My first office job was for a small (personal) loan business called Liberty Loan.

I turned up for my interview, thinking I was the height of fashion – with my burgundy and white polka dot jumpsuit and matching bolero jacket and my platform shoes.  (Yikes.)

The guy who hired me admitted later that he had no intention of hiring me, until –

He had me type a letter.

He had to admit my ten dazzling fingers flying over those keys stopped him in his tracks.

And I got the job.

Having worked retail, I now knew that I was not going to be happy working a job where I had to deal with the public at large.

I didn’t like those people much.

At least, this was a step in the right direction.

I still had to deal with folks coming in for loans and to make payments, but mostly, I had to keep accurate records, balance the books, type up correspondence, run credit checks, and get our computer terminal to spit out the loan paperwork.

The last bit was an adventure, in and of itself.

The home office was in Missouri (I think), and if there was the least bit of bad weather between the home office and our office, in Michigan, the computer terminal connection wouldn’t work.

Either way, you had to fill out a card with all the correct numbers and codes, then type it all into the terminal (in one big lump) and hope you got it all perfect.

If it was perfect and sunny and dry in between Missouri and Michigan, it was a wonder.

All of the documents printed out perfectly.

If you had one misplaced number or zero.

Forget it.

If the entry was not absolutely perfect (or it was raining in Indiana), you got an error code.

We had a huge rolodex of all the error codes and what they meant – pointing you to where you made an error in the entry.

I never got any of those codes.

I always got the same one.

I forget the error code # – but it basically meant:

You fucked it up somewhere stupid; good luck figuring out where.

That was where I learned how to read, understand and explain legal documents.

I was good enough at it to be allowed to close loans all by myself!

Pretty cool.

I met my first person from New York working there.

His name was Mr. Carlson – only he pronounced it “Cawlson”.

I loved listening to him talking to our customers on the telephone.

“My name is Cawlson – no Cawlson – C-a-awr-l-s-o-n.”

Even better when he told them where we were –

“We’re on Cawt Street.  No Cawt Street.  You know, next to the Cawt House.”


We eventually hired another cashier – Mamie Peña.

When I first saw her name, I was, like, Mamie Peena?  What kind of name is Mamie Peena?

And then I found out her boyfriend’s name was Jesus!

Holy fuck! Who named their kid Jesus?

Later I was enlightened as to the little squiggle over the “ñ” and what it meant.

And that Jesus – is pronounced Hay-sus.

Hey, I took French in High School and German in college.  No hablo espanol.

Live and learn.

Oh, and the one part of the job I hated was doing collection calls.  In fact, I finally refused to do them on the really old unpaid loans, after I called one and ..

I asked to speak to the man who’s name was on the old loan and was told, he was in prison.  So I asked for his wife, and was told he was in prison for killing her.

Fuck me.

So it was a real learning experience; and I liked it pretty well.

But I had to take a summer off to perform with the Fischer Troupe and lost my seniority; and after I went back to work for them, I got laid off.

The boss admitted, as he was telling me I was laid off, that I was a much better employee than the other person (Mamie had left); but that’s what happens when you work for a big company.  They got rules and are inflexible with them.

So that was that for my first office job.

But I sure learned a shit load of stuff working there.


The Cawthouse, on Cawt Street, Saginaw, Michigan

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