A very, very long time ago I earned a paycheck. I put on nice clothes and had my own office. The office had a door that closed and my name was on that door. And if the door was closed no one came in because they all knew that I had more or less an open door policy going on unless the door was closed.
I never had a cup of coffee in my life until I had that job. The woman who trained me said, “I’ll bring you a cup of coffee,” and I didn’t say no. It was Hills Bros. coffee made from a drip coffee pot in the bathroom of the office. The bathroom also held a toaster oven. We couldn’t have a microwave because it would blow out the old fuses.
I was youngish and had a tremendous amount of responsibility. I wore a tight skirt and heels every day and at five o’clock when the front door of the office was locked and everyone went home I took off the heels and the pantyhose and went barefoot.
There were men that worked in the office, too. I was not their boss; they just rented rooms in the old sad house that was now a place of business. A once grand three-story home on the east side of the city had become a run-down office. My room had been a dining room at one point. My boss had the room that was the living room. He had a fireplace. There was real dust on the fake plastic logs.
My boss never learned how to use the new black telephones with the fancy intercoms built right into the base. The walls were plaster but the quality of the building was low-end and I could hear him trying to use the intercom to call me. I could hear him repeat, “Carrie? Carrie?” and then I could hear the new black telephone slam down on the base as he shouted, “Carrie!”
I dreaded being in my boss’s office. He was a large man that smoked a pipe for too many years. The pipe smoke had significantly stained the wall. One winter my boss put a vaporizer in his office which gave the illusion his walls were bleeding. He never commented on the streaked walls. Neither did I.
When I had this job there weren’t fax machines. We drove paperwork from place to place within our city. Successful offices had couriers, our office had me. I was in my car “couriering” when I learned of the space shuttle crashing. Average people didn’t have cell phones and businesses certainly didn’t have television sets playing headline news.
I was afraid to be alone in the office with my boss. He was in extremely poor health and I knew it would be my dumb luck for him to have a heart attack or some health catastrophe that required mouth to mouth resuscitation. I would be faced with his future resting somewhere near my mouth and the thought of it was terrifying. I had enough respect for him to use his knowledge but not quite enough respect that I would have wanted to be in a life or death situation with my lips dictating his future.
Two men rented office space. One was an amazing, generous, talented young man that has gone on to an equally amazing future. He went to eight years of college to be what he was, I saw him lose his dad and then his mother. I watched him bail his brother out of jail, twice. I met him before his wife did and I know how much he loved her because I saw the entire thing unfold. And now he’s got a head full of gray hair, lived wisely, and has successful children.
The other rental man has aged terribly. Even though I was young, I could see what drinking too much every day did to your skin and your eyes and your energy. He had two ex-wives and no children. Every day after lunch he would grab a newspaper and spend exactly thirty minutes in the bathroom, 1:30 until 2:00 p.m. And he would never stay in the bathroom to see if his flushing was successful. I think the worst part of being in management was being the one to check if a re-flush was required.
I think another really bad part of management was the first time the company did not have a successful year. I had three women that worked for me. My boss told me I was doing great and I could have a quarter raise as part of my annual review, but when I gave my girls their review I was to give them nothing.
I couldn’t do it. I took my quarter raise and told the bookkeeper to divide my quarter between the three women.