As a college student, I was always grubbing for a few extra dollars. I held part-time restaurant and retail jobs, and I even built hydraulic hoses for 18-wheelers. "Anything for a buck" was my motto. It was also my excuse for becoming a telephone solicitor — that unloved wage-slave who calls your home just as you sit down to dinner. So, instead of studying or attending school events, I was often renewing magazine subscriptions or selling aluminum siding. Yeah, you read that right: Aluminum siding! I fell pretty low in the late ’70s. I even listened to disco.
Selling magazines was my forte. I called around the southeast warning of massive disaster if a single, precious Redbook magazine subscription expired. I loved calling Mississippi, because Mississippi grandmothers loved me, and they renewed just because I called them from Atlanta. I miss those wonderful days when receiving a long-distance telephone call was exciting. I could almost imagine sweet Miss Opal opening her mailbox and exclaiming, "Oh, look! It’s here, just like that nice young man promised! He called me long-distance from Atlanta, you know!"
A single great phone call could be the rare highlight of a job that was stealing my college life away. One boring Saturday, I dialed a small Kentucky town and talked to a college girl who was home for the weekend. She was friendly, and her voice was lovely. She renewed her subscription, but neither of us hung up. We chatted and flirted, and since I was girlfriendless, our call was the closest thing to a date I had seen all year. After about 30 minutes, I knew I had to get back to work. I ended my date with Miss Kentucky and made a few more calls, but it was too late. Talking to her had reminded me of a life I was missing just so I could earn a few bucks. I put down the phone, got up from my seat, and simply walked out. I’d never done anything like that before, or since. I do wish I’d called Miss Opal before I left. She would have wanted to hear about my Kentucky girlfriend. Redbook was full of good articles, but nothing beats a real romance story, told to you by a man who calls all the way from Atlanta just because he likes you. And Miss Opal, I never went back for my paycheck. Even a poor college boy knows that great memories are worth far more than a pocketful of singles.
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Conyers, can be reached at email@example.com.