I just dialed a number that I should have called yesterday.
For over eight years, each Thursday at 8:30 a.m. my office phone would ring and I’d grab the receiver to hear a voice serenading me by name to the melody of “Waltzing Matilda.” The caller (who swears by the way, that he doesn’t know that song, but I digress), was a vendor with whom, through the many years in which we did or tried to do business together, I came close to stepping over the line dividing business and friendship.
Over time, our once a week phone call became the instrument by which we defined our association. It originated, first and foremost as a sales call, but I’m sorry to say, there wasn’t much business. A less persistent recruiter would have moved on to clients who offered increased opportunity to perform the service for which he earns his income. I came to know though, that behind an assertive and straightforward business demeanor lives a man who cares beyond the next job order. So since he never gave up, our Thursday phone calls grew to be less about business, and more about our personal lives. In light of that added dimension, he sent me snap shots of anniversary vacations in Bermuda, family Christmas parties and his dog Cowens, for those of you not old enough, named for a famous Boston Celtics player. He apprised me of his daughter-the-writer's publications; the success of his other daughter’s catering business, and emailed pictures of two button-eyed grandchildren.
Through out this “relationship” if that is the right word, our conversations became such a intrinsic part of my week that if I didn’t hear from him first thing on Thursday I worried; and if I neglected his phone call on a busy day, by late afternoon there’d be an email checking in on me. So, when I lost my job on a Wednesday afternoon, it was imperative that I contact him first thing Thursday morning so he didn’t call and get no answer, or worse, hear the news from someone other than me. That first post employment communication was an email though; I wasn’t convinced I could compose myself sufficiently to speak.
Since then though, we’re back on the phone. It hasn’t been every Thursday, but it’s no less than every other week; we seem to take turns calling. It was my turn to call though and yesterday marked two weeks since we last spoke. Unemployment however has blessed me with a touch of early senility. I have lost track of my days so it didn’t occur to me yesterday while out sipping coffee and trading updates with a former colleague that it was Thursday. I did remember with a pang however, as I flipped the covers on and off at 1:15 this morning, that a second week had passed with out our customary conversation.
Now that I am no longer employed, this man has nothing to gain of a business nature from taking my calls. But after driving my daughter to school today, I set a timer as a reminder and sat down to the computer to complete the one employment search task scribbled on my planner. When the alarm beeped, I stood up from my chair, grabbed the phone and punched in a sequence of numbers that I know by heart.
I guess this post defines comfort and trust and camaraderie, because if you ask me now, I’d tell you that long ago he and I stepped over that blurred line between business and friendship; but it took my job loss to make that clear to me. So, when I phoned this morning, he picked up on his end and as I knew that he would, offered me the jovial and welcoming greeting that I’ve heard, no kidding, almost every week since the turn of the century.
It’s true that old habits die hard and I’m glad this one hasn’t expired yet. It may have been twenty-four hours late--but call completed--all is right with the world and I am free move about through the day.