Thursday, December 15, 2011

Middle-aged Women Don't Bounce Very Well: Part 1

I've been gone for a few days and oh, how I've missed blogging; boring you all with the mundane details of my day-to-day existence.  The reason for my absence is so embarrassing that I was just going to pretend I was busy with Christmas preparations, like cookies and decorations and wrapping presents and other holiday-esque things.  Well, I have been doing some of those things, but that's not the reason I haven't been blogging about my super-scintillating life.

I haven't been writing because I can't sit down.  And typing standing up is not my forte' either.  And sleep has been eluding me, too. 

Why can't I sit down or sleep, you may ask?  Well, there's a reason.  (And, you can rest assured,  there won't be any pictures in this post to protect the squeamish among us.)

It all started last weekend.  I was so excited.  We were invited to play cards at my friend Sharon's house.  But, I have to back up the truck one more time and tell you how I came to meet my dear friend, Sharon.

Way back in 1976, I was a senior in high school, and a very serious one at that.  I had no aspirations for my future other than secretarial work since I was a fair to middling hand at typing and also very proficient at Shorthand; which, by the way, after three years of classes, I have never used once and for the life of me, can't recall now. I actually spent some time looking at Gregg Shorthand online the other day and was saddened to find so much of it had vanished from my brain.  But anyway... 

Our Office Practice teacher, Miss Dolores H. was as serious a teacher as I was a student.  She was known sarcastically-affectionately as 'Dolly' behind her back and her students, all female, were known as Dolly's Girls.  Miss H. (ok, Dolly)  was adamant about the supreme importance of Shorthand.

"Always go into your future employer's office with at least one spare pen in case the one you are writing with malfunctions.  You do NOT want your employer to have to pause in his dictation of important company business because you are in need of a new writing instrument.   And, never leave the cap on the pen as the additional weight will slow you down.  It is my duty to prepare you girls for your careers after you have left my classroom, and I intend to turn out nothing but the finest product for your future employers."

Dolly was also a tad overboard about typing business letters perfectly.  One mistake on a typing assignment led to an automatic F.   I was so very cautious about typing then.  Remember Whiteout and correction tape?  How about those pencil-looking erasers with the little brush on the end meant to gently erode the mistake off the paper,but instead left a gaping hole if you pushed too hard?  I learned how to type on a standard typewriter, the kind you had to actually push the keys on, but then one year our school upgraded to the IBM Selectric typewriter and I was stunned.  What an invention!

But what can compare to today's marvels?  The Word Processor and it's hallowed Backspace key are on my list of the Top 100 Best Inventions Ever.  I've nearly worn the printed 'Back' part of the Backspace key clean off my keyboard after all these years. Yes, that's right, you read it here, I'm not the greatest typist anymore.

And Dolly was extremely serious about one thing, after three strict years of office practice classes, she was determined to help all of her Dolly's Girls obtain employment.  She loaded up her senior students on a bus and whisked us off to a very large insurance company in  the big city where we were given job interviews and aptitude tests.  It was a nerve-wracking day for me because I am a worrier by nature.  I barely slept the night before.

When I got off the bus with my fellow Girls, I looked around with dismay.  We were dropped off on a side street next to a (gasp) ten story tall office building.  This was the biggest building I had ever seen in my life, yes, I admit it! and I was petrified.  The smell coming off the pavement and through the sewer grating was nastier than anything I'd ever encountered in the barn.  I detested the fumes of diesel and gasoline, and the cars rushing by on the street scared me no end. What was I doing here, so far from my farm?  I felt claustrophobic in the little town I went to school in, which at that time, had a population under 3,000 and not one stoplight. 

I did rather badly in the interview (I was so scared!) and assumed I'd bombed on the tests (so much Math!)  and went home on the school bus with the rest of my classmates, confident I didn't have to worry.  There would be no job for me in this town.

Imagine my surprise when I got home from school about a week later and my mother, who was mixing bread, pointed with her elbow to an envelope lying on the table.  "It's for you, from the Insurance Company," she said in a hushed tone.

"Oh, well," I said, "I guess I might as well read my rejection letter."  I thought by saying that it would hurt less when I opened it, but it didn't help much.

It was indeed a Dear Karen letter.  "Thank you for seeking employment with our company.  At this time, we are not hiring, but will keep your name on file for future reference.  No further action is required of you.  Thank you for your interest in our company."

Yep, don't call us, we'll call you.  Ouch.

I really did feel blue after getting the rejection letter even though I didn't expect I was going to get the job.  There were more than a dozen of us who applied that day and none of them were hired, either.  I changed into my farm clothes and headed out to the tractor to get the feed bunk out of the cow yard and do the day's greenchopping.  Out in the alfalfa field on the 574, no one noticed the tears.  I don't know why I was bawling; the insurance company and the town it was in had intimidated me to my very core. Rejection hurts no matter what direction it comes from, though.  Still,  I much preferred the tractor seat and the fresh air.  By the time I had a load of hay for the cows, I was feeling pretty optimistic.  Who wants to work in a stuffy old office anyway?

So, imagine my surprise when two days after the rejection letter, the phone rang in my parent's kitchen on the Monday before I graduated high school.  It was 7AM and my folks were still out in the barn doing chores, so I picked up the phone and believe it or not, it was the big insurance company calling me to tell me I now had a job if I wanted it.

"I know this is rather short notice," the lady on the phone said, "but we have an opening in our Records Department and we are wondering if you could start work on Tuesday."

"Tuesday, as in tomorrow?" I croaked.

"Yes, as in tomorrow," she said.

"Well, I don't know if I can get out of school.  Um, I mean, I haven't graduated yet."

There was a pause.  "You haven't graduated yet?  Oh.  I see.  Well, when do you graduate?"

"On Sunday."

"All right.  Well, then we will expect you to start work on the following Monday."

"Um, well, that's Memorial Day...."

(Big Sigh on the other end.) "Oh yes, you are correct, the office will be closed.  Then we will see you in our office on Tuesday.  How does that sound?"

"Uh, well, great....I mean, yes, I'll be there. But could you tell me where I am to report?  And where do I park? And what time I should arrive?"

The patient lady from Employment filled me in on all the details rather vaguely.  I was to simply show up in the Employment office by 8AM on June 1, 1976.  And as far as where I should park, well, somewhere nearby, and they'd assign me a parking lot later that day.

"Thank you, Karen, and welcome to the Company.  Good bye."  Click.

I was standing with the phone in my hand, listening to the dial tone hum when I heard another noise.  The school bus pulling away from my driveway.  I had just gotten hired by a big insurance company and missed the bus for high school all in one morning.


Stay tuned for Part Deux.




Sheree said...

loved part 1, can't wait for part 2... started my first big city job on January 11, 1976. :)

Rosemary said...

Karen you left me hanging! not only with story of your big career move but I am guessing the boo boo on the derriere.

Alison said...

Aaaarrrggghhh! You.....How could you do that? What kind of injury did you do to yourself that you can't sit down? You didn't even make it as far as how you met Sharon.....

I took Gregg shorthand too, and never used it.

Hope you're ok. I'm a worrier too.

lilraggedyangie said...

Great post cant wait for the rest ...hope your icing that sore bum , nothing like a bruised tailbone (just guessing) been there thats one thing that will keep ya from sitting and sleeping and is just miserable ! have a great day ! hugs lilraggedyangie

Dragonfly Treasure said...

awww c'mon don't leave me knaging!!1 LOL Can't wait for the next part and sure hope your bottom feels better ♥

Indie said...

Aaaah, cliffhanger!

I think another one on the list of Best Inventions is spellcheck. I used to be such a good speller, but apparently not anymore according to my computer (though sometime I think it flags words out of spite - computers do hate me like that).

I do hope you are able to sit down and sleep soon! Though as to what malady occurred, we can only wonder and wait.. awaiting the next installment with interest! :)

Anonymous said...

How long are you going to keep us hanging? Now come on reajust that dounut and get on with the story.

Hope your feeling better soon
Hugs Sueb ;0)

Carol said...

NOT fair to leave us hanging! :)

africanaussie said...

I should have known when you started to digress that you would leave us hanging! I hope you are recovered from whatever mishap you had. I remember moving from a manual typewriter, and having to learn to "touch" the keys instead of bang them. :)

xoxoxo said...

Oh where have I been! I have 8 parts to catch up on! Looking forward to my coffee tomorrow morning! said...

Karen, I am catching up on my blog reading and I love this story of how your life began in the big city business of secretarial work -- the kind of work women were expected to do, that or teach or be a nurse. Wow. Didn't we have options?!!!!!

:-) Lana --- I'll be back to finish reading all of the segments, it is fascinating.