The business card of an “Experienced Gulf War Lab Rat” is the oddest in my weird collection of such items amassed during a 25-year career as a newspaper reporter.
It was given to me a few years after the first Gulf War ended in 1991 by a veteran of the conflict, Candy Sweet Lovett, who had given herself that title after undergoing numerous inconclusive medical tests for illnesses associated with the mysterious Persian Gulf War Syndrome.
“I have a listening EAR. Are you tired of the Runaround? Please know that I care,” the Silver Spring, Md., woman had printed on her card beside an image of a black rat.
Her story since has disappeared from the radar, as have the titles and occupations of some of the hundreds of people who have given me their cards during interviews.
I immediately plop them in the breast pocket of my dress shirt, beside a nerdy ink pen and my prescription sunglasses, to make sure I later spell their names correctly in the newspaper story du jour.
And then for reasons I cannot fully explain these business cards pile up on my desk because I refuse to throw them away. Eventually they end up beside others in small boxes stuffed in a desk drawer.
I’m not a hoarder. I try to convince myself this as a coworker at the Observer-Reporter rolls her eyes today while I prepare to take them home to confess this habit to the blogosphere.
Believe it our not on can easily walk around my house and even up the stairs to use the bathroom without tripping on stacks of newspapers and magazines. I don’t still own the same skinny jean I wore in college, either, or wash and store margarine tubs for reuse. My first transistor radio didn't survive seventh grade thanks to a jealous baby brother who destroyed everything I owned as a kid.
Yet I still have the business card of a car salesman who, in 2001, sold me a Ford pickup truck, which I retired eight years later with 200,000 miles on its engine.
Maybe I keep these cards to help remember people I meet professionally, those who I might need again for a source, or to contact about faulty merchandise.
I thought I was alone in having this kooky obsession until the television news magazine “Sunday Morning” put out a call about a year ago on Facebook looking for people like me who collect such cards.
I responded with a brief comment about mine.
However I neglected to identify on Facebook the names of the “important” people in my files.
Nestled in my box are cards bearing names of FBI investigators, academics, lawmakers and corporate executives.
One of my favorites came from George E. Barbour, a former city editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, a prominent black-owned newspaper that fought for civil rights. Another shiny gold one promotes David Van Deveer, a "fearless conjury" from Virginia who claims to have talents for knife throwing, unicycling, bullwhip artistry and, yes, comedy.
The aforementioned television news show hosted by Charles Osgood ignored my Facebook reply, much like I do the people who have given me these cards.
“Sunday Morning” has yet to even air a segment about the people who collect business cards.
I’m now thinking the TV producer who had that bright idea is using a different business card.