I’m really not that old.
I’m in my early forties (yes, 44 is technically “early forties” so suck it) but the workplace and technology has changed so much in the last 20 years, I sometimes feel like a dinosaur. I was working on some figures that didn’t balance so I was adding them up, lickety split, as I always do, and some kid commented on my “lightning” fingers. (Yes, Lightning, he really said that) I can add numbers on a number pad faster than you can say them. It comes from years of doing accounting work with an adding machine and without the benefit of Excel. Yes, when I started my first “real” office job, I didn’t use a computer.
I was out of school and still working at Dunkin Donuts. I’d worked at DD from age 15 to about 22. I sent in a resume with very little experience (I’d done the bookkeeping for DD!) in hopes of getting a cash manager position at a company that owned/managed head injury rehab centers and nursing homes across the country. I had an interview with Paula O’Rourke.
I remember feeling dowdy in the interview. I was wearing an olive green skirt that went almost to my ankles and there was Paula, in a tight bright purple satin blouse and a tan leather mini skirt. Wow! During the interview I found out that A.) She was weird to say the least and B.) She LOVED everything Italian! Woot! +1 for Very Josie! She was actually half Greek and half Italian but married an O’Rourke. We were both Italian. Yay us!
As an aside, I’m just not one of those people that “love” other Italians or “love” Irish people. I just don’t get that. I cannot comprehend having an affinity for someone you don’t know because of their ethnic background, so it was shocking but more than evident here, and I certainly wasn’t complaining. She told me that she longed to learn to speak Italian and asked me if I did. I answered, “Does a cat have an ass?” Heh. What I actually said was that I studied Italian for seven years in school and I understood it but wasn’t fluent. Then I mentioned that I still had my Italian school books lying around the house, and if I got the position she was more than welcome to have them. You’d think I told her I’d found the cure for cancer!
When I got home my mother told me “Somebody called for you about a job.” I called right back and they offered me the job! Woot! Starting salary was $18,000 which wasn’t bad and it was a foot in the door.
I’d put my full name on my resume (mistake) so on the first day everyone said “Hi Josephine”. I asked them to call me Josie, which worked out fine with everyone except Paula. Josephine in Italian is Geuseppina, which is in fact my real name, and the diminutive of that is Peppina. Paula said “I’ll call you Peppina!”. OMFG I fucking hate that name, but I said “Okay, sure!” She called me that for the next 7 years, long after she discovered how much I hated it.
Paula was my boss Bill’s secretary. She, like the queen, didn’t really have any power, but Bill, well he ran the empire. I worked directly for Bill, yet he hadn’t even bothered to meet me before I was hired. He trusted Paula THAT MUCH. Plus he was far to busy to spend 15 minutes not working.
The office was set up so that 3 of us “cash managers” sat in cubes outside Bill’s office. We managed about 50 medical facilities collectively and I personally had about 15 of them. That meant I kept 15 large checkbooks front and center on my desk….remember there were no computers yet! We spent all day adding numbers and moving money around and I’m talking BIG MONEY. We’d always strive for million dollar Mondays, when our deposits for the day exceeded one million dollars. Then we’d move that money from this holding company to that one, with everything done manually. Checks were written and stamped with a check embosser and all accounts were balanced manually on long green ledger sheets. All done with an adding machine and that’s it. Everything had to balance and I took to it like a duck to water. Bill taught me everything and although I was a quick learner, sometimes getting something to balance was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I’d get frustrated (imagine that!) when I’d find my one small mistake that put the whole thing out of balance, but Bill thought I was the bees knees. Turns out, he was right. :) He’d pile more and more work on me saying I needed to be challenged, while the chick next to me did hardly anything in comparison. Funny thing is I didn’t mind a bit. (I would now!) Bill set the example of working hard and I followed it. I got my first raise when I was there less than two months. Bill ran entirely on coffee and cigarettes (and always looked sickly) and I did my damnest to keep up. I’d work late practically every night, but Bill was always there, cigarette in hand, both when I left for the night and when I got in in the morning. That was the place I got my real education in business. Of course I got educated in other areas as well. It took me a couple of years, before it dawned on me that Paula and Bill were a lot more than colleagues. Perhaps I'll tell that story next.