SOUTHBRIDGE, Mass. – Ryan Fitzgerald is unemployed, lives with his father and has a little bit of time on his hands.
So, he decided to offer his ear, to anyone who wants to call. After posting a video with his cell phone number on YouTube on Friday, the 20-year-old told The Boston Globe he has received more than 5,000 calls and text messages.
Fitzgerald said he wanted to "be there," for anyone who needed to talk. "I never met you, but I do care," a spiky-haired Fitzgerald said into the camera on his YouTube posting.
He planned to take and return as many calls he could, but on Monday at 5 a.m., his T-Mobile cell phone payment will begin charging him for his generosity when he is no longer eligible for free weekend minutes.
"I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do about it," he said. "Come Monday, no way I'm going to just hang up on people and say, 'I don't have the minutes."'
Fitzgerald, who said people consider him "easy to talk to," was inspired by Juan Mann. YouTube video clips of Mann offering "Free Hugs" to strangers became wildly popular on the user-controlled Internet site.
"Some people's own mothers won't take the time to sit down and talk with them and have a conversation," Fitzgerald said. "But some stranger on YouTube will. After six seconds, you're not a stranger anymore, you're a new kid I just met."