“Caller three, what’s the name of the artist?”
Crap – I blanked. I knew it when I dialed, but now it was gone. What was the name of the artist..?
Then I remembered.
“You’ve got it!” said the voice on the phone. Music began to swell behind him. “You are the winner of two VIP tickets to Super Bowl Twenty One!”
I couldn’t believe it. I called every morning at 6:55am to answer the Artist of the Day question, but all I ever got was a busy signal. This time, I could hear the DJ on the phone, talking to me, seconds before it echoed out over the radio in the warehouse.
Now I just had to remember to talk back.
“You also win the suite in Old Town Pasadena, and a picnic lunch for two. What do you think about that?”
My tongue felt like a swollen lump of meat in my mouth. “It’s good,” I finally said.
“So, who you rooting for?”
“Uh.. I like Neil Diamond.”
The DJ laughed. The morning crew behind him roared and clapped with him.
“Yeah, we’re fans too. What’s your name, VIP?”
“Jim, everybody wants to know, who’s going to win on Sunday? Broncos or Giants.”
Broncos or Giants. The truth is, I didn’t even know who was playing until just now.
A hand crashed flat and heavy on the window beside me and I just about dropped the phone in surprise. It was my supervisor, now laughing, and standing in the bushes outside. His mustache curled to a grin as he waved. It looked like he was saying, “You’re on the radio!” but I couldn’t hear it. I pointed at the phone in my hand and nodded. He, in turn, pointed at his truck nearby, door wide open and half parked in the handicapped space. He jogged back and got in to move it.
“Alright, Jim,” said the DJ, “well congratulations, and stay on the line.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“Then give them to me,” said my supervisor. He was either excited or angry. Or caffeinated. I couldn’t tell most of the time.
“Sure,” I said. “How much you want for them?”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” He circled his desk by the palette stacker and suddenly took a swipe to kick it, but missed in a noiseless flail. He turned back to me, trying to appear calm.
“They’re free tickets,” he said deliberately. His mullet began to curl. “You got them for free, and you have no interest in going.”
“Yeah, but do you know how much these tickets are worth?”
“Yes, I do!” he said excitedly. “That is why I don’t have tickets.”
“They’re like, seven hundred dollars a seat.”
“How would you know?” came in a panicky laugh. “You don’t even know who’s playing!”
“Look, if I can get fourteen or fifteen hundred bucks out of this, that’s first and last on an apartment.”
His face melted. “First and last?” he sing-songed. He eyes rolled back and sent him around his desk again. “This is the Super Bowl,” he said when he got back. “This is once in a lifetime.”
“Or,” I continued, “I move out from my shitty roommate situation, my girlfriend moves out from her abusive step-asshole arrangement, and we don’t have to wait until the end of summer to do it.
He plopped in his rolling chair and snorted into the rafters.
“Hey, I’ve got steady income coming in now,” I said. “So now, we can finally afford to do this.”
“These tickets mean nothing to you, and everything to me,” he said. He stared at me. I couldn’t tell if he ran out of argument, or just wanted to leap across the desk.
“Just, give them to me,” he said. He put out his hand. “Please.”
The intercom on his desk snapped on. “Hey Jim, your girlfriend’s on the service line. She said you were on the radio?”
“Thanks, Stace. Yep,” I said, staring back at him. “I won Super Bowl tickets.”
“Cool beans, that’s awesome!” she gushed, rapid fire. “What happened? Well, tell me later what happened. Actually can I just listen in when you tell your girlfriend?”
My supervisor’s eyes smashed to red as I picked up the phone. He kicked the desk with a loud metallic swat, flew from his chair and up the ramp into the hall. He didn’t bring up the tickets again, but by the end of the day he made sure I’d been written up for making personal calls on company time. And by the end of the month, he had me fired.