n 1979, I took the name of the Nielsen Family - those folks who watch TV for all of us and report on what they watch - in vain. But it was for a good cause, and I have never felt even a shred of guilt.
Okay, maybe a tiny bit for deceiving a nice woman on the phone, but it has never kept me up at night.
Sometime after I had slithered out from the wreckage of my first marriage, I met a Purolator Courier by the name of Jolyne. For those whose personal universe is so small that they only think of oil filters when they hear the name of Purolator, it was also a thriving shipping business.
In 2015, the Purolator shipping service is completely separate from the oil filter business. Two completely different companies.
You don’t see many Purolator vehicles outside Canada, but back in the Olden Days, they were as common as UPS or Federal Express is today.
I just mention the courier part now, so as to explain a story I’ll tell in a minute or so.
And so it came to pass one day that Jolyne told me about her ex-husband, who had a problem with child support payments - meaning that he hadn’t made any in years, and had, in act, taken leave of Arkansas altogether. She knew what city he was in, and what his phone number was, but no idea at all whether he was gainfully employed or not.
It is a sad fact of life in our culture that many men will actually quit a good job, once child support payments are taken out of their weekly paychecks. If memory serves, Jolyne’s ex-husband was one of these stalwart fellows.
What to do? What do do?
We mulled it over for a few weeks until, one day, looking through my trusty copy of TV Guide (a publication which has seen better days, intellectually speaking) I had an epiphany.
This happens so seldom in my life that I need to write these stories down.
Going to the phone, I dialed the number of Jolyne’s ex-husband. It turned out not to be her ex-husband who answered the phone, but his new wife. I went into my spiel, about how we were considering them to be one of the Nielsen Families,” and began to ask a whole series of questions.
I learned wonderful things that day, not only about the sort of home they lived in, the number of TVs they had and how much TV they watched, but also about his job, how much he brought home, and how long he had held that same job.
Thanking her profusely, I hung up the phone. The next day, Jolyne called her attorney, and justice was done.
As I say, I have occasionally felt a twang of guilt over deceiving a perfect stranger, but then again, he did owe the money. And if he had skipped out his responsibilities to one woman and child, who is to say he wouldn’t do it to another?
The Adventure of the Deer in the Bathtub
I have known a few couriers in my life, and by and large, they all got a rush from driving. Jolyne was no exception, especially when her nightly route took her to Eureka Springs, and the long, curving roads.
And she liked to drive as fast as she could, legally.
One night, at around three in the morning, she woke me up. “I’ve got a deer in the back of the van,” she said. “We’re going to skin and dress it in the bathtub.”
It seemed a deer had had the great misfortune to wander into the road at the same time that she was driving back from Eureka. It could have gone either way - as it was, the deer lost that night, and Jolyne survived.
Leaping from the Purolator van, she ran to check on the deer, but nothing could be done to help it. Opening the back of the van, she moved the deer inside, and carefully drove the remainder of the way to Fayetteville.
And so we skinned and dressed a deer, in the wee small hours of the morning.
Really, Nielsen folks? You have to bribe people now?
I really only thought of this story today because last week we got an invitation and accompanying survey from the Nielsen Company. Oddly enough, except for maybe a couple, none of the questions on their survey match up with what I used in my “survey” back in 1979.
Opening the envelope this morning, two crisp dollars bills fell out, simply for filling out the questionnaire.
Considering how many people must have thrown this out as junk mail, or simply choose not to fill out the form, you’ve really got to wonder if the Nielsen folks know the value of a dollar.
Quote of the Day
“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” - Founding Father George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789