Beware of area code 352

My wife thinks I’m being silly.

But that’s not news.

My latest adventure down the road to lunacy involves my alma mater: The University of Florida. It was about mid-April when I received my very first solicitation for money.

“Can we count on your donation of $1000?”

If I had been drinking it would have shot from my nose in a fountain of incredulity.

“Ah, no.”

“Can we count on your donation of $500?”

“You’re still cold, but your getting warmer.”

“How about $250?”

“Would you take $100?”

And there it was. I had agreed to send my old school; the place that shaped me into the man I’ve become (don’t laugh) $100. About a week later I got the letter in the mail with my pledge card and the address to send the money. Like everything else that comes in the mail asking for money, it sat on my desk for the customary one week waiting period. It was during that week that I found out I had Leukemia, and I never sent that check.

This was my dirty secret for several weeks. Cheryl didn’t know that I’d agreed to give UF money, but I thought it was something important to do. Maybe I’m naive, but I thought I owed UF something. It was an important part of my life and I felt like I needed to give something back – even if no one but me noticed. Then Cheryl noticed the calls I was ignoring on my phone. It was area code 352… Gainesville, Florida… UF. I couldn’t face them. We were blowing money left and right to assuage my medical fears, the savings took a hit, and suddenly $100 seemed like a lot of money again.

Finally, one night not long ago, I told Cheryl my deep, dark, secret.

You know what she did?

She laughed at me.

“John, just tell them you got really sick, you were in the hospital, and you’ve been out of work for over a month. I think they might understand.”

I still haven’t answered any calls from 352.

What can I say? I hate disappointing people… even people who’re probably making 500 calls a day and couldn’t care less what I have to say. Maybe if they call tomorrow I’ll answer, but I’ll still feel a little dirty.