Early in life, I discovered that people and characters are two different beings. It’s not that people don’t have character or unique characteristics that separate them from the next guy, but true characters are standouts. They intrigue us, pique our curiosity, sometimes repulse us, but almost always entertain us. They’re like the subscription services for imperfect produce. A misshapen eggplant is still an eggplant—like a human being is a human being—but we can’t ignore that it’s different.
Growing up with a mother who tended to attract more characters than people, I was exposed to a lot of misshapen eggplants. Some were beautifully different. Some were people who warmed my heart and taught me special things. I remember more about them than I do the people I attended high school with. This is the story of one of those characters. Boy George.
I had just one encounter with Boy George, but it was an unforgettable one. For liability purposes, I want to stress that this was not “the” Boy George, though I’m not sure they realized it.
The story starts with a phone call.
I was living in Columbus, Ohio selling urban contemporary radio. My mom called me at work early one Friday afternoon, begging me to come home to visit. She had checked flights and found one for later that afternoon. If I snuck out of work a bit early, I could jump on the flight and be home by dinnertime, not that she had any intention of making dinner. I’m not sure why I agreed to it, as the red flags were all there waving at me, telling me not to go, like the fact she’d already started drinking.
At that time, cell phones didn’t exist, so communication was more challenging than it is today. You had to plan in advance, rely on pagers and pay phones. We agreed that I’d wait out in front at the airport near baggage.
After a good fifteen to twenty minutes of waiting, a page blared out of the PA system.
“Mike Hunt please report to customer service. Mike Hunt.”
I laughed, as did others who clearly heard what I heard and had seen Porky’s. (Just say it out loud if you don’t understand). I thought it was overused and entirely sophomoric, not that it stopped me from laughing. A few minutes later, another page.
“Will Mike Hunt and Annmarie King please come to customer service area.”
The red flags were no longer waving, they were smacking me in the face. I headed for the customer service desk, kicking myself for agreeing to come home. Not only was my mom not there to pick me up, but she was already up to her old games, and I had no doubt the Mike Hunt stunt was her doing.
The customer service woman behind the counter looked fed up as I approached.
“And you are?”
Well, I thought, I’m certainly not Mike Hunt.
“I’m Annmarie. You paged.”
She tapped her pen quickly and repeatedly, looking at me with both irritation and disdain.
“Boy George called,” she said, sarcasm seeping through her southern drawl. “He’s out front waiting in a limousine for you.”
I didn’t have it in me to ask questions or even thank the poor woman for her help. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, becoming part of the audience in some kind of crazy play rather than the main character at center stage.
I found my way back to the pick-up area and took a quick inventory of all the cars lined up. Chivalrous husbands flung their wives suitcases into trunks. Animated teenagers tossed their backpacks into the backseats of waiting cars. Businesspeople in trench coats held the extended handles of their carry-on suitcases, waiting for their ride. And I…I was looking for Boy George in a limousine.
At the far end of the line was a black stretch limo, the windows darkened making it impossible to see inside. As I got closer, a well-dressed driver in full uniform popped out of the car. He waved for me to come over. I stopped dead in my tracks as I got closer. While years older now, he was someone I went to high school with. I harnessed my intolerance for whatever game was going on, attempting to keep a good-sport smile on my face. We exchanged quick hello’s as I walked up to the car.
“Hey. What’s going on?” I asked.
“Yes,” I insisted. “What’s going on?”
“All I know is that Boy George called and asked me to pick you up.”
“Uh-huh. And where is Boy George now?” I asked.
“Oh, he’s waiting for you in the back. Let me get the door for you…”
Story to be Continued in February Issue.