In a multitude of acquaintances is less security, than in one faithful friend. - Herman Melville
I’ve mentioned Gilda a few times, but I’ve never really told you about her; today I intend to remedy that oversight. I first “met” her when I worked for Pam; I put that in quotes because, though I came to trust her and look upon her as a friend, I didn’t actually meet her in the flesh until about two years later. All of our contact before that, and most of our subsequent contact, has been on the phone; I think I’ve only seen her in person twice or perhaps three times. At one time people would’ve considered that strange, but in our modern world of telecommunications it’s become far more common. Which is all well and fine except that Gilda was not exactly of the internet generation; when I first “met” her on the phone she was 62.
Gilda was Pam’s day operator; since most escort services answer their phones 24 hours a day, and since most of their business is at night, many small or mid-size agencies keep a day operator to whom they forward their phones during those low-volume times. The operator works on commission, in Gilda’s case $25 per completed call. Considering that Pam’s agency fee was $100 this was a good deal for everyone; she got calls without having to answer phones and Gilda made a decent income just sitting at home, especially at busy times like Carnival season. And she certainly needed it; she’s diabetic and had a liver transplant in the late ‘90s, and the cost of her medications alone was astronomical. Since her one daughter was selfish and the other caring but poor, that left Gilda to somehow cover expenses herself despite being disabled. She was referred to an escort service in Florida by a friend and answered phones for them for a while, and was in turn referred to Pam when that agency closed its doors in the autumn of 1999. And that was where I “met” her, when she phoned to give me calls during the day.
I was impressed with Gilda’s friendliness and efficiency, and also with her open-mindedness; despite being of conservative Catholic stock in one of the smaller Gulf Coast cities and never having been a whore herself, she was unfazed by even the strangest callers. So when she told me (soon after I had started my own agency) that the increasingly-erratic Pam had fired her and refused to pay her what she was owed for the last week, I hired her as my day operator on the spot and never once regretted it. Not only did the girls like her, the clients did as well; it wasn’t unusual for her to ask “what sort of girl would you like to see?” and receive the reply, “Are you available?” That always gave her a giggle, but it was because she was so friendly and has such a sweet voice and charming Southern accent.
I refused to take calls after 2 AM myself, so at that time I would take my shower and then send Grace off to bed, and I stayed up with the phone until 4 AM. I would then forward it to Gilda, calling her if necessary to let her know if anything was going on (girls on the way to calls or already checked in, that sort of thing). Even at that ungodly hour it was rare to find her asleep; she went to bed early and rarely slept more than five or six hours, so she was ready to go at 4. And when I awoke about 11 AM I always called her for a report and generally found at least a couple of calls had been completed while I slept. She kept the phone until we finished dinner, usually about 6 PM, but on occasion she kept it even longer if we needed her to. As she said, “I’m just sittin’ here watchin’ TV anyhow, I might as well make money while I do it.” Sometimes on slow nights I called Doug and was surprised to hear Gilda answer his phone; he knew her as my operator, and trusted her enough to employ her when he wanted to go out for a few hours. And every Monday I wrote her a check, $25 per completed call; in some busy weeks these checks crossed over into four figures. Not bad for an elderly, disabled lady sitting at home!
The good times, alas, could not last forever; after the events of September 11th, 2001 the escort industry in New Orleans slumped badly, and though it recovered things slowly worsened after that. Several new agencies (especially Luke’s) took a bite out of the shrinking business, as did the steady rise of independent internet escorts, and though we experienced several excellent months after Hurricane Katrina (as described in my column of August 3rd it was all over by the summer of 2006. When I closed my agency Gilda went to work for Doug’s former partner (to whom he had sold his share of the business), but his greedy wife eventually forced poor Gilda out of a job and she has since resorted to “catch as catch can”. We’ve helped all we could; until 2008 I paid her rent every month, and we found an online source for her medications which saved her enough money that in conjunction with her paid rent allowed her to subsist on her disability check. My husband, Goddess bless him, never once complained about my paying out hundreds of dollars a month to help a woman who was essentially “just” a former employee, because like me he knew that she couldn’t have made it without our help. Fortunately, in autumn of 2008 her good daughter remarried and her new, equally good husband insisted Gilda move in with them, which was a big relief for me both emotionally and financially.
We don’t talk to her as often as we used to, but we do keep in touch and I send her a little help at Christmas every year. She calls on birthdays and holidays or when she’s upset about a medical problem (of which, needless to say, she has plenty). I wish there was more that I could do for her; she’s a wonderful person and one of the most appreciative souls I’ve ever known, and she’s one of those people I have fantasized about helping should I ever win the lottery or something. According to her I’ve been too generous already, but that’s nonsense; she’s been at least as faithful to me as I have been to her, and though I don’t support her any longer she told me just last week that she still says a rosary for me every week at mass.