Thursday, December 15, 2011

Middle-Aged Women Don't Bounce: Part 3

So, here we go again, yes, it's still 1976.  And I'm a newly hired records clerk at a big insurance company with less than three days of high school left to my senior year.  In less than a week, I'd leave high school behind and join the ranks of the working class.  But first, I had to get a car.

If you read Part Deux of this tale, you understand why the 1964 Buick Special wasn't going to be a very dependable ride to and from my new job.  Sure, I knew how to fix the shifting problem, but could I find a place to pull over in traffic every day?  Besides that, the car's floor had rusted out so badly that we had to keep a floor mat over the hole that had formed, especially when it rained.  Hit a puddle the right way and you were in for a not-so-pleasant shower.

I didn't know how to answer my father when he asked me what I was going to do about a car because that idea was as remote as the earlier call telling me I had a job had been.  I had other things on my mind.  I was late for school and Miss H's first hour Office Practice class.  I didn't know what to do with the news I'd been hired, and though I hadn't been what you could call 'close' to Miss H., I felt maybe she'd excuse my tardiness if I went straight to her with the tale. 

 A word here about the late Miss H.  She was a rather stout little woman who walked with a slightly shuffling gait.  She had coal black hair and always wore bright, red lipstick and proper, neat, attire.  She usually wore a rather haughty smile on her red lips and had a shrewd twinkle in her eye which could turn to a merciless stare if crossed.   She was the most single-minded teacher I had ever had.  She lived for teaching Office Practice; it was the woman's passion and she did it well.  The Office Practice room was always a hive of very intense activity.  Dolly would never tolerate hilarity, tomfoolery or hijinks in her Girls.  We were to behave in a proper, office-like manner at all times, or be ushered out of her class.  Either you wanted to be there to learn or you could leave. 

Though I attended a rather small high school with a graduating class of around 100 or so, it didn't mean we were saints.  There were some very tough characters in the school at the time, and Smoking in the Boy's Room was not just a song lyric.  In our school, smoking in the Boy's room (and the Girl's Room and any other room in between)  was done on a regular basis.  I still am not sure why this wasn't nipped in the bud by the teachers or the principal.  I guess it was that time when teachers were no longer allowed to clobber errant brats any more for fear of being sued.  In any event,  the place reeked of cigarette smoke and we had many smoke bombs tossed in the hallways and cherry bombs flushed down the toilets.

Oh, and if you were a Popular Girl, some of the guys would stop up the huge sinks in the bathrooms with paper towels and drag the Unsuspecting, Squealing Victim into a Boy's Room to dunk her into the water tank the sink had become. The girl would emerge screaming in mock-outrage for her soaking- wet state, but I figured the Ladies Doth Protested Too Much.  In other words, in my opinion, I think it was an Honor for most of them to be baptized in this manner.  Sort of like being named Prom Queen or something.  It made you Cool if the guys tossed you into a sinkful of water because at least they noticed you.   Unfortunately, I was Not Cool and therefore trudged through my high school years in a completely undrenched, arid condition.  

All of the bathrooms in the school were inhabited by smoking and other shenanigans, except for the one adjacent to Miss H's turf.  Her bathroom was Not To Be Messed With.  Anyone caught loitering would be summarily booted out.  She patrolled on a regular basis and tossed any ne'er-do-wells out on their ear.  I don't know how this five foot two inch woman succeeded in removing flim-flam from her territory when other, bigger male teachers could not, but Miss H. did and with no more than a curt, "Get OUT." 

They listened and out they got. 

I will never forget the day a nervous titter arose in the Office Practice Room, though.  One of Dolly's Girls had used the facilities and came back to report a most unusual sighting-- someone had plastered across the mirror in Dolly's Bathroom a centerfold picture of a very naked, very well-endowed man.  The news spread like wildfire through the classroom, but in a very restrained manner.  Everyone wanted to see this affront to the sanctity of Miss H's domain before she did.  One by one, the Girls demurely excused themselves from their typewriters to take a gander.  In case you're wondering, yes, I did, too, hey, I wasn't a Cool Girl, but that didn't mean I couldn't sneak a peek.

In her uncanny manner, Miss H. detected dissension in the ranks and within five minutes of its discovery by her students, sallied forth to the restroom herself.  Then there were open guffaws coming from the Girls, it was just too funny to think of what her reaction would be to this latest swipe at her dignity.  In less than a minute, Miss H was back from the bathroom with her head held high, holding the offensive poster folded in half with a triumphant look on her face.  She stopped just inside the door and regarded her giggling Girls with a disapproving glare and immediately silence reigned supreme.  There was, however, many a covert glance to see just what she had done with the centerfold, though none of us ever did know for sure. 

It was to this intrepid educator I was headed that memorable morning.  I found Miss H. seated in her glass-enclosed cubicle where she could survey the antics of her minions.  There, they sat in orderly rows behind their trusty typewriters wearing their 'Dictaphones' as a steady, droning voice narrated a series of business letters into their ears.  Tap, tap, tap, tap.  When I walked in ten minutes late, I caught the eye of my two closest friends in the whole wide world.  They were both typing away, but chanced a glance and raised eyebrows in my direction when I walked in.  I made a grimace back in answer and knocked politely on our Fearless Leader's door.

I explained to Miss H. why I was late and for the first time in the three years I had known the woman, she actually grinned.  In fact, she beamed.  I had never seen her so happy.  This was the news she'd been waiting for; in all the years of her teaching career, she had been striving to place one of her Girls in this particular insurance company and had never been successful.  She often told us that every summer during the break she would apply to work at their office so she could glean from the  employer what they looked for in skills and behavior of their employees.  Year after year she had taken a busload of hopefuls to their marble vestibule only to have them all receive courteous rejection letters.  Finally she had a Winner! 


I was stunned by her elation, I almost thought she was going to hug me and then I was equally fearful she would burst into tears.  She said this news called for an announcement and before I knew what was happening,  I was unceremoniously hauled out into the Office Practice Room.  There with my arm tightly in her grasp, she literally shouted, "May I have your attention!"

  Startled wannabe secretarial students stopped typing in mid-sentence to see what manner of calamity was at hand to make their teacher behave in such an unheard of way. 

"Girls, I have wonderful news for you!  Karen V has just come in to my office to tell me she was hired this morning by All Calamity Mutual.  I know you are all as excited as I am and will wish to join in congratulating Karen on her new position!"

About this time, I would have welcomed a celebratory dunk in one of the Boy's Room sinks.  This was So Not Cool.  

I looked into a sea of not-so-happy-for-Karen V faces.  What Miss H forgot was most if not all of the girls had gone through the same interview process I had and had been rejected by ACM.  How, exactly, were they to jump up and down for joy at the news that dear ol' Karen V had succeeded where they had not?  If I had been in their shoes, I would have probably bounced a bottle of Whiteout off of Karen V's head. At the very least, I expected to see a few hand gestures that were decidedly not of the 'V' is for Victory variety aimed in my general direction, but there was a general murmur of, "Oh" and a few smiles from my two buddies, and that was about it.  Everyone donned their Dictaphones without being told and soon the room was filled with melancholy tapping again.

I think even Miss H belatedly realized this probably wasn't the best way to announce my employment status.  She was still very jolly, though, for the rest of the school year.  I was glad I could provide her with at least four happy days, anyway. 

I did owe her all the credit for what I had learned.  She was a fantastic teacher even though my high school years were all nose to the grindstone.  I had learned how to take a mean Shorthand and how to type quite well.  

Unfortunately, I would not use either skill on my new job at All Calamity Mutual. 

And I still had to figure out how to get there.



Anonymous said...

Funny part 3. I am amazed you remember these stories from so long ago. I have trouble just remembering what happened yesterday. I never learned shorthand or typing and thought I would never need either, but along comes computers awhile back and all my work is on them and I still can not type. I needed a tough teacher too I guess. Glad you made the late Miss H. happy.

El Gaucho said...

Great story, I'm anxiously awaiting the rest of it.

I remember my typing class from 7th grade and how much I disliked it. Not because of some "men shouldn't need to learn to type" thing, just that ANYONE should be required to learn to type. And I can't describe the unmitigated joy of learning that the typewriter at my assigned seat had been vandalized by some ruffian/saint. So instead of having a typewriter with blank keys (so as to teach you how to type without looking down), I had all the proper letters scratched onto the keys. Thank goodness.

Anonymous said...

Bet that poster went home with Dear Old Miss H! Sounds like a real old dragon bet she was a pussycat at heart.