Saturday, November 6, 2010

Turning 20

July 11, 1978.  Tallahassee, FL.  It was hot, and I was hot.  Not "HOT" in the modern usage of that word.  Just miserably hot -- from the heat of the Tallahassee muggy summer day, and from the trip to the post office in the student union which resulted in further ruining my mood.  In my box were no birthday cards, but a single envelope, addressed to me from my bank...  Upon opening the envelope I learned I had been charged service fees for overdrawing my account.... though I had made my deposit, it had been a day late to cover the checks I'd already written... not a particularly atypical practice for me in those days.

"Fletch" in those college days

Still, I was mad at the bank, as only a person who refuses to take responsibility for her own actions can be, and so I harnessed my anger and allowed it to propel me all the way into town and to that miserable bank.  I was going to teach THEM a thing or two.  Back in those days I lacked the good sense to try to "work with them."  Instead,  I presented my red-faced, sweaty self to the bank teller and I informed her that I wanted to "CLOSE MY ACCOUNT" because they were robbing me of my meager funds.  I would take all that I had in the account out, thank you very much! (Hah! I told them!)

Remarkably, they did not attempt to change my mind.  They gave me my money and never even watched to see whether I made it out the door safely.  I was just that insignificant.  Insignificant.  That's how I felt on that glorious, sweltering day when I turned 20 years old.

I had a long walk ahead of me to get back to my apartment which was on the other side of town.  As I walked back toward campus, I bemoaned my life and wondered if there was really any reason I was killing myself to go to school year-round, taking overloads every quarter, and managing not to flunk out of school while working enough part-time jobs to keep my meager bank account hovering just above zero on a good day. WOE WAS I!!

As I was crossing campus, I heard a whistle and looked up, breaking, for a moment, from my misery to see who was whistling.  Not ever being particularly good at seeing, I looked around, seeing nobody.  Then I heard a familiar voice call my name and finally located the person... my friend, "Teach."  He asked me what I was doing, or how I was doing, I don't recall which, but somehow in my conveyance of my "status," I managed to let him know it was my birthday.

"Really?  How old are you," my friend asked.  When I told him I had just turned 20, he said, "You mean I've been hanging out with a TEENAGER???"

Finally I laughed.  The horrible birthday had turned into an OK, normal day with one silly statement of the obvious.  Now, back in those days the drinking age was 18 and so the fact that Teach and I and other friends had enjoyed drinking in the local haunts a time or two was not unusual, by any stretch.  And since I'd met him when he was teaching my Introduction to Government (or something like that), I have a sneaking suspicion he KNEW I was just a teenager.  But friends are friends, without consideration of age.

Teach in those days...
well, he never wore a tie and jacket
in my recollection, but....

So Teach suggested maybe I'd like to go out drinking for my birthday.  Now, in telling this story, I have to say, this feels VERY, VERY far removed from where I am today, but, I suppose it is, in part, why I AM who I am today.  Off we went, I with my now-dead checkbook, containing all my cash funds, in my back pocket.  We started with food, because drinking on an empty stomach is a bad idea.  I recall I had a salad bar meal... good move, I tell you!

I don't recall a whole lot of that night.  I do know that Teach dropped me off at the entrance to my apartment, after he decided I'd had enough, or perhaps more than enough to drink.  (When he told me the story the next day, he said he decided I needed to go home when I slid down the stairs out of one of the bars!)

Once he dropped me off in the parking lot of my complex, he left and I headed to my apartment.

I awoke the next morning, with some odd, "dream-like" memories, and missing some things.  I had the memory of doing the "elementary backstroke" in a pool. And I was missing my glasses -- and my flip flops....AND my checkbook with my CASH!!!  But on the chair in my living room was a guy's uniform shirt from one of my places of employment.  I was puzzled.  I had NO idea where my stuff was, or why there was this uniform shirt in my living room.  And without my glasses, I was pretty blind.

I went outside into the hot morning sun and discovered my flip-flops and glasses lying in the little front lawn of my neighbor's apartment.  As I was collecting my stuff, and looking for the still missing checkbook, another neighbor came up and asked how I was feeling.  from his tone, I could tell there was more to the story.

Chuck, my friend and across the sidewalk neighbor, and co-worker at WUV's International (seriously, that WAS the name of the hamburger joint I worked in), told me that he and his wife Linda had come home from work at about 3AM, hot and sweaty, and ready to go swimming in a neighboring apartment's pool... our complex did not have one.  As they walked in from the parking lot, down the little sidewalk that separated the tiny grass lawns in front of the apartments, Linda screamed, "THERE'S A DEAD BODY!!!!"  Chuck looked and sure enough, there I was, dead to the world.  I had never made it to my apartment.  Rather, I had passed out in the neighbor's lawn.

Well, thankfully, they knew me, and got me inside my apartment.  They said I was a regular Chatty Cathy once I was awake, and demanded to know where they were going.  I apparently then weaseled my way into joining them for the middle of the night swim.  Ahha, so THAT's where I was doing the elementary backstroke.  And apparently in their attempts to get me into the apartment, Chuck had put down his uniform shirt which he'd been carrying.  And, according to Chuck and Linda, we'd also decided the SAUNA was a good idea, as long as we were raiding another apartment complex's pool....

So, as my head was pounding with the over indulgence of alcohol, augmented by an idiotic decision to "sweat out all of the water in my body," I was still concerned about the missing checkbook and cash contained therein.  Nobody had seen that.  Off I hiked back to campus and over to the traffic booth where my friend Teach worked part-time.  I told him I was missing the checkbook and he obligingly drove me around to the various bars we'd visited the night before to inquire about it. Of course, no luck.  I was 20 years old and penniless... and not ABOUT to call Dad to ask for money!

Instead, I wrote to my brother Tim.  Tim is a year younger than I and, at the time, was serving in the Army in Germany.  I dunno, seems like a very intelligent plan to write to someone with an APO address, asking for financial help to tie me over for a week or two....  obviously, those brain cells were going to need a few days, weeks, maybe MONTHS to recuperate.

Over the next couple of days, I did receive birthday cards, which contained some blessed cash to help me survive, and about day 8, I received a notice in my box that I had a letter that  was "postage due."  By day 8 I was no longer sick from the alcohol, but I was still ticked to have to fork over a dime to get a stinking letter.  My friend from high school was notorious for sending me overweight letters, and I was certain this one would also be from her.  It was not.

The letter had no return address.  It was a plain white envelope, and it was heavy.  I paid my dime, and took the envelope, opened it and looked in shock at its contents.  It was my checkbook.  OK, well that was nice, but since the checking account was now defunct, that was just an overweight piece of mail.  Still, I looked inside the checkbook and sure enough, there was all of my withdrawn cash. ALL OF IT!

I was never able to thank that person, whoever it was that found the checkbook and its contents, so easily spent rather than returned.  I was disbelieving and thrilled at the same time.  And I have remembered that act of honesty by an anonymous person all of these years... it helped reestablish my faith in my fellow man, so to speak.  Of course, the eight days I sweated through that "no money, not gonna tell Dad," was a GREAT lesson too!

This evening, as I sat down to unwind, to post about my day, or to muse about what traveled across these brain cells today, I thought I'd share this story... why was I thinking about it today?  Well, November 6 is Teach's birthday.  He turns 70.  I had the opportunity to visit him in my recent trip to FL in September, and we had a lovely time catching up on the past 30+ years.....  I hope he has a very happy birthday.  I didn't send a card.  I didn't make a phone call.  But I did remember a day, more that 32 years ago, when he changed my mood, and made my 20th birthday!

Thank you Teach, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Teach, taking a picture of me
as I take a picture of him
FL, 9/2010


Sharon said...

Reading this, has given me a new worry, my youngest is 21 and on his own, what has he been up to and I know it would be don't ask Mom. (Dad is still a pushover) That was quite a predicament you had gotten into! Scary! I wonder what you would have done, had Teach not taken you under his wing and given you a Birthday, although, I do wish he had taken you to your door and safely inside, but I figure he had a belt or two himself, LOL!
Happy Birthday to your good friend!

Judy's Corner said...

LOL, Sharon... I'm sure I told him I'd be FINE.... I was always fearless! Those days are soooooo, far away now. I did also worry about my children when they left for college, but that's all part of growing up, and learning responsibilities (or not!) LOL!

Have a great weekend!

mixednut555 said...

WV: bacoate

Nekkid Chicken said...

That is so cool J.

Judy's Corner said...

Hey Kat,
Nice to see the smile!

Judy's Corner said...

Thanks Mal...

I dunno about cool, but I do know I learned some valuable life lessons through that experience!

aswesow said...

I'm with Sharon. Tho looking back I experienced the same sort of things. I lived through it, and yes I guess I did take something from it. You know, I've made it clear to my daughter that I am here when she needs me, but I know that she'd avoid calling me just like you didn't call your Dad. Why is that?

Judy's Corner said...


I think, at least in my case, I didn't want to "let him down." Also, Dad was back in MD working away, still raising three of my four teenage brothers, AND putting both my sister and me through college... it just felt WRONG to ask for MORE money... just felt wrong. Even if I had just TOLD him about what had happened,had not ASKED for money, I have a feeling he would have made a few dollars available to tie me over, but that, well, I HAD to figure that one out on my own!