Archive for February 24th, 2011



February 24, 2011

My phone rang one night, about 15 years ago, in the days before call display. A strange voice asked for me. “Speaking,” I said.

“It’s XXX,” the man said. I am identifying him by a pseudonym to keep his real name, which is Clifford, a secret.

“Hey, man,” I said. “Long time no hear.” This was a guy I knew tangentially in high school, a nice enough cat, not part of our crowd of gothy nerd metalheads, but friendly enough. I had seen him around over the years, working at a variety of retail jobs, but at this point it had probably been a decade since we’d spoken. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, “about once a month I take out our old yearbooks and look people up, just to see how they’re doing.”

I told him that was a great idea, really inventive (and I meant it; stalking hadn’t been discovered yet). He thanked me. We got caught up on marriages, kids, jobs, that sort of thing, and after about 15 minutes he said goodbye, and that was that.

About a week later, he called me at work and asked if I had time to grab a coffee. “Sure,” I said, and as it turned out he was at the pay phone at the coffee shop down the street from my office, I strolled over — and found him sitting at a table, two hot coffees in front of him. He was wearing a bizarre old grey pinstriped suit, dusty and musty, and a wide polyester tie. On his lapel was a four-inch gold pin with the word SUCCESS! on it.

“Hey,” I said.

“Have a seat,” he told me. “So that I can tell you about multi-level marketing and how it made me rich.”

The next time I saw him was at the grocery store. He was stacking apples.