Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I have had a number of extremely odd jobs in my seven hundred or so years on this planet, the weirdest coming to me after I returned to college and worked my J-LO prosthesis off going to weekend college and night classes. But before my six decades of education at Loyola University and Mundelein College I was a secretary, or as I liked to call myself, THE OFFICE ENGINEER.

My first secretarial job was with G. D. Searle and Co. in Skokie, Illinois. They invented “the pill” among other things, (like Dramamine to avoid motion sickness.  Oddly enough, Dramamine was trial tested as a migraine medicine.  It helped none of the people they tested it on, but one woman did say she wasn't getting sick on the bus getting there anymore.  True story.  I think.  But I digress...) and that was their big money maker, the pill I mean, in the wild sixties and screwball seventies. However, during that time, they also created a little thing they called Aspartame, an artificial sweetener that sadly killed some lab mice,

But then…

a Christmas miracle happened and those very same lab mice came back to life. Unfortunately for the mice however, they lived only on reports submitted to the government requesting FDA approval for Aspartame to be sold to the public. (We suggested they rename the stuff “Lazarus” but G. D. Searle (or God Damn Searle) was not amused)

Searle got into a lot of trouble with that little snafu. Big time. Suddenly we had Federal agents all over the place, shadowing lab workers, poking into files, cross examining suspicious looking squirrels in the parking lot…it was unnerving and humiliating and we all enjoyed it tremendously. I offered my body for frisking but was repeatedly turned down.

In fact, in order to extricate their bony butts, the idiot Searle brothers who ran the place at the time, Little Earl and Big Earl (I think those were their names), were voted out of the presidency by the Board of Directors, and, the man who spearheaded their dismissal, their own father, called on a buddy of his to take over the family business for a while, straighten it out, grease some wheels, get them in good again with the U.S. government, ensure his drug was approved. He called in his big gun.

Donald Rumsfeld.

Stop my beating heart.  Oh Yeah. Himself, doncha know.   Donald Rumsfeld.   It’s a touching story, filled with angst and just a touch of paprika, showing what a charismatic, refined gentleman he was.

It was the morning of his first day and I was walking along the corridor on the ground floor of our building, scurrying along the right side wall like one of our lab mice, hurrying to the cafeteria and my one bright spot of the day, a cheese sandwich and a coke. The doors to the garage were facing me at the other end of this hallway. They opened up. Who should come into the hallway from the garage but – you guessed it – Donald Rumsfeld himself. We slowly walked toward each other, both of us with our shoulders pressed against the same glass wall of the cafeteria, on the same side, heading straight for each other. He was carrying luggage and his suitcase, I was clutching my five dollar bill. No one else was in the hallway – it was completely empty. He was ‘The Man With No Name’. Do you feel lucky, punk? I asked myself. Well do you?

As we got nearer to each other (I was, at that time, completely unaware of just who the hell he was) I kept thinking, “Surely, he will move a little to his right so we won’t collide. Surely, (and don’t call me Shirley) he is a gentleman – a very handsome gentleman in fact – and very, very well dressed. That meant he was rich and educated, of a higher class than the usual programmers and analysts with whom I worked on the third floor, in the animal cage. Surely (you keep saying that) he will step aside for a lady, even a really young lady (I was once you know) seeing that, if we were cars in traffic, he was in MY LANE AND WE WERE ABOUT TO COLLIDE!

It was the gunfight at the OK Corral. It was The Good, the Bad, and the Hungry. Nope. The bastard of the balkans was going to make me move around him, like he was the greater good of humanity, the more important life form on the planet. HE WAS IN MY BLOODY LANE, the creep! There was no one else with us – he had plenty of room. We stopped when we reached each other, nose to nose, mano a mano, and the tension was palpable. My trigger finger itched, I felt sweat pool in my palm. I thought to myself “move old man, or your wingtips will feel the ire of my two inch heels.”

Finally, he gave in. HA! He took a step to his right and walked around me, grumbling and mumbling under his breath. It was a small victory for an even smaller person, but I reveled in it, then almost as much as I do now. Of course when I found out exactly who he was I went into hiding for the two years he was there.

I am not stupid.

next week - The day I bitch slapped Sir George Solti


MarySimonsen said...

Good for you, Karen. So he was an arrogant SOB his whole life.

Karen Wasylowski said...

He really was handsome and with the coldest personality I ever saw. And the look he gave me like I was supposed to be terrified and I would have been if I'd know about Iraq back then. Holy Toot!

Debra Brown said...

But Mary, look who won! C'mon.