How I Fared

I have an old token from the New York City subway that reads, “Good For One Fare.” I keep it in a dresser drawer and usually forget about it until for some odd reason I stumble across it.

How have YOU fared? Photo Courtesy of jfc215: iStock

I found it in an “economically priced” hotel room in New York City in 1983 when I was fresh out of college and “pounding the pavement,” dropping off resumes.

As a business/journalism double major, my greatest credential was being on the college newspaper, so the $500 in my pocket had to last. The Carlton Arms was a small budget hotel at the corner of East 25th Street and Third Avenue.

Limited amenities included a black porcelain sink, a box spring, and a mattress; I was told to bring my own sheets. A communal bathroom was down the hall, and the sounds from the street were raucous and constant.

As I unpacked my suitcase, I noticed something on the floor catching the neon light coming through the window. It was then I made acquaintance with that shiny token.

“Good For One Fare.”

I didn’t have much luck in New York (other than selling a handful of jokes to the Late Show with David Letterman) and didn’t fare much better in Los Angeles three months later (that trip peaked with a two-day material review with Paramount Pictures).

I returned to Cleveland and began to justify my college degree with a variety of $6-an-hour jobs, as times for recent graduates were tough in the early 1980s. I slowly began to abandon my dreams of being paid to write, and started laying a path to a career in business.

I was hired by a solid company and developed a reliable name for myself. Despite having a degree, I opted for more of a laborer’s job to start, getting to know the company from the bottom up.

Working out of a truck five days a week as a surveyor’s assistant, I created the images on the ground that would later go on a map. Four years later, I advanced to become the assistant manager of one of the park reservations that was a part of the company’s conglomerate holdings.

I actually began to use some of the business skills I had learned in college, and was feeling like my patience was beginning to pay off.

One evening, as I was digging through some old papers to retrieve an inspirational essay I thought I could use with my staff, I discovered that old token.

“Good For One Fare.”

Thinking about how long it had been since I had written anything or attempted to get published, I pulled out my old college typewriter and bought a new ribbon the following day. I dedicated an hour each evening to writing.

Having found an ad in a local “city entertainment” rag that called for concert reviewers, I submitted a review of a James Taylor concert. My piece was accepted, and I was asked to do more … and I would be paid. Paid?

Soon, the paper was sending me backstage passes, and my articles included interviews, front-row seats, and on some occasions–nachos and cheese fries.

One time my review of a local band was so positive it generated a lot of interest and increased the group’s ticket sales. The review was an entire page, and my byline was huge!

Local bands were now seeking a strong review from me; I was having the time of my life. By day, my regular job was coming along nicely; at night, my moonlighting reviews were fulfilling the creative side.

I wanted to develop a serious career, but also wanted to do what I enjoyed–whether I was paid or not.

I started carrying that token with me as a good-luck charm.

“Good For One Fare.”

As my regular job progressed, my employer offered to pay for my master’s degree in business. I was beginning to understand that my ability to dedicate so much to the job rested in my overall pleasure in being “whole.”

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