Everyday, the seven deadly sins lead to unhappiness.
The dark side.
Imagine a hard-boiled cynic in a bleak sleazy setting.
Not being a Bible reader, in spite of its popularity, my day ends with the bridge column. Too, as a practicing non-Catholic, sidestepping the altar of misbids and poor defense, is a free pass from purgatory. Where the high priest of Hail Marys issues a thousand yarboroughs, hands in bridge or whist containing no ace and no card higher than a nine.
….the Church of the Painful Truth.
The costliest sin, please, bear witness as I enter the confessional; GREED.
Late winter, 1969, reviving a Mom&Pop drugstore from imminent failure, business began an upward tangent. The regional expansion, visiting physician offices during the few off hours, I learned that many offices resisted calling any pharmacy “long distance”. Recalling, phone in prescriptions incurred a 25¢ charge …. a 5% expense, when an office visit with a patient then, $5.
A popular Niles, MI doctor, John Bruni MD, complained that calling patient prescriptions to us had cost him $1.75 in a single month, the = of two BigMacs and a supersize order of fries.
Willing to absorb the cost, I requested the newest strategy, a 1-800 toll free line from ATT, the sole monopoly. Offered a choice of numbers, I chose 1-800-439-2466. Why…?…because the last seven digits spelled HEXAGON. Readers might recognize that as the six sided benzene ring, core of all organic chemistry, the pride of pharmacy students and vegetarians. What could be better, easy to advertise and remember, for a failed English major, I felt quite clever. Plus, I turned down 800-244-5375 which translated to (800) BIGJERK.
It worked. That 4th line started slowly but soon rang, sometimes off-the-hook. Yes, regional medical offices galore, but often insurance salesmen, stockbrokers, sweepstakes, roofing, siding, and the sheriff’s auxilary extorting donations. Or else.
Guilt by benevolence must be in the Bible.
The formula depicted above, adrenaline, the active component in the now infamous Epi-Pen®, a timely need if you encounter an anaphylactic reaction to nuts. If you already knew that, stop, become a Jeopardy® contestant. Now.
Possessing a 1-800 number became the fashion. As the numbers available began to diminish, the value increased. Historical footnote : prefixes 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, 833 had not yet been imagined. Now we were the cat’s meow. Today equal to the cutting edge.
A vanity plate in the world of commerce.
“Hello, I’m Bill, calling from Cleveland OH, are you the owner ?
“Just a chat. I’m president of Hexagon Industries, manufacturer of hex bolts. I’m intrigued by your telephone number, as it could really benefit our business. Would you be willing to relinquish 4392466?”
” Umm, hem, uh haw, it’s really quite an asset, we’ve spent years promoting it, at great personal cost, eight dollars a month, effort, huge effort, yada yada, priceless, yada, blah, blah”
” I fully understand, but if, say, $5000 is enough to change your mind, could you call me back ?”
” Yeah, yeah, sure, but not likely…thanks for calling”
Money was tight. But greedy me, I’m walking on air. I’ve got this chump by the testicles…if he’d offer a lousy $5K, why not $10K ?
Let him hang in the wind, like a palm tree swaying in a typhoon, wait a year or two, glued to his phone, anticipating a positive response from this pharmacist, self-supposed pillar in his community, a member of the most trusted profession……ahaaa..!…not a chance, I’ll go for the gullet, $10K or no dice.
Yes, greed, like all sins, has hindsight. It taught me that class and humility mean far more than money or possession. Class would have been to offer the number, for nothing, an extension of good will, and invite him to visit South Bend if he ever headed west. That would be a remembrance, forever, and I wouldn’t be writing this column.
I did call, a year later, and he was delighted. Good news. The government antitrust case against ATT was moving forward and he was offered the same number, at no charge, with an (888) prefix. “My sincere thanks that you didn’t take the bait”.
It was too late, too hollow, too late, too shallow to offer now. Too late to turn a wrong into a right….I’ve regretted it ever since.
My ex, a lovely woman, will turn 78 on October 21, 2019. She remarried. Her second husband, much better than the 1st.
Stay tuned…it gets worse.
Out of curiousity, tonight I dialed the number (800) Hexagon.
A recording asked if I was over 50 y/o; press 1 for yes, or 2 for no.
I pressed 2, so add lying to that list of sins.