THE TV NEWS team that I listen to bills itself as: "Friends you can turn to."
The insurance company that I do business with says that within its muted gray walls are: "Friends you can trust." And the car dealership down the road reminds me: "You have a friend at Sorrentino Lincoln-Mercury."
It is wonderful to have so many friends. A man needs friends. And when I stop to think of all these friends -- some of them, to be honest with you, people I've never even laid eyes on -- well, it brings a tear to your eye.
Everyone wants to be my friend these days. Banks, heating fuel companies, service stations, pharmacies, you name it, they all want to be my pals.
I even have a friend in the jewelry business. A flier that came to the house the other day said breathlessly: "Come visit your friends at Dyckman's Jewelers, where our entire inventory of gold chains is now 50 percent off!"
My friends at Dyckman's Jewelers! Well, this was wonderful! I was tempted to run down there right away and yell: "WHERE'S MY BUDDY DYCKMAN?!" and give that big lug a hug and plant a wet one right on his forehead.
Yeah, me and Dyckman, we go back a long ways. To last Thursday, I believe it was. That's when I got the flier. But you don't measure friendship in terms of days or weeks or months. You measure it by how much of a discount he'll give you on a gold chain.
Hey, Dcykman! That's a joke, buddy! I think you know me well enough to know I'd never impose on our friendship by asking for more than the advertised 50 percent discount. Although if you were a real pal . . .
It occurred to me just now to count how many new friends (such as Dyckman) I've made in the last month or so.
Let's see, 1, 2 . . . 14, here's a few more business cards . . . 23 . . . 66 new friends! And that's not even counting the janitorial staffs of these businesses.
Anyway, to all my wonderful new friends out there, let me say that I value our friendship, even those of you who insist on addressing me by the rather formal: "Dear Customer."
But don't worry, that ''Customer'' stuff doesn't bother me. Because I know we're friends. And friends can kid around with friends like that, call them ''Customer'' instead of by their name.
When you get to know me better, I'm sure you'll be calling me ''Kev.'' Meanwhile, I'll be taking the liberty of calling you Sally or Ted or Al or Betty-Ann. Or Dyckman.
(Note to Dyckman: I hope I'm not out of line here, buddy, but you gotta lighten up and throw a first name in those fliers. Not that I'm telling you how to run your business or anything. That note about ''Fine Jewelers Since 1952'' sort of tells me you people know what you're doing.)
(P.S. Let me know when your watches go on sale. I'm looking for a nice Bulova quartz. Need a second hand that sweeps and a day/date calendar, if that's not too picky.)
In any event, now that we're all friends, there are a few things you people could do for me. (Understand, I wouldn't ask just anyone for these favors.)
You people on the Ch. 12 news team, you say you're friends I can turn to. Well, this is embarrassing, but I . . . I could use a few bucks. Things are kind of tight right now. Maybe one of you anchor people who make the big bucks could spare a couple of hundred. I'd pay you back in a few weeks, honest.
You friends at Rickenbacker Insurance, I could use a ride to work day after tomorrow.
See, I've got an appointment to bring my car into the garage that day (they tell me it's something wrong with the timing.) So if one of you folks could swing by my house on your way to the office, that would be terrific. Say about 7:30? Or is that too early?
As for my good friends at Sorrentino Lincoln-Mercury, how about picking up my dry-cleaning? It's a sport coat, two shirts and a couple of ties. I got the ticket here somewhere.
As for you, Dyckman, well I'm going to be asking you for a special favor, buddy.
How about letting me borrow your chain saw? See, we've got a couple of dead pine trees in the back yard that need to be cut down. I've been meaning to buy my own chain saw for about 15 years now, but you know how it is. Just never seem to get around to it. Course, now that you and I are buddies, what's the sense?