During my senior year of high school, my brother and I got jobs at Tyson Foods. He worked in the raw chicken and I worked with cooked chicken. Every day after school, I donned my rubber boots, old clothes and an attractive hairnet, and spent four or five hours de-boning and de-veining cooked chicken. It was the most unglamorous of jobs.
Weeks before I was to graduate, I saw a job posting on the bulletin board of the break room. Needed: Receptionist/secretary to work with Mickey in the Personnel Department. I scheduled an interview and the Monday after graduation, I traded in my line job for a desk job. This was a dream come true for a still-seventeen year-old who had taken typing, shorthand and General Office Procedures during the past year.
I was eager and competent, but also naive and awkward. I did a good job, but probably tried too hard. One of my duties was giving new applicants the paperwork to fill out and scheduling appointments for them to visit with our Personnel Manager. This was usually a smooth process. They'd fill out the application, give it to me, then wait until Mickey was ready to see them. At that time, I'd hand him the paperwork and show the applicant in.
One afternoon, our only applicant was a pretty American Indian woman. (I know this for certain because after she filled out her application, she gave it to me and I saw she had checked the American Indian box.) I called Mickey, who was visiting with another secretary (In hindsight, I think they were having an affair) and told me to have her wait.
"He'll be just a few more minutes," I said and she smiled.
I caught up my filing, answered a few phone calls and casually walked back past Mickey's office to see if he was wrapping up his visit. He ignored me and I returned to my desk.
It was getting increasingly uncomfortable as the woman continued to wait. I straightened my desk, but I was through with the day's work and didn't want to take out a book and start reading in front of her. I was frustrated with Mickey. This woman was waiting as he was fraternizing.
I took a deep breath, wanting to say something--anything--to break the awkward silence. Then I spoke the first words that came to mind.
"Have you been an Indian all your life?"
WHAT? Had I really just said that? I felt my face get hot. I wanted to crawl under my desk. I DID NOT JUST SAY THAT!
I looked at the woman, completely chagrined. "I have," she said, laughing. I laughed, too, and cheered when she got the job.
***Have you ever stuck your foot in your mouth? Do you want to comfort me by telling me about it?***