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Daze of My Life: Not a problem

Daze of My Life
Not a problem

I hear it all the time when I decline some kind of offer - an invitation or solicitation. Of course, it's not a problem - for me. But why impose on me the inference that somehow it's a problem for you? Again, that's no my problem. (I have my own problems, and I'll try and not make this a cancer-column - for a change.) What I should be hearing back to my usually polite decline, is an expression of gratitude for my having given the person the opportunity to talk/listen to their pitch, rather than be told, somewhat presumptuously, that my not responding/being interested in their say-so, is not a problem - for them.
Conversely, does that also mean, for some vendors/solicitors/sellers that my not being interested in what they have to say/sell could be a problem for me? What, am I no longer allowed to not be interested, not open, to what someone who I don't know and whom I have never met, has to say to me? It's still a free country, right? He (or she) can say whatever he wants (except yelling "Fire!" in a movie theater). Therefore, shouldn't it be equally true, without fear of consequences, that I don't have to listen? Regardless of whether some other parties think that my listening would be for my own good, I am entitled, dare I say constitutionally protected (sort of) to not listen? And my not listening (not being open) shouldn't be characterized negatively, as in "Not a problem."
Now I may be splitting hairs here (or maybe it's an infinitive I'm splitting), but telling me how something might benefit me would interest me a whole lot more than how my response - or lack thereof, might be a problem for you. You need to take the high road and say, "Hello," not travel the low, circuitous road and try to get in by the side door or maybe even the back door. You want my attention, you want my interest; you have to earn it, you have to work for it. And working for it doesn't mean invoking a negative just because the initial feedback you're receiving from me isn't positive. Of that I'm sure. (As my father so often said, "I'm very seldom wrong, but this time I'm right.")
And you know what else I'm sure of: I matter more to me than whatever something I don't do matters to somebody else. And likewise, I don't expect anything I say or do to matter more to you than something you may say or do. It's human nature. The three most important people in my life are me, myself and I. I'm sure you also know who's most important to you. Therefore, I already know what is or is not a problem for me. I don't need - or expect, quite frankly, a third party (and an unrelated party at that) to advise me of what problems I've caused them. Whenever I hear "Not a problem" from some person in response to my lack of interest in something they said or asked me to do or want me to buy, I think of something Capt. Hawkeye Pierce replied to Major Frank Burns during a M*A*S*H episode when Frank asked/wanted Hawkeye to do something (that he was disinclined to even consider): "The instrument to measure my indifference to that remark has yet to be invented."

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.

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