Friday, September 18, 2009


Briefly after high school, I worked for a Physician and Surgeons answering service. It was often stressful for the people calling were usually in mild or severe panic trying to reach a doctor. We would contact the doctor and he would let us know who to send to the hospital, who he would call back, or who were to take two aspirin and call him in the morning.

Our clients in addition to doctors, were attorneys, architects, and merciful heavens, a cable company. Trust me, people with out TV when service was interrupted, were much harder to handle than those with mild medical emergencies.

Pete owned our service and several in other cities. He was an easy guy to work for. He usually just showed up on payday to share the wealth. One day, the girl on the day shift stayed after I took over to tell me the latest news. It seems Pete had just gotten married and he was bringing his new wife by to meet us as she was going to take over running our office. Pete had given Sadie strict orders for us not to say anything about his new wife's face.

I asked Sadie just what in the world was wrong with this ladies face but she had no idea. Our office was on the second floor of the building and Sadie sat glued to the window on look out.

"They are coming. " she whispered and I rushed to look but could only see a blond head beside Pete as they entered the building.

Now Pete was a very eligible, good looking and successful bachelor so we figured she couldn't be too bad. When Penny entered the room, Sadie and I were doing our best not to squeal like the teenagers we still were. Instead we inhaled air nosily like faulty vacuum cleaners and eased away from her.

The lady before us had a face that was one giant scab. Skin on the tip of her nose, around the eyes and mouth were a nice pink, the rest of her face was brown raised skin that looked like it had been burned or was very contagiously diseased.

She looked at us for a moment, then as best as she could with that face full of scab, she laughed. We "heh, heh'ed" a forced, uncomfortable laugh, wide eyeing each other.

"I suppose you didn't tell them. " she said to Pete between chuckles. "Trust me girls, it isn't catching. I have just recently had a chemical peel. I'll be gorgeous in no time when this scab falls off."

She made us feel at ease immediately and our laughter went from fake to relieved. We both instantly like her. I was glad she was to be our new boss.

Penny was right, when the giant scab fell off, she was a very attractive woman. She was also a very open woman. Since we were often couped up together in a small office, she talked freely. I don't know why but with out any hesitation, Penny told us she had been a high class call girl and was now retired. Perhaps she thought Pete had all ready told us though he had failed to tell us what we need to know about her face. In our late 1950's innocence and curiosity, we timidly, yet eagerly asked her questions which she freely answered without guile.

In her working days she got $125 an hour and had the right of refusal if she didn't like the guy. That was a whole new concept for us to grasp. She said most often she was an arm date for out of town business men who wined and dined her. Of course there was usually sex involved but she never went into detail about that. Darn.

Sadie and I were simultaneously fascinated and repulsed but listened closely to every story. This was pre"pill" days and Penny had the misfortune of getting pregnant a lot, well at least three times. She had three children, all girls which Pete was adopting.

The way she talked, she looked at prostitution as a business like selling real estate. Sadie and I were a bit shocked and we never lost the EEWW factor of having sex with total strangers for money. Have to admit though we were eager to hear the tales. This was a world we could only imagine. She was way more interesting than any 25 cent paperback novel.

One day Penny was telling me of some of the famous men she had entertained. She mentioned a prominent lawyer that had run a close but unsuccessful race for high office. The more she talked, the more I realized the man she was talking about was my cousin. I guess my face showed the shock and after she asked what was wrong, I had to claim my wayward, very married cousin.

That ended all of Penny's stories. She realized that maybe telling all was not a good idea. While I missed the stories, I really didn't want to hear about any more of her "dates" that I might share DNA with. Seeing family heroes crash and burn is never fun.

While she was not the storied prostitute with a heart of gold, she was a kind person who loved her children and adored her husband. If you didn't know about her past, you would never know by looking at or talking with her.

She did teach me that even those who do things we do not approve of, are people with goals and dreams not all that different from our own. We just have very different ways to achieve them. How we start in life often determined the direction and paths we take. She took a turn I fortunately was never forced to take. Call me lucky. She was an interesting, learning chapter in a young life.


  1. It's so interesting, the people we meet in our life.

    One of the first jobs I ever had, I had a woman supervior, she was very nice but kind of nosey about everyone's personal life and always asking us about the boss. Well the boss was a jerk and many of us didn't have a problem telling her. Well to make a long story short, she was the boss's wife, and no one new it. She used her maiden name and always treated him like her boss. Trust me when we found out, we were mortified!

    I hope your boss's wife quit after she got married!
    Sunny :)

  2. Patti, you have met the most interesting people!! I am glad to know that she had the right of refusal, as the aspect of having to have sex with someone - no matter how they look or act - has always been repugnant to me. Thank the Lord I never had to do that for money.

  3. I remember as a teenager, the knowledge of a prominent small town prostitute who lived in a small house by the railroad tracks.

    High school males visited her frequently so assumed "pay to play" fees were allowance affordable, but who knows. she accepted S&H green stamps--a home trading/swapping commodities in my teens.

    For a short time I worked at a pharmacy she patronized. Her pharmaceutical needs never reflected her occupation, while I worked there. She was very ordinary as a customer, except she had flaming red hair. Not sure if natural or Clairol.

    We also had a fortune teller of whom it was rumored, turned tricks, too.Maybe you got two for one services at one stop.

  4. Again a fascinating story! Thanks Patti. During the war in Indonesia, we had to flee for the Indonesian soldiers, who wanted to imprison us again, We had to sleep one night in a safe place guarded by English soldiers. Only there was no food. It was a prostitute who gave us something to eat. Another woman refused to give us food, for she wanted to feed her dog first, and what he left in his bowl, we were allowed to eat.

  5. I really enjoy reading your blog. I assume if I could talk to you it would sound exactly like your blog. Very good. Blogs are meant to be written as if you were talking but few people are able to accomplish it. Keep writing.

  6. Sunny,
    That was an amazingly brilliant team of boss and wife. Brilliant but definitely sneaky. Hopefully he grew less jerky from the information she gave him.
    As far as I know, she stayed retired after marrying Pete.

    Me too Judy. In part because had I chosen that profession, I would have probably had to flip burgers part time to make ends meet.

    We had one of those also in a small town I lived in that took care of passing truckers. I went to school with her son who was cruely taunted by some. I really felt sorry for him.

    Reader Wil,
    Your comments often amaze me. The things you had to go through boggle the mind of those of us in a country that never had to deal with foreign invaders(unless of course you ask the American Indian).
    If you haven't written a book, you must. If you have, please let me know where to buy it.

  7. Linda
    Sorry but you sneeked in while I was posting my comment.
    I guess as long as I can think of and remember stuff I'll keep pounding the keys.
    Thanks so much.

  8. Another wild and interesting story, patti.

  9. Neat story, Patti... Kinda funny--but not really! We do learn alot about people in different situations throughout life, don't we????

    I have known several gay guys --all through the years since many of them are in the music business (as in church musicians). SO talented and SUCH neat guys!!!! Even though that is not my lifestyle, I have learned not to be so judgmental of people who are different from me. We all have our baggage--and we all are different--one from another.

    Great post.

  10. I love your stories Patti....and indeed we all have our baggage.

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  12. robin,
    Thanks so much.Some people you're just going to remember.

    I thought it was funny also.
    I too believe that people don't have to be just like me to have a place in my life. I mean, how boring would that be?
    So glad you have an open mind which allows room for growth. You go girl.

    Boy don't we. Looking into a life unlike our own and getting to know that person, can only make us more understanding. We are all more alike than we are different.

  13. I am sure you found her stories very interesting. I got a good laugh when you said, your cousin - OUCH! Sorry!
    I hope her marriage lasted.

  14. The Warmth of human kindness comes in all sorts of packages. It is wonderful to be able to have eyes trusting, accepting, and open enough to be able to find that goodness in people, no matter what the outer "packaging" might suggest! A really special blog post once again. Thank you Patti.

  15. Grayquill
    You know, I could never look at him again with out giving him the fish eye and he never knew why. My first case of the politically powerful thinking they were immune.
    Last I heard,Pete and Penny were still together. Her career to "fall back on," lost its value with the aging process. That would keep you home.

    I guess my curiosity and strong desire to understand keeps me in a friendship when others might pull away. Scrape the outer trappings of different cultures or lifestyles away and there is a person pretty much like me with very similar wants and needs.

  16. Wow. What a story.

    I spent one day restoring Patty's computer. She clicked on an email she had sent that could not be delivered and was returned. She was curious as to why it wasn't delivered and clicked on the notice. Well, it was a "worm" that locked her computer and wouldn't let her do anything. When I got up the next day, she came out in her PJs and said, "My computer won't come on."

    I had to reformat the hard drive and return it to the factory, new, condition. She lost everything on the computer. I feel sorry for her as it takes a lot of time to put her things back on the computer that she had saved on an external hard drive. Beware folks. If you send an email and it comes back, you should not open it.

    I have not been able to get around much of late.

  17. Sorry you all got burned Abe but really appreciate the warning. Thanks so much.
    Hope you are feeling better.

  18. I love open people, people who just are who they are and share that

    another great story

  19. Dianne,
    I agree, open people don't disappoint us later with surprises. Life would be easier if we all were.

  20. I really enjoy reading your blog. I assume if I could talk to you it would sound exactly like your blog. Very good.
    How to make a website