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Columbus Day 2021

Delta Debra

During the madcap Carter years, I was living, studying (books and life), and working in the Nation’s Capitol. Perpetually, I went in search of 2 things:

warmth in the winter, and a good job.

The warmth I usually found. The good job I did not.

And there were so many of the non-good jobs, I lost count!

One valiant attempt on my part to join the league of taxpaying, somber, though not always sober, adults was my objective of working as a counter reservation sales agent at the K Street NW D.C. ticket-hub of Delta Airlines.

That job would be located about six blocks from my steam-heat apartment. I could walk there!

The season of this interview was spring, when all hope, at least for me, springs eternal. There was only one opening at this downtown location, and I was bound and determined to get it.

I filled out the employment application at this office on K Street. Shortly thereafter, I was informed, by mail, that I was on the list of interviewees. Delta Airlines would fly me, and all of the other applicants for that position, as well as for pilot slots, to their headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

I’d not ever been to Georgia; I anticipated, if nothing else, visiting the city of Atlanta. To prepare for the interview, I bought a long-sleeved bow blouse, in a yellow and gray pastel floral print on ivory; and a pale-yellow three-piece skirt-suit (vest & jacket were the other 2 pieces). This outfit was not expensive, since it was largely made of polyester.

The progression of this interview was not at all unusual for me, but it was likely completely out of the norm for the two executives at Delta Airlines. They had a battery of questions to ask me, and ask away they did! I recall feeling slightly amused by the nature of those inquiries, and enlightened by their purposeful timing during the Q&A session.

First, I was asked why I chose to apply to Delta Airlines for this job, instead of to any of the other airlines. I calmly stated:

“I like the name Delta. It’s got five letters, just like my name.”

The two men looked at each other.

“Really?” Exec #1 asked.

“I wouldn’t make it up.”

The two males nodded. They admitted they’d never heard that answer before. I think I smiled.

Some trite, but necessary, questions followed, regarding my work history. The editor in my brain excellently sorted out which skills and qualifications to disclose to these two professional buttinskies. I was enjoying my time, looking around the spacious room, eyeing their desks., the floral arrangements. Everything looked so . . . interior-decorated on a corporate budget.

One of the execs looked straight at me as he informed me that it looked like I was the best qualified applicant for this reservation ticket sales job. It was the only one available at their office on K Street NW in Washington, D.C. The job was mine if I wanted it.

I felt very happy!

The other exec then stated, in an off-hand manner, that all They would need from me was to take a Psychological Exam. Purely routine, nothing out of the ordinary for the employees of Delta Airlines.

I was silent for some very long moments. As the tension filled the air, I said: “Look, I already know I’m crazy. I don’t need a shrink to certify it.”

Nervous laughter came my way. Surely I couldn’t mean what I’d just said.

I meant every word that I’d said. These two personnel experts suddenly looked very risk-averse. And I felt like Miss Delta Force!

I asked them why their company would need to psychologically examine someone who’d be working at a sales counter? Were they concerned about my being rude or short-tempered with a customer? I’d already indicated to these interviewers detailed information about my public relations experience, along with my extensive background in sales.

I then received the truth, which I might not have otherwise gotten during this intriguing interview.

The fact of the employment matter was that Delta Airlines, the corporation, wanted to be able to switch me over from working at reservation ticket sales to fill in as a stewardess — in the event of a strike. The Company Suits had to know if I could handle being called, on short notice, to become a flying hostess, and sent to wherever the dreaded union-walkout had occurred.

Did I have a problem with flying, with working in the air for long stretches at a time, on a moment’s notice? It was hardly likely that this horrible situation would ever happen, but, just in case it did . . .

I remained silent, although I felt quite disgusted. I had a problem with the under-handed way this deal-breaker, for me, had just been dealt to this nearly-hired wage-earner. If ever there was an attempted bait-and-switch in an otherwise affable interview, I’d just encountered it.

How sneaky! And with that schmoozy glib car-salesman technique!

I am by no means a unionist, but I am also not a scab! For these guys to snake-oil imply that any employee of a company had to fill in as a scab during a strike — how vulgarly rat-fink can any private enterprise get? For the management to get into the lowest-life-form act? Jack London had that one right! And this time-frame was in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Before management really went to bed with the union bosses!

Verbally confronting their foul, ferret-like guile was something I chose not to do. To this day, I can sniff out, from a mile away, that type of saving-the-bottom-line-question until last, after the person has emotionally and psychologically bought into the situational investment — and, to save face, probably won’t be able to back out.

I back out very easily from a disgrace caused by others. In that case, I don’t have to save face. The other person ought to do so, but he usually has no honor, or dignity, left to preserve. He’s squandered it on fraud and deceit and betrayal. There’s no honor among thieves, and there’s even less among liars.

Quietly, I informed these two corporate suits that I had no interest in being treated that way by any company. I thanked them for their time, and shook their hands.

Each executive implored me to reconsider my position. That lack of respect for my self-respect only hastened my feet toward the door. I silently left the room.

Emotionally, it was a difficult flight for me back to National Airport (now Ronald Reagan Airport) in Washington, D.C. The three young men who had interviewed for the pilot jobs had all been hired; they’d assumed I was hired as well for the sole reservation ticket opening in a plum locale. When I told them that I’d turned down the offer, and why, they lambasted me.

“Boy, are you stupid.”

“Yup, I’m stupid.”

But I was not going to let any company, corporation, or business treat me like a replacement part, to be swapped out, whenever and wherever, like a cog in a wheel, a wheel that doesn’t know where it’s going. I was, even at that young age of majority, not inclined to ever join a union. I likewise refused to be deemed replaceable by any employer. The feeling reminded me too much of my mother’s treatment of, and attitude toward, me.

The three future pilots were having a jolly new time, celebrating their prospective careers with Delta Airlines. It was almost 1980, and they were going to start the decade off in high cotton. They drank their champagne, and they laughed. I didn’t imbibe anything, and I didn’t laugh. I remember feeling frustrated with my sense of not being able to conform to . . . anything.

The pervasive and urgent pressure to conform, to fit in, to not make waves, to get along, that burdened expectation was enormous during that phase of my life — during every phase of my life. That toxic atmosphere persists, to this very day!

My consistent response to group-meld is to high-tail it, as fast as I can, out of the pressure-cooker.

The other night, Dear Hubby and I were in a restaurant that had seen better days. It looked like a time-capsule of the late Carter years. My first inclination (desire) to bolt and run from this biker-bar was in response to the sign at the bottom of a very long and steeply pitched set of stairs.


A statement that is not to be confused with my favorite warning: DON’T TREAD ON ME.

Dear Husband shrugged, and said, “So it’s a hike.”

It was quite a hike from the parking lot to the top of this narrow, long, old, very old, creaking wooden staircase. I then arrived at the entry level of ye olde chophouse. I had to climb, with my boots on, another narrow flight of creaky wooden steps to the foyer/bar/dining room.

My feet nearly died with their boots on.

Another couple waited in this hot, dusty foyer. I conversed with them and learned that they’d made reservations at this dingy eatery. I had a hard time believing the rush hour here had any rush. The only hour looked to be happy hour. And it’s a Family Restaurant!

After about five minutes, a bleached-blonde, tattooed trollop, squeezed into black spandex and laced up black leather boots, came a-running to the very vintage phone at the front desk.

She spoke a mile a minute in a nasally voice. I gave up trying to understand her, and then I glanced warily at my spouse. He whispered to me: “Gets 4.5 stars on yelp.”

“Yelp,” I rolled my eyes and whisper-opined, “Is for people who need help. They either hate or love a restaurant. They spend hours, posting their reviews and pix. Some are in the 500+ club.” (The site should be re-named Yikes.)

“Do you have a reservation?” the question whizzed by me.

“No, but they do.” I nodded to the couple behind us.

They were seated first, and then Dear Hubby and I were piloted by the trollop up yet another narrow short flight of stairs, and then hand-motioned to ascend a longer, but just as narrow staircase. There, at the top, we were seated at a round table by a window with thread-worn, dusty sheers.

The harried hostess complimented me on my casual outfit and cowboy hat which, I’d come to discover, was a clear case of over-dressing. She whizzed away, and I looked around the room. Two other diners, a lonely couple, perhaps looking for romance in the wrong place, sat at a square table.

I suddenly wanted a bottle of Purell, and I normally disdain use of the stuff.

Dear Hubby scanned the menu. I whispered, “I’m not scared of any COVID here, but this place gives me the creeps.”

My sweetheart felt very disappointed, even crestfallen, to have taken his dear wife to dine in a dive. I set down my menu, and said: “We haven’t ordered yet; no one will notice if we leave.”

On wings of angels, we descended the flights of stairs, passed by the tattooed trollop speed-talking on the phone, and slid past a waitress. She waved us goodbye, hoping we’d enjoyed our meal.

By then, I’d lost my appetite.

I’d realized, however, that the people who had made reservations for dinner at this raunchy roadhouse, and even the ones who hadn’t, mainly the tourists, they’d all trekked that arduous vertical climb to get there — and they belonged there. Those twenty or so persons might have been stuck in yesteryear, but, it was by choice, a decisive lively choice.

They were all having a good time. They were happy in this run-down joint. This award-winning, family-owned restaurant was once a long-time popular mainstay of local color. It’s still going strong, coasting on past reputation, and drawing in the tourists and touristas.

I’m a local, but I didn’t fit in there. I really don’t fit into most group settings. If more than six people are enclosed in a space, anywhere, I immediately need to ascertain the whereabouts of the nearest exit. And I certainly can not travel the road of a roadhouse where the ambiance is seasoned decrepitude!

My niche is at home, cooking, or having a terrific meal, cooked for me, per my recipe, and per my instructions, by my dear husband. The notion of finding a homey place away from home to eat, when your own home-cooking is so darn good, well, it’s a quaint— but impossible — idea!

Delta Debra went on her way that night, more grounded than ever before, but not on strike! I’m working hard, moving toward the future, and looking forward. With a fantastic recipe for dinner in hand. I’m ready to . . .

Let the good times roll!