November 29th, 2009
This was not the first time I had confronted someone in a dramatic way. Once, I had gone up to a bully on the playground and said, Look, you don’t want to hurt us. Why don’t you just leave us alone? I remember a knot of boys staring at me, not knowing what to do. But they did leave us in peace. I also remember breaking someone’s window when delivering a newspaper. Later, I came back to the house and “’fessed up” to her. It was not so unusual to ride across town to the black monolith of an insurance company that stood on the edge of
When I got there, my legs were shaking from nervousness. I leaned my bike up against a tree. It fell down when I bumped it. I left it lying there on the ground. I went up the steps, feeling that this was all a dream, opened the door, and strode right up to the receptionist. She looked up from her newspaper, began to say “May I help you?” mechanically, then recognized me and simply said, “Oh.”
“I’m here to see Mr. Bardolet,” I said.
“Mr. Bardolet is in a meeting,” she said. “I don’t know when he’ll be available.”
“It’s important,” I said. “I think he will want to see me.”
She picked up the phone and announced my presence, describing me as “that reporter.” She hung up and said, “He’ll be with you shortly.” I took a seat in the waiting area off to the side. In the large room off to the side, I heard the clacking of IBM selectric typewriters, and the ring of telephones—all sounds that have disappeared now from offices all over the world. I smelled coffee; I smelled the mingled perfume of various women. Off to the right of the building, all the men worked. Off to the left were all the women. This place had not heard anything about the women’s liberation movement.
The receptionist left for a moment. I was glancing at the magazines when, a minute or two later, my sister came hurrying up. “What are you doing here?” Her brows were knitted together in vexation.