19. September 2015 · Comments Off on Crossroads · Categories: NMM.Trajectory.

I know I want to live in New York after graduation, but I wonder what kind of job I would get.

My pal Lorna tells me that TWA is interviewing for stewardesses and they are flying girls to St. Louis.  She thought it would be a lark and a great way to see the world before we settle down barefoot and pregnant and never get the chance again.

You can ask to be based in New York City, she adds.

TWA free



I arrange to postpone a couple of final exams.   They fly me to St. Louis.   I fill out an application and take a written test.

As soon as I meet the woman who is interviewing me, I know that I would not get the job.

You’re not five feet four, she snaps.

Is height an issue?   I say they measured me for my passport when I was sixteen and that’s what it says.

She is not interested in my passport.

From there it goes downhill.


Just before Graduation Day, Dr. Hazo tells me that I have been awarded an internship to Washington.

What is that?

It’s the Kennedy White House.  They gave out twelve internships to twelve colleges, and we got one of them.   You have been chosen.



INTERN~1 copy


This is President Kennedy’s Washington, being an intern there must be exciting too, even though the job is not in New York City.  How much do I really want to go to New York?


An airline ticket arrives in the mail.   A young man I know has gone to Southern California.   He writes that the weather is warm and sunny and so are the people.   He asks me to go and see for myself.

I don’t want to encourage him.   I can’t accept his ticket.

But it got me thinking about California.   I have relatives there. Wouldn’t it be a good thing to go there on my own?  Maybe I’d like it as much as New York.

In any case, there is no reason for me to remain here.  Muriel and Bill are gone.   Bill took early retirement.   They sold their house, put their things in storage and are traveling around the world.


Out of the blue, I get a letter from a girl I met in New York.  Mary Ann is an acquaintance, part of a group of young women I hung out with.   I think she is secretary to a lawyer.

Mary Ann says she is coming to my graduation.   Why?

She has always wanted to go to a college graduation and thinks it would be fun to come to mine.

Mary Ann flew in on a red-eye special cheap flight.  She convinces me that I should go back with her on the same return flight.   A friend of mine takes us both out for a little celebration till it is late enough, and then he drives us to the airport.

By morning I am in New York City and looking for a job.

Margaret comes by.  She heard through the grapevine that I am looking for a job and that I was a philosophy major.  She works at AT&T, America’s telephone company we all know as Ma Bell.  Margaret was a math major and now works with computers.  She says they are looking for philosophy majors even more than math majors.  Margaret sets up an appointment for me.

This is how it will go, Margaret says.   First, you will fill out an application.  Then you will be given a tour of the computer department where you will be given a written test.

I know nothing about computers.

It doesn’t matter.  These are just fun tests like games with symbols and mazes.

If you get the job, the Vice President will take you to lunch at Teddy’s.  That’s a favorite restaurant for business executives, and it’s just a short walk away.  There he will tell you the good news.

That’s the routine.  Good luck!


I have a business card that someone gave me two summers ago at the Top of the Sixes.

The hostess has just seated two men at my table.   Our PR guy takes me aside and lets me know that one of the men is a VIP, multi-millionaire industrialist, but more importantly he is a New Yorker.  Tourists are fine, but we want to build up a local clientele.

I hear the P.R. guy, but it doesn’t change what I do.  Since we are always working at near capacity, I had to find ways to cope so that I don’t neglect anyone.

By this time I have worked out a system for remembering people’s drinks by placing the drinks in patterns on the tray, and I have little maps in my head and timing routines so that I get their food to them quickly and accurately.  Hopefully things will go smoothly enough that I can move like lightning yet appear efficient and attentive.

While I serve coffee to the VIP New Yorker and his guest, he says we’ve been watching you.  We notice that besides a lot of energy you have some kind of incredible memory.  Don’t get me wrong, but you don’t belong here.

I tell him that I’m working my way through college in Pittsburgh, and this is the best summer job ever.  I graduate in a couple of years.

That’s what I figured.  Tell you what.   After you graduate, come back to New York and we’ll give you a job in our company.    We are a large public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.   He hands me a business card.

He is CEO and Chairman of Central Foundry Company.  I keep the card.

I call the number on the business card and the CEO’s secretary gives me an appointment with Mr. G. for a day after my interview at AT&T.


I go to AT&T headquarters in downtown Manhattan.


AT&Tbldg copy






I fill out an application.  After a brief interview, they take me to see the computer department.


This is size and look of a single computer

This is size and look of a single computer


They give me a sheet of symbols like these:

≥ ≤ ≠ ∇ ∆ ∏ ∐ ∥ ∦ ∩ ∪

Each symbol has its own instructions such as go forward two steps, turn left, go one step.  I have five minutes to memorize all the symbols and instructions.  Then they give me a maze with those symbols on it, and I must follow the symbols through the maze using the instructions I just memorized.

Then they give me another sheet with the same symbols on it.  However, the instructions are completely different.  I must forget the old instructions and learn the new ones in five minutes and navigate through a new maze with the new instructions.

I try to discover a pattern in the instructions, find none and trudge through the mazes but I don’t finish in time.  These are Margaret’s fun games?  For mathematicians and maybe for analytical positivists which is not the kind of philosophy I studied.  Not the kind of work I want to do either.

To my surprise the vice president asks me to lunch.  While we walk to Teddy’s I am thinking, how did this happen, and how can I get out of taking this job?


Teddy's matchbook


The V.P. tells me that my test results were “borderline”, which I suspect is a diplomatic way of not saying “dismal.”

However, he says, you are articulate and personable, and we think you will be an asset to our company.  We want to hire you for executive training.  He gives me time to consider.


I go to keep my appointment at Central Foundry Company.   I may have seen a picture of the triangular Flatiron building which I recognize as a landmark, but I know I have not been to this neighborhood.


Flatiron building copy

Flatiron Building, New York City


Why do I have a feeling that I know this place, that I belong here somehow?  I am reminded of the strong feeling that mesmerized me as a child when I saw a photo of a building in ancient Greece.

Central Foundry Company is at 932 Broadway across from and behind the Flatiron building.   The old seven story building is not impressive.   It certainly does not look like the headquarters of a large company.

The lobby is tiny.  There is only one self-service elevator.  The company is on the second floor, not even occupying the whole building.

The interior is renovated and modern.

The receptionists also operate the switchboard, pulling out and plugging in telephone lines as they answer each flashing red light.  They are nimble as jugglers.



Switchboard     Getty Images


Mr. G.’s secretary comes and leads me down the long carpeted hall.   We turn and pass a row of several large offices.  Mr. G’s office is the last one.  It is elegantly paneled and has a tall ceiling with recessed lighting.

Mr. G. sits behind an enormous desk.  A man sits on an upholstered side chair.  Mr. G. introduces Mr. Morgan as a consultant.

It has been two years since Mr. G. gave me his card.  He seems smaller than the man I remember at Top of the Sixes.   Maybe it’s the power desk.   He tells the consultant that I am the student at the restaurant with the incredible memory and energy.

He says she reminds me of myself when I was a young man working day jobs and going to law school at night.

I notice sets of law books among the books lining one wall.  There are many framed photos on the paneled walls and they all seem to be of Mr. G. and groups of people, some of whom I recognize as celebrities.   There are numerous awards from charitable organizations.   On his desk there is a photo of two small children, probably his grandchildren.

When he hears that I have a job offer from AT&T, he says, we’ll give you executive training in this company.

We are the largest manufacturer of soil pipe in the country.  We also make artillery shells for Uncle Sam.  Our plants are in Alabama and we have facilities and warehouses in New Jersey and Queens and throughout the country.   We have thousands of employees and two unions, a fleet of trucks, board members and stockholders.

We’ll start you at the bottom and you work your way up.  You’ll get all the executive training you need right here because this is where we run the whole show.

Mr. Morgan says if I were you I’d take the job at AT&T.

He is a strange kind of consultant.

Mr. G. chuckles.  I listen to him once in a while, but you don’t have to.

AT&T is a huge place bustling with people and humming, beeping computers.

I feel more comfortable in this informal office setting.

Something about the neighborhood intrigues me.

The following day, I start work at the switchboard.

Comments closed.