Sayre over at Sayre Smiles is hosting First Fun Monday for February. Since it's the month of LOVE, she's asked us to share stories of first dates or of dating gone right or wrong. Well, here's my story that fits in both categories, Pubishers Clearing House weekend in New York or "Faye and the Accountant Do the Big Apple". BTW, this is an oldy but goody re-posted from the past.
Around the end of the year I start noticing the commercials on TV urging us to enter the annual Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. You know, the one where the Prize Patrol van arrives at some one's house totally unexpectedly (it's the truth, I swear) with balloons, excited neighbor onlookers, and a huge check for 10 million dollars to surprise a lucky winner of grand prize that they won just by mailing in an entry form--no magazine subscription purchase required. When I see the commercial I think two things. One, there was a time when I was so financially strapped that I prayed to win the sweepstakes and entered it every year. Two, how many people actually believe that the sweepstakes is for real? Well, I don't enter anymore, but I do know someone who actually won a PCS prize, S the Accountant, my sweepstakes winner date from hell.
In the late 1970s I had just returned to the U.S. from three years of heady, exciting living and working in the West Indies. As do a lot of young people, after a spell of adventuring I wanted to come home. Home was a small college town in the Appalachian foothills where I had gone to school. I was hired by the university to run their adult education learning center. Every day I got to help adults learn to read, study for their GED high school equivalency diploma, or learn to speak English as a second language (this for foreign students or their families who were studying at the university). The work was great, the dating scene not so much.
If you're familiar with small college towns, you know that it's slim pickins' in the dating department. Most of the eligible--and desirable--men are already taken, usually by your good friends! So in the late '70s I was half-heartedly dating S, the chief accountant for the university. S was not particularly handsome (okay, I know that's shallow, but I was young!), rather boring but reliable and respected on campus. We were floundering along with the occasional dinner and movie date. Then S went big time!
He called me all excited--for S--with the news that he had just been notified by Publishers Clearinghouse that he had won a $2,700 promptness prize in that year's sweepstakes! Now I wasn't surprised that he won the promptness prize--he was, after all, an accountant. But, in addition to the prize money, he was invited to fly to New York City, along with the other winners from across the U.S., for a whirlwind publicity tour of the city. He would stay at The Plaza Hotel on 5Th Avenue, travel by limousine, dine at the greatest restaurants, see a Broadway play, tour the Publishers Clearinghouse out on Long Island and meet the CEO and employees responsible for the sweepstakes. Professional photographers would follow the winners for the whole tour.
And, he could bring a guest--me! Would I go with him IF I could be assured of having my own room? I can just imagine S making clear to the tour organizer that his guest would need her own room!! I said "Yes" because it sounded like a great adventure and I knew that S needed reinforcements. He had never flown before. I remember him clutching my hand when we lifted off at the Lexington Airport. He was very smart, but totally lacking in social skills. My job was to be his buffer and help him enjoy the trip. On reflection, I deserved more than my own room at The Plaza--I should have had combat pay!
I could tell so many stories about S the Accountant taking Manhattan, but will be selective. The best stories centered on S's wardrobe, especially a short butterscotch (you couldn't even call it a caramel) colored corduroy coat with a faux fur collar that he bought at the local Maloney's Department Store (where you could also buy furniture or a shovel). When S showed up in that coat at my house I knew that my lovely red wool coat that went so well with my shiny black hair cut al la Dorothy Hamil didn't stand a chance!
S and I got checked in the fabulous Plaza and went our separate ways to get settled in. First time I'd stayed in a place ritzy enough to have mints on the pillow and my bed turned down. Back to S's coat, though. Our first activity was to meet the other prize members in the Palm Court of the Plaza and head out to dinner. I got downstairs first and was enjoying meeting the other people. The 10M grand prize winner was a nice young couple who owned a dime/variety store in Florida. So, we're chatting along when MY date walks in the Palm Court with his tie in hand! The man does not know how to tie his tie! Believe me, his guest (me!) would have loved to help him in the privacy of his room. Instead, a couple of the guys in our party took him to the side and tied his tie. He then puts on his fine butterscotch coat. We get into our private limo for the drive to dinner--at Windows on the World Restaurant on the top of the World Trade Center. (How sad to remember that beautiful place which is no more after 9/11--it had just opened in 1976.)
When we arrive at the restaurant, the limo driver suggested that S leave his coat in the limo since we would take the same limo back to the hotel. He balked, saying that he'd just bought that coat and didn't want to lose it! Reluctantly he did take it off, but not before writing down the limo license plate number and chauffeur's name. Can you imagine the all-points bulletin that would have gone out to New York's Finest if that coat had gone missing! The next night we dined at The Four Seasons without a coat incident. This time it was a cutlery intervention that was required. Even with all the stress of helping S tread the social waters, I still remember the glittery dining room and my first taste of French chocolate mousse.
After that first day I learned to anticipate S's potential social blunders and the rest of the group accepted him for what he was--a good, smart, unsophisticated man who hadn't seen much of the world. It was great to be able to see and experience some of the best of New York in such great style. The highlight of the trip was actually touring the Publisher's Clearinghouse and meeting the employees, including the those who actually drew the winning entries--including our Florida friends--for that year's sweepstakes. So, in these hard economic times, you may want to think about entering the Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes, but think twice before agreeing to accompany a winner to New York!
P.S. Please excuse the overuse of parentheses today. I don't know why I needed so many. . .
- Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.