Thought I'd forgotten -- or maybe you've forgotten? -- the rest of the list that started so long ago with Neal's meme about the little things that change our lives? Here's number four.
4) They were a series of numbers...who knew where they were from? A friend of a friend, someone I knew up in Buffalo gave me my first batch so that I could call him, free, anytime I wanted. Back in the day when phone freaking was still relatively new, these sorts of lists circulated around campuses like mine pretty freely and many people carried them around in their wallets. I had a boyfriend (see #5) who lived about 60 miles away; I was crazy in love and desperate to talk to him when the daily letters didn't seem to suffice. So, when I found numbers (obviously a credit card number) scribbled on a scrap of paper in the phone booth across the hall from my dorm room, I picked it up and started to use it. And use it. And use it. And use it. Unlike the other numbers I had used before, it didn't go dead
within days. It stayed active for months. In fact, I used it from October until May -- what good luck! And then, one day, I opened the door to find a very good friend completely furious and bearing down on me to give me the butt-whooping I had coming. As it turned out, it was her father's business I had been skivving, to the tune of several thousand dollars. (This in mid-1980s money.) Even more complicated, her mother was my English professor, in whose class I was enrolled and at whose table I routinely ate dinner. I can't describe the hundred different ways I felt sick.
I was no longer just screwing around having fun. I was a thief, with no way to pay back the huge bill I had incurred.
I swallowed her, and using my own money at last, began to make some phone calls. First, I called the man I had bilked and apologized. I then called the investigation branch of ATT and turned myself in, promising that I would make full
restitution whenever they sent me a bill. (I was the first phone freaker the investigator had ever actually talked
to...he was flabbergasted that I called him.) I decided to wait to tell my parents until the bill arrived, and only
then if I could not arrange an extended payment plan. That was gutless, I suppose, but at least they didn't have
to learn that they had sent me to Very Expensive Private Liberal Arts College so that I could major in felony...at least
So what was the upshot? I waited many months for a bill and received none. I was never fully forgiven by the victims of the
theft (which I guess was fair); I was not prosecuted nor was I flunked out of spite, but I never had the nerve to pass
the salad around their wonderful rosewood table again (which was sort of like being cast of a literary paradise). My friendship with their daughter cooled (naturally), but eventually came back from the brink and we now chat once in a while.
I never had to tell my parents of my moral failure and I determined that I would live from there on out so that
I would never have to disappoint them...at least not like that.
And my friends wonder why I hate talking on the phone.