Ticket to Paris and the Executive Sandbox

Daily Prompt Sparkling or Still What’s your idea of a perfect day off: one during which you can quietly relax, doing nothing, or one with one fun activity lined up after the other? Tell us how you’d spend your time.

“This is no good. If I sleep in on Saturdays, I miss the day. From now on, not happening, I don’t care what I do on Friday night. Nope. ”

She shoved aside her covers and got up, shaking off a mild hangover and her persistently aching heart. February, and cold, but the sun was shining. 9:30. She went out to her kitchen and poured a glass of grapefruit juice and made a Carnation Instant Breakfast in her blender.

By eleven o’clock she was on her way downtown to her office. Not to work, but because of the typewriter. An IBM Selectric II with an erase feature. In every way it was a lot easier to work with than the Smith Corona portable her mom had given her for high school graduation. She liked her job, anyway, working in the development office for a large university’s college of law. Besides, working on her thesis at the office was a sure way not to be interrupted. Her friends would call her at home and there were no message machines, no cell phones, so she would not know. She liked the idea that by her not being home, if a friend did call her, it would seem that she had an interesting life.

She was so restless. There was a whole big world out there — she knew it — some of the people with whom she worked had been there. She had friends out there, too. But she wasn’t out there. She was stuck in a job that barely paid her bills writing a thesis that seemed never to be finished. Yeah, she wanted it to be as good as it could possibly be. What revision was this? Ten or something. It was due in two months if she wanted her MA this year. She did. She wanted out. They wanted her out.

She looked at the two shoe boxes of alphabetized and annotated references, all handwritten on index cards, that made up the bibliography. No one had ever indexed this source before. “Your bibliography alone is worth the MA,” her adviser said. “You should publish it.” She’d already figured that she’d never be able to type that with any accuracy. She’d hired a professional to do it. Pricey. $140. At least that was done and she had the cards back. A twenty page bibliography. “Too bad this isn’t a dissertation,” her adviser said.

“Should I apply for the PhD program?”

“Why? You want to teach English?”

“Well, yeah, I like teaching English.”

“No. You don’t have to teach English. You can do other things. You should write.”

Years later she would wonder about that conversation. Was he trying to let her down slowly? To tell her in a kind way that she wouldn’t get into the PhD Program? (She wouldn’t have gotten in. She’d been more or less ejected from the MA program, not given that precious third year teaching assistantship with its classes to teach and its monthly stipend.) What was he saying? But at the time she took his comment at face value, thinking, “He might not like teaching any more, but I love it.” Nonetheless, she was, even then, trying her hand at freelance writing.

The fun part of the thesis had been the research. The hardest part was typing without errors. The most important part in the long term was that it taught her to type fast, but learning how to do research at that level added a great deal to her life down the road when she found herself writing historical fiction.

The sun came in the window behind her, giving the lie to the chill-struck and glittering February afternoon. She edited. She typed. The afternoon wore on. Around five, there was a knock at the door. She got up and there was her best friend, a law student, “You wanna’ get dinner?”

“Absolutely. What are you doing here?”

“Oh, bar exam review and I’ve been working on that brochure. Thesis?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you about finished?”

“You mean finished-finished or for now?”

“Finished finished.”

“I hope so. I see Dr. Richardson next Saturday. I need a whole draft by then.”

“How many drafts is this?”

“Ten? You want to go now? I still need a few to finish up this part. Just a couple of minutes. You can wait?” She noticed her friend was already wearing her parka, hat and mittens.

21010-2“No problem. I’ll go check out the executive toys in your boss’ office. I never knew anyone really BOUGHT those things.”

“I know, right? Check out the Executive Sandbox. I had a lot of twisted ideas for that, but I wouldn’t. It’d freak him out too much.”

“Like what?”

“Tootsie-rolls. It looks like a catbox to me.” She went back to her typewriter and the paragraph she was writing. She did what she could to make the point clearly. The thought of “style” had not yet crossed her mind. That would not happen for years. She finished and turned off the typewriter. She carefully placed the finished pages into a box that had held a ream (now used up) of bond typing paper and slid it onto the shelf under her desk. “Let’s go. Cisco’s?”

“Sounds good!”

She got her coat and hat, turned off the lights, and locked the door behind them. They rode the elevator down ten floors, left through big glass doors and walked into the frigid night, thinking of guacamole.

*Tasked to write about my perfect day off (sigh) I wrote about a Saturday afternoon at the beginning of the ride, back in 1979. The title comes from something my boss did when I expressed my frustration at being stuck in Denver when I wanted to see the WORLD. He got on the phone and reserved a seat for me on a flight to Paris. His goal was just to show me that it was THAT easy.

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6 thoughts on “Ticket to Paris and the Executive Sandbox

  1. I have a thesis somewhere on one of my crowded book shelves. It didn’t make me a better teacher nor a better writer, but it did help me achieve persistence, attention to detail, and a higher teacher’s salary — all of which served me well.

    • Ditto. Everything I actually earned a living from I learned from my Advanced Placement English class my senior year in high school. I loved writing my thesis, though. I loved the subject — it was why I went back to grad school, so I could get paid to write it. Grad school itself? Good god. Maybe I’ll write about it someday!

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