Two for one
Free samples stretch a post-grad budget.
As you may have learned in the last posting, I nearly killed Arthur Fiedler less than a week before the country's bicentennial celebration. The Maestro's demise would have been purely accidental, but that wouldn't have saved me from infamy. His death would have occurred mere days before the scheduled, highly anticipated concert on the Esplanade, commemorating the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of our nation. The righteous backlash of an ugly mob would surely have been directed toward me had I not been lucky enough to bring the V-8 powered Bash-Mobile to a screeching halt, as the Conductor of the Boston Pops jaywalked across Massachusetts Avenue in front of Symphony Hall in Boston.
My realization at that moment of just how useful an alternate identity could be for a young man was life altering. In the event of an accident, lapse of judgment, or unfortunate twist of fate, a ready-made identity could be just the implement needed to escape from any sort of calamity.
The result of this thought process was the origin of Guido Fondenova, my alter ego.
It began like all waves of crimes and misdemeanors, with the petty stuff.
At the time, a major pharmaceutical company, Schering-Plough, had for some time been marketing a prescription anti-fungal cream called Tinactin. It was useful for the treatment of athlete's foot and other minor maladies of the kind. In the summer of 1976, someone at the Food and Drug Administration came to the conclusion that the only way the general public was likely to be injured by using Tinactin was if they were struck by lightning while holding onto a tube of the stuff.
The appropriate committees decided that it should be changed from prescription-only to over-the-counter status. To make sure that pharmacists knew of this momentous change, Schering-Plough purchased the mailing list of pharmacists from each state's Board of Pharmacy. Each pharmacist on the list received a package containing a letter proclaiming the company's great news, and pair of cushy, white sweat socks emblazoned with their product's name.
At this time, I was learning how quickly a new college graduate could burn through 250 dollars (gross) pay per week. When I was hired a few weeks earlier, I thought, "A thousand bucks a month! I'll never need any more than that!" Now cruel reality had set in. Even then, a thousand a month wasn't that much.
No complaints, but I had to pay rent and buy beer, purchase food and beer, put gas in the car and beer in the fridge. By the time I got through paying for these necessities, I worried that a monsoon-stricken family whose village had just been wiped out might have to start sending me "just pennies a day" for which I'd have to send them pictures of myself along with monthly letters describing my progress out of abject poverty.
Those free sweat socks were like getting a bonus!
"Man," I thought, "My life could only be better if there were two of me!"
The tinder had caught the flame!
I quickly grabbed the copies of "US Pharmacist", "Drug Topics", and other trade journals that were in my mailbox. I hastily thumbed through the pages looking for those annoying little tear-out subscription cards that fall out on their own when you don't want them. Armed with a small stack of postcards, I added Guido Fondenova's name to the mailing lists. From then on, each attempt to gain my professional recommendation would cost the big drug companies twice as much! Not only would I get a free sample size Robitussin or Vick's 44 in the mail, so would Guido!
How's that for sticking it to "The Man"? If you think I can be bought for a four-tablet "professional sample" package of saw palmetto tablets, you better think again, Big Pharma! It'll take two professional sample packs…. one for me, and one for my man, Guido.
Out of my imagination and into my mailbox—let the adventures with Guido begin!