I had just earned my graduate degree. I was ready to take on the world in a career that would be so exciting…so invigorating…so worthwhile, that …well, I never went past the exciting, invigorating, and worthwhile parts.
I just knew I wanted a great career.
I read the ads in the newspapers. I talked to the headhunters, who chuckled over the phone. “A Master’s in English? And you want to do what with it?”
I didn’t have an answer. I knew what I didn’t want: No more school, no teaching, no secretarial position. They laughed and hung up.
I was offered three jobs at the University where I received my M.A.: one at the registrar’s office – secretarial; one at the Dean’s office of education – clerical; and one at the mailroom – sorting mail. Instead, I accepted a position that I read about in the classified section of the Newark Star Ledger:
New Directions for Women
Feminist newspaper for intelligent women
Excellent writing skills a must
BA necessary. Graduate degree preferred
Grant through CETA
I found out later that the grant meant low pay and strange office space.
But the ad spoke to me. My skills were needed, finally. I sent a resume and in days got a call back and an interview set up.
I deliberated on the appropriate outfit to wear. A graduate student didn’t own attire for a business interview, so I bought a navy blue suit and a black purse. I studied the train schedule and took the 8:10 Erie Lackawanna commuter train.
The ride was 22 minutes long. The train was old and dark and musty.
The commuters were old and dark and musty.
I departed the train station, an antique building that was ugly when it was built in 1902, and even uglier now. I reviewed the directions the editor had given me over the phone – her name was Pauline– and I stared at the small, hilly, gray streets. Everything was gray – the streets, the houses, the sidewalks.
The men racing to the station looked gray.
But I walked as perkily as possible on new black heels up the three blocks and down another until I reached my destination. It was a three-story, narrow home, like all the other three-story narrow homes on the block. The bottom step was broken concrete. The other five steps were wood, painted gray.
I rang the doorbell. No one answered, but the severe operatic sounds of a woman’s voice singing murder and pain flew out the open window
I knocked harder, then shouted, “Hello?”
The radio softened a notch. I heard a disgusted, “Damn!”
Then the front door opened to a large, bathrobed, 60-something woman with curlers in her black-dyed bangs and pink fluffy slippers on her feet. Her round face expressed anger and annoyance at first, then surprise as it moved into congeniality.
“Oh, hi. I’m Pauline. You’re Pamela? Welcome to New Directions.”
She turned quickly back into her home, expecting me to follow her. I wanted to race out of there and return to the train station, but she twirled around quickly and caught my eye with a black stare.
My career began.
Thanks to Google Images.