Thursday, December 09, 2010

If You Know Someone's Up Late, Does That Mean It's Right To Knock...

As parents, Eeees and I try to impart many life lessons to our kids.  One of those lessons is that there is a time when it's okay to disturb people and a time when it's wrong.  For example, we stress to them that after 10PM, calling time is over.  Unless you have explicit permission from the person you're calling beforehand (or barring an emergency, of course) you do not call people after 10PM.  You certainly don't go knocking on their door, even if you know that they're still awake.  The reason, very simply, is basic mentchlichkiet.  People are entitled to their own disturbance-free private time.  I know that I'm not thrilled when people call after a certain hour (most family, certain friends and emergency situations excepted) and I certainly would not do to someone that which I wouldn't want done to me.  Which brings us to last night.

Due to a project that I needed to work on at school, I did not get home last night until about 10:30.  As you can imagine, after a day at work, school, a train and bus ride home, I was fairly tired and ready for my "down time."  We gathered the kids together and lit the menorah.  By the time we were done (there were some delays, of course), it was close to 11:00.

A few minutes after we finished, George and Walter wanted to go outside to see how the four menorahs with all their lights looked from the outside.  So, out they went to the side of the house (that's where the window with the menorah is) and watched for a minute or two.  Afterwards, they came back into the house and told me that there was someone who wanted to see me.

I walked into our front room and there was a tzedaka collector.

I try to make it a rule that I never turn away a tzedaka collector.  Yes, I'm not rich and even when I do give, it's usually not more than a few dollars, but I always try to give something.  Walter, God bless him, gave me a few dollars to give to the guy.  But I told him to put his money away.  In this case, I was going to break my rule.  Why?  Because it was after 11:00 at night.

Yes, the collector probably knew we were still awake because of the freshly lit menorah in the window.  Yes, he saw Walter and George leave and come back.  But just because you know a person is awake at home does not make it right to knock on his door at all hours of the night.  It is (and perhaps it's just my opinion) just not right.

Granted, there is always the possibility of an emergency.  If someone's car crashes right outside my home at 2AM and the driver knocks on the door and needs to use the phone to call an ambulance or a tow truck, I would certainly understand.  But this wasn't an emergency... it was a guy collecting for his family*.  What's worse, he didn't seem to even care that he was disturbing people at 11PM at night.  If (God forbid) it were me and I *had* to knock on someone's door at 11PM for some reason, the first thing out of my mouth would be "I'm so sorry to disturb you this late at night but...."  Nothing of the sort came out of this fellow's mouth.   He just began his shpiel without the slightest regard for the time.

Now, granted, perhaps he was not aware that I had just arrived home.  He certainly could not have known that I had just endured a full day of work and school and was just ready to call it a day.  And let's even give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn't realize that if I just lit the menorah it means that I had just recently arrived home.  Even so, just the fact that he's knocking on the door collecting at 11PM in a non-emergency situation is just plain wrong.  At 11PM, people deserve not to be bothered.  By 11PM (and even earlier) people should be allowed to relax at home without being disturbed.**

So I turned him away.  I did it nicely.   I didn't lecture him (although I think I should have -- but I tend to be non-confrontational).  I didn't berate him.  I just told him no.

So, I'm curious... what do you think?  Did I overreact by not giving him anything?  Was I in the right?  I'd like to know what you think?

The Wolf

* Yes, that can certainly be viewed as an emergency in desperate enough situations... but you know it's not the same thing.

** As a side point, I'm curious... was he just walking by my house, saw the menorah and my sons and decided to give it a try?  Or was he actually attempting to work the block at that time?

39 comments:

E-Man said...

I agree with you. After a certain time one should not be bothering people even if they see them awake.

Larry Lennhoff said...

If you are on IM at 11PM, is it ok to send you a message? What if your status is set to away?

BrooklynWolf said...

Larry,

That's actually a very good question.

I think an IM is a lot less intrusive than a phone call (and certainly a lot less intrusive than someone showing up at my front door). Nonetheless, it's an interesting point to ponder.

The Wolf

Gil Student said...

I disagree. I know certain collectors who have been coming to me for years but sometimes have trouble getting me at home. I don't mind if they come late if I am awake and dressed.

Sean Ben Noach said...

I would have turned him away. If you had given him tzedakah, it would only reinforce that it's okay to be out that late. I probably would have told him to come back tomorrow at a more decent hour.

-- Or that you could set up an automatic tzedakah "bill pay" to him :)

@Larry - I don't know if you were proposing the question to everyone, but I think IM is a different situation. It's easy, just like email, to respond to an IM later or not at all. Especially if your away message is on, it's expected that you might not get a response.

BrooklynWolf said...

Gil,

If you have regular collectors who know you and know you don't have a problem with them coming at late/odd hours, then that's different. If you're okay with it and have told them in the past that it's okay to come at that time, then they have permission. But that's not the situation here.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

I never let anyone in after 10 P,M. I tell them through the door that it's too late.

BrooklynWolf said...

I never let anyone in after 10 P,M. I tell them through the door that it's too late.

I would not have let him in either, but by the time I was summoned he was in the house already. He either entered with my sons or they let him come in without thinking about it.

The Wolf

Ezzie said...

Somewhat lean toward Gil; I don't think working the block at that time of night is appropriate, but if he simply saw you'd just lighted and/or ran into your kids outside and asked if someone was awake, that's a lot more 'fair'.

Anonymous said...

You should move out of Brooklyn.

Sam said...

He probably saw the freshly lit menorah and your kids active outside, so he knew the family was up. I doubt he was knocking door to door at that hour. I can't fault him.

BrooklynWolf said...

Sam,

But that's the whole question? Are you fair game 24 hours a day if you're up? Or are there certain times when it's just not right (again, barring emergencies).

If he saw me coming home from a wedding at 2AM, for example, would it have been right to knock on my door two minutes after I got home?

If not, then why is 11PM okay and 2AM not? Where's the "cutoff point" and, more importantly, why then?

The Wolf

Shmuel Roth said...

Quite interesting Wolf. You called Rabbi Student "Gil" above, yet chided someone here for calling Rabbi Broyde "Prof. Broyde".

Sam said...

If you are up and about at 2 AM, and it is obvious, I don't see any problem with him approaching you at that hour (assuming he isn't disturbing anyone else by doing so.)

BrooklynWolf said...

Shumuel,

Fair enough...

Usually, I do call him "Rabbi Student." Nonetheless, there are two pertinent differences:

1. The person there meant it derogatorily (as if to imply that he's not a rabbi by his standards). I did not.

2. I know Rabbi Student in real life and therefore don't have a problem using his first name. Nonetheless, you may have a valid point and therefore I am more than willing to ask his mechila if he feels I am being too familiar.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

If you are up and about at 2 AM, and it is obvious, I don't see any problem with him approaching you at that hour (assuming he isn't disturbing anyone else by doing so.)

Fair enough. I get we just have to agree to disagree on that point. I would never (again, barring emergencies) knock on someone's door at 2AM -- even if I just saw them enter only two minutes earlier. And if I had to, I would most certainly apologize for doing so at that hour.

The Wolf

Garnel Ironheart said...

I don't even live in a large Jewish community and I get half a dozen of these guys a week.
There are times I come home late from work, put a quick dinner out and just as I'm about to eat for the first time in many hours, there's a knock at the door.
Other times I come home late and tired and as I pull out my housekey I hear a shout behind me and up the driveway they come, even though it's after 9 at night.
The schnorrers don't care about you and your preferences. Their agenda is to get your money. If you answer the door, then you're on the hook in their books.

A Fan said...

Last night as we were lighting (and we lit around 6:30), we could see lots of people across the street lighting then too, and we noticed a guy knocking on our neighbor's door- we looked at each other and said "Wow, he's totally looking for channukah in the windows! We must be next." Sure enough... But we gave a little something, he was polite and it was before 7.

I also don't appreciate getting the knock after 9. Another pet peeve, in addition to those you mentioned (and from a female perspective)- I stay fully clothed and hair-covered even at home until 8:30 or 9, because i don't want to be dashing around for clothes or a snood should someone drop by or should I need to run out for something. By 9 pm, I fully expect (and I don't think this is unreasonable) that neither event will be occurring until tomorrow, and I change into pajama pants, let my hair out etc. I REALLY don't appreciate knocks on the door at that point in the evening. As a young kallah, I did scramble to pull on a skirt and snood, or just hide out in the bedroom until my husband dealt with the guy, and I didn't like it; we've wised up since then and simply don't answer- though they tend to keep knocking for a while because they see the lights are on and they hear us moving around. Seriously, just because there are signs of life, doesn't mean we are in a condition to receive visitors, sheesh.

Gil Student said...

Please don't call me Rabbi. We've known each other too long for formalities like that.

Shira Salamone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shira Salamone said...

IM or e-mail are ideal ways to communicate at late hours because the recipient has a choice of responding or not responding. But knocking on someone's door after 10 PM (or phoning someone and having the phone call possibly wake him/her up) for any reason other than an emergency is rude and inconsiderate, unless the person has made it clear that he/she sees people/answers the phone at that hour. These schnorrers (beggars) know all about tzedakah (charity) but nothing about derech eretz (common courtesy).

Nice Jewish Guy (signed out) said...

I have to say, I have a problem with collectors (schnorrers) period. I think the idea of accosting homeowners outside- or worse, inside- their homes is incredibly lowbrow and galling. I find the shpiels to be high-pressure sales pitches, and personally, I don't respond to high pressure pitches. I'll give what I want to who I want, and as we all (should) know, aniyei ircha kodem- the poor of one's own town are primary.

I live in a house that is located behind another house- basically, I have to walk down my landlord's driveway and behind his garage to get to my house (it's a very deep property). A collector once followed me- deep onto private property!- to try and pitch me. And never mind that I was loaded with bags and packages in both hands. What did he expect me to do, stand there with my burdens and hear his shpiel? I told him (with an appropriate degree of ire) that this wasn't a good time.

Again, I find thie whole notion of collectors skeevy. A man comes up to you with a laminated letter that you probably can't read, don't care to read, and honestly- he really doesn't expect you to read (I mean, really, it could be the Gettysburg Address in Hebrew for all you know). And a letter isn't proof of anything. So this pushy, mumbling man comes up to you and shoves a letter in your face, while you're in you house wearing your slippers or in middle of dinner. Or at a wedding!

I'm not against giving tzedakah, but I don't think panhandling- even for others- should be encouraged. It's lowbrow and classless.

Be Middle Class or Be Dead said...

Yeah, I agree with ya all. It's time to ban schnorring. Too bad we can't ban schnorrers themselves from existance. schnorring is as anti-Jewish as it gets.

Master said...

Wolfish, why 10 PM? Why is the universal cutoff time that you expect everyone to know 9:30 or 10:30? Or 8:30 or 11:30 PM?

Why do you expect the entire world to know it is exactly TEN O'CLOCK?

Lion of Zion said...

WOLF:

"He either entered with my sons or they let him come in without thinking about it."

why would you sons let a complete stranger into the house?

"I never turn away a tzedaka collector."

you've expressed your views about some of the roots of social and economic problems of the jewish community, so why do you help perpetuate these problems? i'm not talking about the guy collecting for orphans on the brink of starvation. but, for example, what about for hachnosas kallah? or various yeshivos whose talmidim would spit on you and what you believe in?

do you also respond positively to every solicitation that comes in the mail or email?

JRS said...

Wolf, you are totally correct. (What's more, the people who basically say, "No, you're wrong, I don't mind if someone does it to me," are exhibiting a sort of my-perspective-is-the-only-one-that counts syndrome that runs counter to v'ahavta l're'acha kamocha---People, just because something doesn't happen to bother YOU should not mean you can't conceive that it might fairly be objectionable to someone else.)

Nice Jewish Guy, you nailed it, from the aggressive air of entitlement to the useless "haskama letter". These guys ring your bell at any hour, inarticulate, often reeking of cigarette smoke (not a cheap habit for someone basically relying on others to marry off & support his 13 children & buy them apartments in Jerusalem!) and thrust some ridiculous, often multi-photocopied letter in your face, as if that makes it all right.
In the evening, I try to answer on the intercom, something along the lines of: Sorry---it's a little late at night to be disturbing people, ringing people's bells. Click.

JRS said...

Don't even get me started on the literally dozens of phone calls, well into the night, from auto-dialing tele-fundraisers who have software or something that dials several people, puts them in a queue, and then they don't answer when you pick up because they're already on the line with someone else who was first on the queue.

It is absolutely the rudest thing, but it's tacitly condoned and approved, because it all falls, dubiously, under the heading of tzedaka (and besides, what're you doing home with your family at night, answering the phone---the current paradigm dictates attending nighttime shiurim until at least 11:30)...

JRS said...

Wolf, you are totally correct. (What's more, the people who say, "No, it's fine, I don't mind if someone does it to me," are exhibiting a sort of my-perspective-is-the-only-one-that counts syndrome that runs counter to v'ahavta l're'acha kamocha---People, just because something doesn't happen to bother YOU should not mean you can't conceive that it might fairly be objectionable to someone else.)

Nice Jewish Guy, you nailed it re: schnorrers, from the aggressive air of entitlement to the useless "haskama letter". These guys ring your bell at any hour, inarticulate, often reeking of cigarette smoke (not a cheap habit for someone basically relying on others to marry off & support his 13 children & buy them apartments in Jerusalem!) and thrust some ridiculous, often multi-photocopied letter in your face, as if that makes it all right.
In the evening, I try to answer on the intercom, something along the lines of: Sorry---it's a little late at night to be disturbing people, ringing people's bells. Click.

Anonymous said...

After long grueling hours at work, my home is my castle and i deeply resent anyone -- especially the Israeli having to buy his kid an apt. -- bothering me.

Samuel Roth said...

Especially for Tzedaka. If it was a prize award from Publishers Clearing House, well, then it would be totally okay.

BrooklynWolf said...

If it was a prize award from Publishers Clearing House, well, then it would be totally okay.

They wouldn't come ringing my bell at 11:00PM. They know better.

The Wolf

Samuel Roth said...

That's may be true Mr. Wolf. But that wasn't the point. While you may be irritated at the tzedaka collector (who is giving you the opportunity to do a massive mitzvah) coming to your house at 11 pm, IF it was the PCH coming with a $500,000 check, you would be elated - and may very well wake up your entire household (should they have been sleeping already) to share in your "simcha".

BrooklynWolf said...

No, you're wrong.

While I might be happy to receive the money, I would *still* be ticked that they chose to knock on my door at 11PM and would much rather they come at a more civilized hour.

The Wolf

Samuel Roth said...

Sure you would "much rather" they came at 11 AM. You'd also "much rather" the check had been for $1 Mil. But I very sincerely doubt you'd "be ticked" at PCH.

And I am certain you would not have made a blog post here with the focus criticizing PCH for the hour they came to your home.

BrooklynWolf said...

Fine. But now you're engaging in arguemntum ad absurdum in comparing receiving a check for half a million dollars to someone coming to your door begging for money.

The two are not even remotely comparable... and if you view them as being equal or even that the giving charity is greater (in that if you had a choice, you'd rather have a charity-collector coming to your door than PCH with a half million dollar check), then you are one of the few such tzaddikim on earth. Most of us mere mortals, however, are not like that.

The Wolf

Samuel Roth said...

Now I at least give you credit for being intellectually honest with yourself. Nevertheless, you're excusing the difference with "we're not such big tzadikim to be on that madreiga" simply doesn't wash.

1. Try to reach that madreiga, or as close to it as you possibly can.

2. At the very minimum, even if you don't reach it, or anywhere close to it, respect the fact that that is still the proper course, rather than criticizing the baal tzedaka -- who is doing YOU a bigger favor than you are doing him. (And we won't get into the additional point that you're giving him charity is a bigger benefit to you than that $500K PCH check.)

Anonymous said...

I think the thing to do is to let the person know why you are not giving. He needs constructive feedback. Alternatively, give a small donation and explain in a friendly way that in the future you will not respond to him or anyone else who comes to your home after 10:00 p.m. and that you know many people who feel the same way and therefore the shnorer would do much better if he came earlier.

BTW - I think 9:00 is a much more civilized cut off.

Anonymous said...

You think 9pm, Wolf thinks 10pm, another guy thinks 8pm, and another thinks 11pm.

Now how in the world is anyone supposed to know what everybodies idea of a civilized time is?

Rabbi said...

Maybe because it was Channuka he was taking literally "ad sheh tzes ragalim min ha shuk" - you are supposed to light your candles while people are still out and about, he saw you lighting and said to himself, "Here's a Yid who still considers this a time for being out and about, I'll ask him for help."

Remember, regardless of how we may feel about people knocking, it's risky to judge someone without having stood in his shoes...