#11 The Air Vent Conversation Part IIIPosted: February 27, 2012
In #7 The Air Vent Conversation Part II, I had abandoned my spiffy new job in New York to join the man in my life who moved to Milwaukee. This was the second time I’d changed jobs because of us. It was my fourth move because of us.
I have nothing against Milwaukee, except that it snowed so damn much that by the end of winter, which lasted into April, every intersection was so piled high with plowed snow, you couldn’t see until you got to the middle. Forty degrees below zero was not uncommon for weeks, and I don’t care about wind chill factors, anything below 20 degrees is just too bloody cold. Car engines had to be plugged into block heaters every night to keep them from cracking. On the other hand, spring was magnificent. People were nice if they didn’t hate you for being from New York. There were great restaurants and if you like beer (which I didn’t) you’d be in heaven
We lived in a hotel for a couple of months while house hunting. Tough to know what to look for when we’d never had a conversation about our future. Tough also to know how much to spend, since I had no job. We looked at solid brick colonials with nice yards. But he urged us toward a new condo complex off the freeway, with streets like Brown Deer Road and Pheasant Place. We, I should say he, bought the condo in a cul-de-sac: two stories and no yard to maintain. We, or rather he, bought a used Mustang from Bud Selig’s dealership (the then future Commissioner of Baseball) which I drove since he had a company car.
At about the time we moved into the condo, I learned of a position with a successful television station. Back then there were only four stations in a market, and I was accustomed to dozens of competing radio stations going after the same advertising dollars. This would be very different. I had to switch because we couldn’t both compete in the same radio market.
It was fall of 1976 when I started work. I had a very short haircut then, shorter than my Twiggy cut in the 60’s. When I met my new colleagues, it was not a warm welcome as they stared at my hair. What I had not been told was that I would be the first woman in sales in that market…ever. The men on the sales staff treated me as if I had a highly contagious disease that might have come from another planet. It made my work life pretty miserable. So I told the Manager that I was going to call a meeting with everyone and he was not invited. I don’t know where I got the nerve to do that. Life was miserable enough for me to do something about it. I learned at that meeting that they thought I had been hired to replace one of them, so I put it directly to my male colleagues that I simply accepted a job that was offered me and I was not there to take anyone else’s business. After that, the guys couldn’t have been better, like a batch of fun respectful brothers, something I had never experienced.
There was no Madison Avenue, so I couldn’t walk to a client’s office as I had done every day in Manhattan. I was perpetually lost driving with a map in my hand for the first six months. As a skier, driving in snow was not new to me. But one night it snowed so much, we were trapped in our complex. The men dug a tunnel big enough for me to drive the Mustang through it.
Though it wasn’t what I had planned, I was thriving in television. At one point a sales management position came open and of course I applied. That’s exactly what I was trained for in New York. Three other guys applied too. The General Sales Manager sent us all to a Psychologist for inkblot tests, long personality profiles and extensive repeated interviews. This went on for about six months. I’m not kidding. It went on so long the Psychologist and I became friends. Then the Manager hired someone from the outside. He couldn’t bring himself to place a woman in that position. To his credit he admitted it to me, but years later.
Back to home, what does an upwardly mobile couple do when there’s no life plan? There’s no mention of making a plan. They take weekend trips with friends. They buy more furniture for the larger space. And they get an expensive dog. A Soft Coated Irish Wheaten Terrier to be exact. That would fix everything, right? Molly was delightful but not trainable. With no yard, I had to hit the freeway during the day to let her out.
Okay, so the relationship didn’t have fireworks. We had humor and business in common which became less and less of a reason for being together. We did take our first trip to Europe and it was largely a disaster. He wasn’t comfortable away from American radio stations. And I wasn’t comfortable with his discomfort. By London we weren’t speaking.
When we returned we had a wedding to attend, but I couldn’t get myself out the door that afternoon. I felt miserable and realized that a wedding was a smack of a reminder that we had no plan.
A few months later he announced that he was taking a job in I think,Virginia. There was no mention between us about my joining him and I moved to the guest room. We got along better with that pressure off. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, we just didn’t belong together. We didn’t belong together for nearly three years.
So there I was in Milwaukee, far from my career roots on either coast, Seattle or New York. I was in a jam, with no car of my own, no furniture of my own, not even a room of my own (sorry Virginia Woolf) but I got the dog.
Having just turned 30, surely now I would make more adult choices.