No SocksWhy does my truck radio always wait until I am in the bottom of some canyon, before bellowing out, "unit seven"? That voice had to be the District Manager since there's only him and a clerk at the office today. On the days I read meters, a temporary clerk staffs the office. My job is to manage the office, collect the bills and read the meters.
These roads are so soft in the spring that I can never drive the switchbacks all the way down to the river. Standing on the edge I can see my belt buckle, the tips of my boots and way down there, an itty bitty shiny thread that is the river—all in one look. It's a trek, 400 feet down to the bottom and it makes my stomach feel funny, every time. The upper forks of the Trinity River are a rugged and lonely place where the days are short because the canyons are so narrow and deep. In springtime, sunshine reaches the bottom at about 11:00 in the morning, hangs around until the late hour of 3:00 in the afternoon and then disappears. In the winter it is damn cold and frozen over and I never see the sun.
The District Manager told me these distribution lines were built in the 1930's to avert a utility takeover attempt by the government. It worked. Here we are 50 years later with 4,000 customers scattered over 4 counties in some of the most rugged terrain in the United States. No wonder "Big Foot" can live here and never be found.
I shouldn't set the volume up so high, "Unit seven, contact the office, unit seven contact the office, over?" It echoes everywhere in the canyon. I looked straight up and could see a reflection of light splinter off the truck. It looked like it was in the next county. I hiked up there and answered the radio. It was the District Manager's voice, "How far are you from the office?" "About an hour," I responded. "Come on back to the office, I'll send an apprentice lineman to pick-up where you left off." "Is everything okay?" I asked. "Affirmative, see you in one hour, over." "I'm on my way, seven out."
What could be so important that I have to drive all the way back to the office? It's best not to go into details on the radio since everyone with a radio can hear it. Juicy details become fodder for the line crew foreman's appetite for humor. He fancies himself the Will Rogers of the operation. In about an hour I arrived at headquarters, pulled in and parked my truck. I hosed off my boots at the wash rack and gave my jeans a spanking to knock off any big chunks that might disembark once I sat down in the office.
I went straight to the District Manager's office where he wasted no time on pleasantries. "You've been requested to interview for a special project with the Vice President in the general office in San Francisco. I received a call from the Vice President's Office this morning. One candidate has been selected from each of the 12 company divisions. You are our Division candidate. They want you there on Thursday. You have somebody's attention."
I sat silently for a bit which prompted him to ask, "Do you want this interview?"
"Absolutely," I said. "I was just thinking about the logistics. I don't own a suit and tie. The only place in town to get a suit is at Miss Millie's on the corner, and she'll have to order one. I'll go to Redding tomorrow. Can I take a vacation day?"
"Sure," he said. "Do you realize this is the first time the San Francisco Office has ever called here? I'm sure they had to call someone at Division to get the phone number." With tongue in cheek, he said, "Unlike you, I don't need to attract anyone's attention."
Nothing ever happens at the right time financially. My savings account is on life support after buying a reasonably good suit, shirt, shoes, and having everything cleaned, pressed and altered. It's a flight test for my people skills as well, right down to the cleaners' lady I convinced to have everything done in 1 hour. When I got back home, I took my suit to the neighbors to hang in their closet overnight. They heat with propane, I heat with wood. The scent of wood heat transfers to clothes, which isn't a problem in the mountains because nearly everyone heats with wood. I didn't want to show up for the interview smelling like I'd been burning driftwood on the beach all night. I put money in an envelope for fuel, food and the hotel, then washed the car and spent the next 4 hours getting my resumé in order.
"All of this is on the chance I'll get the job?" I questioned. The voice inside me, the counterbalance, was having a field day. "Don't you think you could have thought about it for a while before saying, 'absolutely'? How about some intelligent questions instead of, 'can I take a day of vacation to get ready,' what a ditz. It better pay well, probably doesn't. You think you're on a budget now, just wait until you go from union to management, you get paid once a month instead of every two weeks. Good grief. You still need hotel reservations, a map, the location of the Vice President's office and you barely know anything about this job."
The five-hour drive to the City was uneventful, albeit crowded compared to the north coast backroads and highways. I navigated directly to the hotel which, as advertised, was right on the edge of the financial district. My suit survived the trip in fine order. I decided to wear my new shoes so they wouldn't look so much like I just bought them. I laid out everything I would need for the interview on the spare bed in the hotel room including the interview request letter. It's on the 18th floor of 333 Market at 9:00 tomorrow morning.
Damn, there aren't enough parts, I can't believe it!
There are no socks to match my new suit. I pulled everything out of the suitcase, still no socks, only white work-socks for the drive home. How could I have overlooked them?
It was 5:30 in the evening. Oh my God...I called the front desk. I'm panicked, but luckily the hotel manager was still on duty and not dismayed. I got the feeling he encounters great nuclear meltdowns everyday and much more disastrous problems than mine as a matter of course. A phone call later and I was on my way to Thompson's Menswear in Embarcadero 3 that was open until 8 that night. I headed out to Thompson's carrying my suit pants on a hanger and wearing my new shoes so I could scuff up the bottom of the soles and break them in a little. Thankfully, Thompson's had plenty of socks, actually too many because I was now challenged with the task of coming up with a perfect match to my suit pants.
I noticed her watching me from the other side of the display table. She appeared a few years older than me, pretty, slight built, Dorothy Hamill haircut, and well dressed in what I call "expensive conservative." I think she found my dilemma humorous. I picked up a pair of socks and laid them over the cuff of my suit pants, she shook her head from side to side in the negative. I tried a couple more pairs and did not get an affirmative from either. Finally, I picked up a finely woven, soft wool pair and they were a perfect match. She gave me a thumbs-up.
Neither of us had spoken a word, but the flirting was fun. It occurred to me that two days ago I was standing on the rim of South Fork Gorge where the fact that I had any socks at all was my only requirement. Today, however, I was so relieved to have matching socks. Socks have a new priority on my list of things.
We both ended up at the register counter at the same time. "I'm Sue," she said. "I'm Randy," I responded. "Thanks for the help with the socks. I have an important interview tomorrow and I left the socks at home that match my suit." "Socks are important," she said, "Where's your interview?" "In the 333 Market Building," I responded. She gave me a friendly smile as she gathered up her things to leave. "Good luck with your interview," she said and walked out into the common area of Embarcadero 3 and faded into the crowd.
When I returned to the hotel, I made it a point to find the manager and thank him for rescuing me from white socks hell. In my room, I re-reviewed everything that was organized on the spare bed to make sure the list was completed. I didn't want any more fire drills. Dinner and breakfast were non-events. I'm nervous and anxious at the same time but I have a good resumé and look professional. One of my college professors said, "Everyone has butterflies, the trick is to make them fly in formation."
The 333 Market Building is about 5 blocks away. I decided to take a cab even though the walk would have felt good. It was windy that day and street construction narrowed Market Street to one lane, the sidewalks were temporary and the walk route a little muddy. I walked over there and checked it out last night. The cab dropped me off in front of the building and I stepped out onto the curb. This building is new, I could tell. The security guard in the foyer told me it was two years old and directed me to the elevator bank that serviced floors 18 to 36. I thought it so clever that the vice president never had to stop en route to or from his office; street level to 18 or 18 to street level, express both ways.
I exited the elevator on 18. "Down the hall on the right, the office is on the corner on the Golden Gate side of the building," instructed the guard. I stood straight and opened the office door labeled, Vice President, Operations. It entered a foyer with a receptionist and a secretary. "Good morning, I'm Randy Holt. I'm here to meet with Mr. Charles at 9:00." "Let me get his Administrative Assistant for you," said the receptionist. She lifted the phone, "Mr. Holt is here to see Mr. Charles."
The pretty, slight built, woman with the Dorothy Hamill haircut opened a side office door. "Hi, I'm Sue LaCoursiere, Mr. Charles' Administrative Assistant, he'll be with us in a minute." I looked at her and she looked at me. She gave me a friendly smile and said, "Nice socks."