Now, everybody knows a liberal arts degree (English lit and history) doesn’t exactly prepare you for a useful occupation, and I’d made sure to avoid anything that would remotely qualify me to teach. Same logic as in refusing to learn to type: Don’t, and you won’t be tempted to take a job doing it. Oh, if only somebody had told me about computers and the Internet.
Anyway, with the ink on my diploma still wet, I presented myself at the corporate offices of this chemical behemoth for a job writing advertising copy. Most vivid in my memory was the utter absence of “vividness.” See, everything was gray. Two or three people dressed in gray suits sat at a large gray table in a room with soft gray walls. The air had a gray cast, and breathing left an unpleasant, metallic gray taste in my mouth. I needed a job and I loved the language, but I knew this wasn’t going to “fly.” The chief interviewer touched his wavy gray hair, showed slightly gray teeth when he smiled and said they would “be in touch.” I smiled back and shook his hand, intrigued that even his fingernails were gray. The interview had gone well and I was pretty sure I had the job, but as I walked down a gray stairwell and out of the gray building to a bright June morning on Sycamore Street, tears were rolling down my cheeks. This was a major fork in the life-road; it demanded time and serious thought. I sat on the curb, ignoring the grime on my gray suit skirt, to think, but that same guardian angel who’s always on my wingtip was whispering something. And 30 seconds later I sprinted to retrieve my green Volkswagen bug and drove at warp speed — for a VW — out Columbia Parkway to Lunken Airport.
I never looked back.
I was 23, having taken a two-year “sabbatical” after my junior year in college to get married and help Ebby at the airline. But circumstances had changed: The airline was nearly defunct and our engagement was on indefinite hold; Ebby’s “grada” (holder of the family purse strings), not to mention an ultrahigh-society ex-wife and a hugely pissed off ex-girlfriend, were pressuring him to wait. My dismayed family (“marry a man 30 years your senior and from a totally different class”) had ejected me from the house. A nun who ran the English department at Villa Madonna College (it is no more too) kept urging me to finish the last year and maybe go on to grad school. But when I finally talked to the dean at Villa, he surprised me by demanding an end to “your notorious and scandalous affair with that playboy” before he’d allow me to return. So it was kind of a hard time; but, then, at 23 nothing’s very serious for very long. I borrowed enough money from Mary to get an instructor’s rating, returned Ebby’s big diamond, told Father Brinker to go to hell and finished college for $200 a semester at my sister’s alma mater, Our Lady of Cincinnati College (yeah, that really was the name and, of course, it’s out of existence).