery in my neighborhood and he was calling all my neighbors to encourage them to have the Rollins system installed.
"Without any assurance of the caller's credentials, I blurted out, 'I don't want one.'
"My mistake! Instead of saying what I did, I should have asked, 'How do you know I don't already have one?' My purpose in relating this is to forewarn others who receive calls of this kind not to let a stranger know, as I did, that they have no burglar alarm protection. Responses like mine could be a beautiful invitation to a professional burglar to compile a list of residences that have no burglar alarm protection. Our Montgomery County Police had no interest in the matter, so perhaps you can prepare people to get calls of this kind to respond more intelligently than I did."
Thanks for writing. You've done all of us a favor.
Permit me to add a few comments to your wise counsel:
You will never know whether the man who phoned you really represents Rollins. He would have used the same spiel if he were a burglar or a salesman taking advantage of the public's heightened uneasiness over burglaries.
The police were not interested because there was no evidence a crime had been committed. Unless an overt act occurs to put doubt in their minds, police must assume that a person who represents himself to be a telephone solicitor is a telephone solicitor.
It is unpleasant to acknowledge, but these are times in which we must be wary of strangers, of questions relating to our personal affairs, and most especially to questions from strangers about personal matters.
Sometimes the nosy stranger is not a burglar. I recall a morning on which I answered the door and was asked by a cheerful, chipper, white-haired woman holding a clipboard, "Good morning, and how many school-age children do we have in this home?" For some reason the built-in burglar alarm system between my ears sounded a warning, and I responded, "Who wants to know?" I expected her to produce something identifying her as a school board employee, but she didn't. She just got terribly indignant and said I had asked an insulting question.
It turned out that she was selling encyclopedias. My guarded response to her question enabled me to avoid wasting a half hour with a devious door-to-door pitchperson. Our guarded response to an anonymous phone caller may do the same thing for you, or it may even spare you the agony of some day coming home to a burglarized house.
Suggestion: I sometimes say to telephone solicitors, "I don't buy by phone. Send me information about your offer by mail." That gets rid of the sharpies who don't want to be prosecuted for mail fraud and also the fly-by-nights who don't even have a letterhead.
Remember: if a stranger phones to sell you a burglar alarm, tell him, "Sorry pal, you're too late. I already have one." YOU'RE ALL WELCOME
Civilian employees of the Department of Defense sometimes suffer from a Cinderella complex: While everybody else is having fun at the party, they feel they've been banished to the kitchen to wash the dishes.
Tomorrow will be different for civillians in the Military District of Washington. MDW's commander, Maj. Gen. Robert Arter, has proclaimed May 28 to be Civilian Recognition Day. At 2 p.m., there will be a military review at Fort Myer featuring elements of the Third Infantry (The Old Guard) and the Army Band. The public is invited to attend, and there will be special seating at the review for the 354 civilian employees who received awards during the past 12 months.
Bring the children. They'll get a special kick out of watching the Commander in Chief's Guard, a replica of the Army's first organized unit. The guard will be dressed in garb dating back to Revolutionary days: brown britches, blue waistcoats, white wigs and the only tri-cornered hats on display in Washington since Fannie Perkins served as FDR's secretary of labor. THE CUBAN CRISIS
Bob Orben warns that Florida has a big problem on its hands: "a horde of confused, inexperienced, semi-literate job-seekers -- the June graduating class. So many of them can't find jobs that Detroit has made them honorary auto workers."
Making room for thousands of Cubans is no problem, says Orben. We can just export Orson Welles.