Rochester, NY

That Time “The Phone Man” Repaired My Life and Career With Clear Communication And The Right Connection

Herbie J Pilato

For the longest time, I thought my talents and abilities were solely defined by the “practical” skills that I attained through formal education or work experience.

But that all changed one day when — in serving as a primary caregiver for my Mom, I met “The Phone Man” who delivered a very important message.

At the time, circa 2004, I was frustrated with my life and career. I was 45 years old and an accomplished author and TV producer, but I had nothing of what this world calls secure. I was caring for my Mom, after years of doing the same for my Dad, and it was rewarding to do so. But I felt lost and distant from where I thought I should be in life.

Most of my friends, colleagues and extended family members were married with children, homes, and financial stability. I had none of that.

And I felt stuck.

Until I met The Phone Man.


I had just moved from Los Angeles back to my hometown of Rochester, New York, to be there for my Mom. I had made that move before, back and forth between L.A. and Rochester, trying to balance both worlds.

But this time, it was different. It seemed for keeps to stay in Rochester. My Mom needed me more than ever. And there was no way around it. By 2004, she was in her early 80s, her memory was failing, and her body was slowly breaking down. She was relatively healthy most of her life — but things had changed.

So, I decided to get an apartment close to hers, where I could keep a better watch. But in truth, I resented it.

Again, until I met The Phone Man.

Voice Male

The Phone Man was scheduled for one day to install a new landline phone. That’s what people mostly used in those days. Landlines.

When The Phone Man finally arrived, he noticed that was frustrated about something, though he was not sure about what. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

I’m like, “Uh? What does this guy care - and why should he care?”

“You seem disturbed,” he pressed.

“Yeah,” I finally admitted and gave in to his query. “I am.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Well, quite frankly — I feel like my life as a stand-still. I’ve got all this talent. I can sing, dance, act, write, produce — and I’m stuck here in my hometown, watching over my mother.”

“You got it all wrong,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“You speak of your talents as an actor, a writer, a singer, and so forth. But you neglect to mention your most other talents…your most precious talents.”

“And what would those be?”

“Your compassion. Your caring heart. Your ability to communicate with people like you have known them your entire life. You are talking to me now in that way. That is a gift.”


I was blown away. I had never defined my ability to communicate or my compassion, for that matter, as any of my talents. But that’s exactly what they are.

And these are talents that each of us has — talents that can lead us in a new direction…with a stronger purpose for our lives — a clearer purpose.

Our life purpose is not just “making the grade” in school…becoming “Employee of the Month,” or writing our first book. Those things are great and wonderful and important. But in the big scheme of things, not so much. Because our most important life purpose is to love.

Sounds corny, uh?

Maybe so. But it also happens to be true — in the big and little schemes of things.

Good Karma

To help drive the point home, what follows is a recap of a generic post/placard I saw somewhere online. It just seemed to fit. The title of the post was “Good Karma,” it was subtitled, “Note to Self,” and here’s how it went:

“What is my purpose in life, I asked the Void.” [Yes, Void.]

“What if I told you that you fulfilled it when you took an extra hour to talk to that kid about his life? said the Voice.” [Yes, Voice.]

“Or when you paid for that young couple in the restaurant? Or when you saved that dog in traffic? Or when you tied your father’s hoes for him?”

“Your problem is that you equate your purpose with goal-based achievement. The Universe isn’t interested in your achievements…just your heart. When you choose to act out of kindness, compassion, and love, you are already aligned with your true purpose. No need to look any further.”

Dang — that sounded an awful lot like The Phone Man, right?

And that’s when I decided to write this article.

I hope it helps you — like it — and The Phone Man — helped me.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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