We take the eldest boy to college soon. I’ve tried to think of something grandiose to say to him before departing, to inspire him to greatness, but all I have so far is, “We’ll be back in four years to pick you up. Don’t be late.”
Despite the heart’s best intentions, that speech came straight from the wallet. I’ll have three kids in college by then and living under a bridge, so when you see me standing at an intersection, give generously, it’s for the kids.
When the boy graduates, I’ll have one last life lesson at the ready. Twenty-seven years ago, I graduated with high honors with a bachelor's in advertising, or so said the gold Reese’s peanut butter cup wrapper on my diploma. Smart as I appeared, I’d already done one of the dumbest things of my life.
I blame “The Andy Griffith Show.” To me, Mayberry had it going on, even if nothing was going on in Mayberry. If you grew up in Naples when I did, you know we were just one Aunt Bee and half an Opie away from being Mayberry South. Mayberry had Sheriff Andy Taylor, Aunt Bee putting pies on the sill 24/7, a crime rate to kill for, my main man Floyd fixing follicles down at the barbershop and Otis feeling nothing but sunshine on the moonshine. Sure, Barney Fife could be a goober, but how big of a goober could he be when Goober was down the street pumping gas?
So, no New York or Chicago for me, I was coming home to my Mayberry, Naples, to get a job in an advertising agency, marry my high school sweetheart and live happily ever after. Consequently, I ignored all the recruiters coming to campus looking for gold Reese’s wrappers. Now, since I did that, anyone with measurable brain waves would rightfully assume a gold-wrapper guy already had everything lined up in Naples. In short, if I was going to put all my eggs in the Mayberry basket, you’d think I’d at least make sure Mayberry had a chicken. Alas, the poultry census of 1985 went unrecorded.
Instead, I just came home. The mailman got a hernia from my bulk shipments of résumés and I scraped up a couple of interviews. On the way to the first one, a song came on the radio called, “I don’t want to work!” There could not have been more divine inspiration if Jesus himself had been riding shotgun singing karaoke.
I do the interview, it goes well, the guy leaves the room for a few minutes, comes back and says, “I’d like to make you an offer.” He proceeds to tell me he’d like me to recruit clients for him and he’ll give me a commission on the business I bring in.
"And?” I say.
"And what?” he says.
“And that’s it?” I say.
“Well, yes. It’s a great opportunity,” he says.
Four years of schooling, the gold Reese’s wrapper, and he wants me to resurrect the role of Willy Loman in the upcoming production of “Death of a Graduate.”
"Yes, I agree, it is a great opportunity. As much as I'd like to jump on this and get started tomorrow, I've also got some great opportunities on the front burner with the vacuum cleaner and encyclopedia folks, so, I’m gonna have to pass."
The other interview was on Marco Island, which at the time would’ve been best known as the last chance for gas for 100 miles, except they were still using horses. I’m being interviewed by an elderly man, “elderly” in that Marco Island was still part of the original land mass when he helped force the Seminole Indians into the Everglades so he could set up his shop. The interview is going well, but when he begins to cough up a lung, I silently kick myself for my lucky suit not having a pocket square should said lung take flight. Fortunately, things calm down and the lung is not evicted.
A knock comes at an outer door and the elderly man excuses himself and says he’ll be right back. Being so green as to not have either a pocket square or substantial experience dealing with elderly people who walk away, I took him at his word. He lied. He never came back. He…never…came…back. How’s that for an interview? To this day, I don’t know where he went. No card, no flowers, no phone call. I was left to wonder if I had perhaps come across antagonistic and his mother had raised him not to throw a punch, but just to walk away.
Those were the highlights of my local job interviews, my Mayberry dream snuffed before Aunt Bee cooled a pie or Otis poured his coffee. I never did have a career in advertising. One day recently, I pulled out my diploma and, in a moment of painful symbolism, the gold wrapper fell off. Curious, I unwrapped a real Reese’s peanut butter cup to see if the gold one matched. It was a perfect fit. Maybe I hadn’t been so smart after all. I couldn’t bring myself to sniff the gold wrapper, but if it had smelled like chocolate, it might have explained a lot.
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Would you like Kevin to speak to your local group? Are you willing to pay him for it? Remember, it’s for the kids. Contact him at LIFEisHEALD@yahoo.com.