I write my stories hoping people will identify. But sometimes they don’t. Case in point: My confession about not eating eggs (and how that might seriously threaten my aspirations as a actor.) I could sense from your polite but eyebrow-arched responses that, when it comes to that aversion at least, I am pretty much on my own.
Well, I’m taking another chance. Maybe you’ll be on board, maybe you won’t. There’s nothing I can do about it. These are the stories I tell. And I tell them for one reason. They’re the only stories I’ve got.
Today, another, for me, normal, but, I’m betting, soon to be exposed as bizarre, personal admission:
I’m uncomfortable talking to people on the phone.
Goodbye, if you’re leaving. For the bold ones amongst you, moving on.
Today, Anna and I are flying to Toronto to visit family and friends. One person we’re scheduled to meet up with is my Auntie Bea. Auntie Bea is a dream. I have no problem talking to her on the phone. Which I recently did, to arrange a time for us to get together. Making that call was hardly difficult at all. I only put it off for a week.
The call, however, reminded me of another call I was required to make. I was in my twenties, and about to travel somewhere I’d never visited before, Miami Beach, Florida. Not all that exciting, I suppose, but for some reason, probably laziness, I was resistant to trying to decipher a foreign language. So I remained on English-speaking terrain, choosing a city my (paternal) grandmother visited annually, but had never taken me. I wanted to see what I had missed.
We had a distant cousin living in Miami. Learning I had chosen that destination for my holiday, my mother insisted that I call her. Which brings up an area I really don’t understand.. Somehow, though we have the technology to call anyone, from anywhere, at any time, there seems to be some duty-binding obligation, when you’re in the city of even the most distant relative, to call that person on the phone. I have seen this issue dealt with on Curb Your Enthusiasm. This time, I agree with Larry. It makes no sense whatsoever.
“Cousin, Harriet? Earl Pomerantz. I’m in town. I don’t know you, and I don’t have time to see you. I just had to call you on your local telephone system.”
But my mother was unbending on the matter. “You can’t go all the way to Miami without calling her.”
That’s the rule. Going to Miami and not calling your cousin – forbidden. Absolutely “No Can Do.” Don’t think about coming home if you don’t make the call. Die in Miami, or disappear from the earth. Not calling is totally unacceptable. It’s unheard of. It’s impossible. You can’t do it. End of story.
Well, if you feel that strongly about it…
S there you have it. I had a cousin in Miami, who I had never spoken in my life, who, though I was uncomfortable doing so, I was obligated to call her. I will now add some weight to the problem, one seriously compounding obstacle.
My cousin’s name was Boo Boo.
You heard me.
Now you’ve got it all. Somehow, I was expected to call the number my mother had given me, and when they picked up on the other end, I was expected to say
“Is Boo Boo there?”
“May I speak to Boo Boo?”
“Is that Boo Boo?”
“Have I reached the residence of Boo Boo?”
That was my challenge. Earl Pomerantz, a person, uncomfortable with telephones at the best of times, was expected to call up a stranger, and deliver some form of an introductory sentence that, before it was over, would include the word
I found that very difficult to do.
So I stalled. I went to the beach. I went to the dog track. I made a pilgrimage to the Cardoza Hotel, where my maternal grandparents used to stay. I ordered a steak dinner sent up and watched the hockey playoffs on television (much to the confusion of the Room Service waiter who delivered my food. “You come all the way to Miami to sit in your room and watch hockey?”)
I did a lot of things in Miami. But I didn’t call Boo Boo.
At least not yet.
It’s the last night of my vacation. I have a ticket to see the original Shirelles, one of my favorite singing groups from the sixties, who are performing in the lounge at my very own hotel. (It turned out the be a particularly small lounge. The room was small, the tables were small, the stage was small. The only thing large were The Shirelles, who, through the years, had expanded considerably in girth. This resulted – and the diminutive stage didn’t help – in the ladies’ continually bumping into each other while executing their patented Motown moves, choreographed for them when they were a totally different size.)
Okay, so I’m dressed up for the show. One “duty call”, and I’m off to my reward – a musical nostalgia trip with the sensational Shirelles.
I pick up the phone. My hands are sweating. I begin dialing the number my mother had written down…
I’m not sure how much time went by. I’m only sure of the next words I heard. And the next words I heard were these:
Oh my little Soldier Boy
I'll be true to you...
I was sitting in the lounge, watching The Shirelles.
The Road Not Taken is paved with decisions not made. How different my life might have been, what lofty heights I might boldly have scaled, what daunting challenges I might bravely have taken on, what achievements and successes I might gloriously have attained, if only I had gutted it out, confronted my demons…
and finished that call to Cousin Boo Boo.