North of the Alley

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Posted: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 1:05 pm

Back in the stone ages when I worked at another library I got a call from the wife of a friend.  He was also a librarian.  She wanted me to recommend a printer who would print calling cards.  I didn’t understand her at first.  I thought she meant a business card.  No, she said.  She wanted a calling card, also known as a visitors card, that was once popular in Europe and the United States especially among the upper class.  These cards were used by a visitor as a way of announcing himself and inquiring if he might visit the house and its occupants.  Often, the visitor’s servant would leave the card at the house and the people there would reply at some future day. 

Well, that’s what my friend’s wife wanted, a social card.  After some digging I found that calling cards are no longer used.  Today, it’s the business card used for professional purposes.  It usually contains the owner’s name, address, contact information, company, and position in the company.  My friend’s wife was disappointed.  She decided to get something else for her husband’s birthday. 

What if calling cards came back in style?  What if, instead of your business as in business cards, your calling card described you.  Your personal you.  What you are besides your occupation. 

Okay, I’m a librarian.  That’s how I make my living.  I enjoy library work.  I get to meet interesting people and hang around books all day.  Once in a while I even get to read one. 

But I’m more than that.  To my doctor, I’m a regular patient.  Someone who is his bread and butter.  Someone he sees every few months, reads my chart and shakes his head at.  He reminds how long I may not live and the manner in which I may pass away. 

To my dentist, I’m another cavity.  Usually a cavity that was filled thirty years ago and has worn out.  I’m getting unusually adept at ferreting out fillings that are about to give way.  They have a slight spongy feel, like treading on a floor that needs more support.  I try hard to schedule a regular checkup but I’m always pre-empted by a worn-out filling. 

To my grocer, I’m a steak lover.  I’m also good for several twelve packs of soda.  Once in a while I splurge for ice cream, especially when I want to apologize to my wife for some innocent transgression.  I’m a great rib customer too.

To my dartball teammates I’m a mediocre player.  I can be depended upon for a base hit about every fourth time at bat.  That’s on my good nights.  Those are few.  Usually, I shine at the after-game festivities.  I love to listen to my teammates talk and ask them questions when there are lulls in the conversation.  I have entertainment value for them.  Then there’s the beer…enough said there.

I’m all of that and more.  I’m a writer, especially a columnist and you can see the proof here.  I don’t claim to be a great columnist, but I like to think I catch some readers’ attention on a somewhat regular basis. 

I have ambitions to become a great American novelist.  So far none of these ambitions have come to fruition, but I have a little time yet. 

I’m a husband always in need of building up my score of brownie points with my wife.  A doctor I knew once told me that building up brownie points is a good thing.  It helps to build character.  Beyond that, he said, they aren’t worth much.  They’re so hard earned and so easily lost.

I’m a dog walker with our dog Samantha.  She depends upon me for her daily saunter around the neighborhood.  I’m her daily source of canine entertainment.  That’s important – a daily dog amusement machine.

Once I thought I was a gardener.  I had my Farmer Joe hat and trusty hoe with which I did battle with the nasty weeds that overrun even my most well-tended garden.  A real gardener lives in his garden, carefully tending each plant.  A real gardener takes pride in showing off his beautiful garden, the star in his life.  I hid my garden behind the house, hoping that those who happened to glance out the window would see a butterfly habitat instead of a weed choked mess. Master Gardener is never a title they will bestow upon me. 

I’m a volunteer.  I usher at church, always afraid I would drop the collection plate.  I’m a treasurer on a governing board.  I’m only treasurer because no one else wanted the job. I help keep the landscape up around the church.  I don’t do a very good job; the others must watch me very closely or I’ll hack away at the wrong bushes, landscape flowers, and ornamental plants.  My reputation as the polar opposite of a Master Gardener was skillfully earned on the church campus.

I guess you could say I’m a jack-of-all-trades and a real master of not much at all.  Often, I know just enough to be dangerous. People give me lots of space on the sidewalk, afraid that some calamity will befall them if they get too close.  They are right to be afraid.  I am too.

What would you put on your calling card? 

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