At 15, I qualified for driver’s training and a learner’s permit. Driving was the teenage equivalent of freedom and even though I had no interest in cars or horsepower, I liked the idea that I would be able to drive myself places when I turned 16. I remember attending a meeting about the driver’s training program and behind-the-wheel training. “It costs $85,” I wrote in my diary. “Wow. I’m glad I don’t have to pay. Mom and Dad will.”
Eighty-five dollars was the equivalent of 42 to 85 hours of babysitting in 1982, depending on the client and my method of accounting. Babysitting was my main source of income, and I’d had already lined up a summer gig watching my mom’s hairdresser’s twin 7-year-old boys, who would turn out to be a real handful for a measly $1 an hour. With an attitude of “anything’s better than nothing,” I agreed to the terms. I would learn to hate Tommy Tutone’s song, “867-5309.” The twins were obsessed with it and replayed the vinyl single on the tabletop stereo until I considered the consequences of child abuse. I got what I deserved, though, when they locked me out of the house – exactly what I once did to the babysitter from across the street when I was the rebel child terrorizing my caretaker.
Remember Tommy Tutone? Though I still have the lyrics to “867-5309/Jenny” wearing ruts in the neurotransmitters of my brain, I had to look up the one-hit wonder that created the song when I was writing this passage for my current work in progress, a memoir of the year I turned 15. According to Wikipedia, I wasn’t the only one who memorized the phone number, for good or for evil: “People in the United States to this day dial this telephone number and ask for Jenny as a prank.”
Isn’t it interesting that almost no one memorizes phone numbers anymore. We scroll through our contact list on our phone and click “Call.” But leave it to music to helps our memories along.