At that time, I’d placed my Yellow Page advertising; I’d installed a phone. That September, when the phone book came out, I was in the Answering Service business. In fact, I was very much in the Answering Service business, because I was the only operator, 6 am to midnight, seven days a week.
I’d started this business in my studio apartment on Third Avenue, so the commute was less than ten feet. From my pallet on the floor I’d rise at six, turn on the phones, then snooze till the first calls. Then, coffee-time and up to speed!
Business was slow enough for baths and breaks, lunch and dinner. And I’d planned ahead.
When he arrived mid afternoon, I pedaled off to the grocery store. My bike had an aluminum swiss rack over the back wheel, and a net bag to fill up with groceries. I had a system, and three hours was plenty of time for shopping.
Sometimes there was time for Emily’s Hot Tubs. Their storefront, the first floor of a Victorian, was long and narrow. They advertised massage, but I just wanted to steam and soak. Afternoons were quiet, with the ubiquitous Kitaro music floating from the ceiling.
Then back to work. At first it was easy running the Bugle and answering phones. Time for puttering around the apartment, and playing with Rosie the Cat. I made up a cardboard box with a label that said “Cat Territory”, because she liked to retreat when there were strangers around.
As more clients signed on, less puttering time found me busy all day long. Bob’s hours extended, and we began working as a team during the busy times. It was fun, and at the time, it seemed important, meaningful. Rosie and I had to visit in the evenings.
Rosie was the co-founder; we were great pals for many years. She was always very humble, and never took on airs.
Network Answering Service got hectic, and then we were learning about payroll forms, interviewing, and training operators. I had to move out, and found a room up the street. Every morning I’d start awake at six o’clock, worrying about the answering service. I’d call, and Sally or somebody would answer. But one morning, no answer.
I dressed, and ran all the way. Sally was sitting with a book. “Why aren’t you answering the phone?” I asked.
“It’s the funniest thing,” she said. “There hasn’t been a call all morning.”
I asked what she’d done when she came in. She said nothing. I pressed for details. She said she’d opened the phones as usual. Nothing else?
“I made some toast,” she said.
In the kitchen, I discovered the problem: she’d unplugged the telephone system to plug in a toaster. When I powered up the phone system, by golly, there were the calls!
Such things made me tense. That night, I decided to go to Emily’s Hot Tubs. I’d never been in the evening. I’d get a massage. That should be relaxing.
They led me into a room. I peeled off my outer garments and stretched out on the massage table. A tall brunette, with hair piled high and pinned with a pearl-inset comb, entered the room. She was wearing a tight red dress, and high-heeled shoes. I looked her in the eye.
“I’ve come for a massage,” I said slowly. “No panky. No hanky.”
She smiled faintly, and turned to depart. “I’ll get Cathy,” she said.