Spangeldorff’s Got It
By David Daniel
My niece is going off to college in a few days and was telling me she was approved for a new credit card. She already has two. “Is that a good idea?” I asked. She shrugged. “Sure, I guess.”
It got me remembering a guy I knew in my own first semester of college.
Neither handsome nor homely, brilliant nor stupid, coordinated nor klutzy—though a little on the heavy side—Spangeldorff was one of those freshmen destined to walk the fine line between acceptance and rejection. What tipped things in his favor was a small thin rectangle of plastic.
In altered circumstances, Richie Spangeldorff might have been the butt of college pranks, like the one—already wearisome by the mid-1960s—where somebody calls the hall telephone in the dorm and asks to speak with Benjamin Dover. “Hold on,” pipes the innocent, then proceeds to bawl in the corridor “Ben Dover! Ben DOVER . . .” until he hears himself, whereupon he groans, cradles the phone, and slinks off in red-eared chagrin. Part of the cost of a college education.
What spared Spangeldorff was economics. He came from a well-to-do family and was the only one among his freshman dorm mates to have his own credit card.
That BankAmericard was his entrée. By nature a very openhanded guy, he made the other seven or eight members of our informal group believe it was his pleasure to pony up when the pizza arrived or a case of beer was delivered or a late-night munchies attack required Slim Jims and Screaming Yellow Zonkers.
It was as though he performed a magic trick each time he opened his wallet (a stitched cowhide Buxton, a high school graduation gift), tweezed out the blue-and-gold card, and laid it down with a soft clack. The only charge cards the rest of us had ever set eyes on were for Sears or J.C. Penney or Texaco, and belonged to our parents. But there it was, a BankAmericard with his name “Richard A. Spangeldorff” embossed on it along with a mystical series of numbers.
“I’ve got this,” he would say.
It became a ritual cry: Spangeldorff’s got it!
To be fair, on occasion when a meal check or bar bill arrived, others in the group would produce some crumpled currency; but at Spangeldorff’s “This is mine!” effectively waving them off, those individuals would shrink and pocket their cash.
And over time, when the crew—all of us first-term freshman, none yet pledged to a fraternity or paired with a co-ed—were out for an evening of collegiate hijinks, it became our rallying cry. “Spangeldorff’s got it!” said with much good humor, backslapping, and bonhomie.
And he always did get it, I tell my neice. Good old Spangeldorff. Generous to a fault. It was a sad day when he flunked out.