I’m a civilian

I had my first office job in San Francisco, c. 1959.  Typing insurance policies.  On forms with six carbon copies. Before computers, before, before, before.  Electric typewriters with variable-space characters were brand new, and a bane on us because W took up 3 more spaces than L did, so erasing was a huge problem.  Another year or so and along came typewriters with a stick’em ribbon that lifted type off the page.  Then one (me) could type over a whole line of the mistakes and so  it went and I went from dayjob to dayjob to dayjob.  Could it really be forty years? Twenty of them were at my last place of employ.

I am now a civilian.  I can wear mufti.  I can meet you for coffee. I can go to the movies in the afternoon.  I’m still learning how to breathe and how to live with the fact that there isn’t enough TIME.  Every damn day, not ever enough time.

Ordinary duds

Much as I liked aspects of my former job –and I did, mostly the contact with people trying variously to get along with a truly impossible neurological disease–  and the challenges of editing to make copy both evenhanded and smart— I had and have deep reservations about the role of voluntary nonprofit health agencies like the one I worked for.   Those reservations may account for how little I miss my attachment.

And after so many years of devotion to other people and  things, how much I now relish that I can focus on me and on the extraordinary work of Basil King, with whom I’ve spent so much of my life.

My office made me a cake for my retirement party…to serve it I had to cut my throat.


4 Responses

  1. Lori


  2. tom clark


    Swell to hear you are free and speaking.

    Coincidentally, today brings a poem that dates back (roughly) to that same time and place in which you began your office toil:

    Edward Dorn: The Common Lot

    • Martha King

      Just read it on your blog: how complicated that love. And nice your use of the still older Farm Security photos, Dorothea Lange esp. These children (30s – 50s) lived with a degree of freedom almost unheard of this sad day: the poor keep their kids inside as long as they can, the middle class ‘supervise’ them relentlessly.

  3. tom clark

    Thanks very much, Martha. Please do visit any time. As interesting as it is to introduce the valuable past things to the busy present people, it’s a great relief to hear from somebody who was there, knows what the deal is/was, and doesn’t need an introduction. There are fewer and fewer of us all the time, alas.

    By the by, I’ve now put up a link to your blog. If you feel like saying a word or two sometime, there are those who will be curious, and follow you back home. As long as you don’t mind that.

    (Always trying to find my way back home in the dark these nights, myself… impoverished and completely unsupervised, for better or worse.)