notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Not Scary

A few nights ago, I drove by a building I used to know.

I’ve been by that building hundreds of times, but not at night. The darkness made all the difference.

I worked there. At night.

It was my first job after college. I guess it was a terrible job, but it took me six months in a very bad economy to get that one offer. I jumped on it.

It was 1975. The company was one of the first cable TV companies in Connecticut, and cable was in its infancy. Our company had just 1/3 of one town cabled. The subscription cost $5.95 a month, and for that sum what you got – was not a lot.

It was basically an antenna service. People were seeing a clear picture for the first time. And they loved it. No ghosting, no rolling, no grainy, shadowy images. And channels! We offered – not a lot.

The only channel you might recognize today was TBS. Brought to you by satellite. And we used the satellite to pick up independent stations from New York and New Jersey, which Connecticut folks loved, because it meant The Yankees.

That was it. Clear local stations and a few brought in by satellite (when everything was working, which was only sometimes). And yet people called us and lined up at the door and flagged down our trucks and begged us to come down their street.

We did have unused channel capacity. So we showed old tapes on one channel, and we had three other channels – weather reports and a channel guide and sports scores. All typed in by hand.

Guess who typed in that stuff.

ME!

Every evening, I typed in the weather and the sports scores as the they came in via teletype machine. I typed in the next day’s channel guide, cribbing from a TV Guide and the newspaper.

I wasn’t a very good typist. The Rockford Files always came out The Rockford Flies, and more than once the Public Access Channel became the Pubic Access Channel.

But they didn’t fire me. I think because no one else wanted the job.

I came in at 3:30 and worked till midnight.

At 3:30, the building was pretty busy. At 5:00, when all the installers came back from the road, it was bustling. And then … not a lot.

Everyone was gone by 6:00. And I was there in the building alone until midnight.

I didn’t tell my parents I was there alone. I told them there was a security guard. There wasn’t. Just little me. One hundred and ten pounds with an extra two pounds of keys.

But here’s the thing. I loved it.

I loved walking around the building all alone. Going into the computer room with a key and the tape room with another key. Turning on lights as I entered and turning them off as I left. Eating my sandwich in the break room alone. Knowing how the games were going and the latest news before anyone else.

I liked the thought that the people in the cars driving by did not know that the building was not empty. They didn’t know that a girl was in there, typing away by herself.

I liked locking up everything at midnight. Setting the alarm. Turning out all but one light and walking in the total silent darkness to my hidden car.

I guess that was when I realized I was an introvert at heart. I wasn’t a loner. I liked people. But I liked my own company. I felt energized alone. I felt powerful.

Of course, it came to an end.

One night about two in the morning, there was a break-in. I think only the petty cash box was stolen. The computer room and equipment was locked up tight – thanks to me.

It was all kept quiet. I didn’t even know about it for a while. But a very nice, very cute dispatcher decided to tell me. He said that they were all instructed, “Don’t tell Nancy.” Management did not want me to be scared. They did not want me to quit, or to insist on the security guard I told my parents we already had. The guy who told me thought it was wrong of them to keep it from me.

I told my boss that I knew. But I honestly didn’t know what I wanted him to do about it. I liked the job. But I certainly didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life. Typing The Rockford Flies was bound to get old sooner or later.

They moved me to Customer Service. Days. They had a guy come in and do my old night shift.

I hated Customer Service. I didn’t like the noise level, and I didn’t like asking anyone for money. (Who knew I would end up a Financial Executive in my next life?)

But they didn’t really need me in Customer Service. I got laid off after a few months.

I hated the loss of control that comes with a layoff. I may have hated that job but I wanted to be the one that decided to stay or go.

I wasn’t really sorry though. I didn’t ask to go back to the night job.

I had learned something about myself during those long evenings. But now that I knew it, I didn’t need to do it anymore.

I learned that quiet is not scary. Solitude is not scary. My own company is not scary.

Time to go on to the next lesson.

25 Comments

  1. Mary

    What a sweet little Nancy you were! And how I loved the .Rockford flies!

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    • So did I! My favorite show of that era.

      Like

  2. That’s what I was like walking in the dark to put the rescue goat to bed. It was REALLY dark, as this was winter in the wilds of Orkney with absolutely no street lights, like you get in a town or village. Although one night in the pitch blackness, I smelt the perfume of “Aunty Jane” who wore lily of the valley and I stopped for a second to take that in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember walking down a deserted hallway when I was in college, and suddenly was overwhelmed by the aroma of my Dad’s cigar. I told myself that someone must have walked through just before me, but there was no one there. I called home just to say hi. Everyone was fine. But scent evokes strong (and often good) memories.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved The Rockford Flies See I can even type it correctly. And if you had a daughter, I am sure you would be horrified to learn that she was all alone in that building night after night.
    Love the story anyway!

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    • I can’t believe now I even did that. But I needed the job, and I liked the quiet. Maybe they should have hired ME to be the security guard.

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  4. The year I was 16/17, I worked the last shift at a variety store at the very end of the main street in my home town. I was alone from 4:00 – 11:00 three nights a week, including Fridays. It wasn’t very busy and some questionable characters occasionally came in and made me a bit uncomfortable, but I never really felt threatened. Like you, I enjoyed the solitude. I read a lot (there were always paperback novels on the metal rack by the cash register; I’d make a note of the page where I left off each night before putting them back, always tucked behind something else so no one would buy them before I was finished). I’d also walk home (by myself, in the dark) when I got off work (it was a four block walk on a quiet street). My ‘next life’ was as a teacher to College students – noisy, busy, hectic. Like you, I wonder how that happened. The best part about being retired and living in the country (now) is the solitude (and I don’t have to hide the books I’m reading to prevent someone from taking them before I’m done!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I would like that job too!

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      • Nowadays, its next to impossible to find willing teenagers who will work for the kind of ‘perks’ we enjoyed (parents also wouldn’t let them walk home in the dark).

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  5. I worked as a church secretary for a couple of years and was alone most of the time as the pastor was always out doing stuff. I liked being alone and always kept the doors locked. They used to tease me about it and sometimes the pastor would get a little irritated at having to use her keys every time she came there, but one day a not so nice looking guy was at the door asking for money. I talked to him through the door and he kept trying to open it! Boy was I glad that door was locked!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is no reason to be fearful when you are alone… but “careful” is always a good thing.

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  6. Your 70s glasses are right back in style. The hairdo, not so much…. I have typo stories of my own: when I was PIO of the state Medical Board, an item on the front page of the newsletter that went to all the licensed physicians (in TEXAS!) listed all the information about doctors that was … you guessed it, pubic. And it was a board member who called it to my attention. It was my second issue of the newsletter. I stayed in that job for 12 more years. I loved this piece because I think I would have enjoyed that job as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! Public always came out Pubic for me. I wonder what that signifies?…

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  7. You told this story so well that I lived it with you.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I always worked with people. First as a hairdresser then in a card shop then a furniture store. I am an introvert and acting like a people person was ok but tiring. Retirement is a joy. I see people but not 8 hours a day. Perfect.

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    • I also enjoy being around people…. but in controlled amounts.

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  9. Not scary at all

    Liked by 1 person

  10. How brave you were! I was the only person working at a local packing company who knew how to use the teletype machine (guess that’s what a Telex was). What a pain it was to type on that monster!

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    • We have used all kinds of equipment that our younger counterparts will never understand. I used to mark keypunch cards when I was a teenager!

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  11. I worked the overnight shift at several radio stations. I should have been scared but I wasn’t. Probably because I was young. I also loved to roam the empty halls. I ran the audio board which was automated. Once an hour, I had to air the radio station’s ID. Right after I aired it, I set my alarm clock and slept for 59 minutes, until the next ID was due.

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    • I never thought about sleeping on the job! I’d like to go back and try it!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Sometimes, alone is good. And for some of us, it’s necessary. I think I might have been a bit nervous about being alone in a building at night, but otherwise, I’m like you: a bit of a loner!

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    • I enjoy being alone. Even now, in my retirement, I like being in my house alone. If I’ve been alone too much though, I get a little cabin fever and I take myself out for coffee.

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  13. so much about this to love .. but I will admit to feeling a bit of dread reading it, expecting something bad to happen to you.

    as a young single parent I would volunteer to work Saturdays — kind of like a typing pool, the executives needed someone who could finagle Excel for them. Worked a lot of Saturdays (with kiddo in tow watching Care Bears in a conference room) or on my own and, like you, I liked the solitude, never felt scared, and enjoyed the ease of moving through those corporate hallways without the edge other people provide.

    Really well done! ~ MJ

    Like

  14. “I learned that quiet is not scary. Solitude is not scary. My own company is not scary.”

    I truly LOVE this post! I can so relate! I was so in tune with you when you were describing the quiet building at night, walking around, eating alone in the break room. I was an overnight computer operator for a while and the solitude was just so pleasing to me! I’ve never come back to preferring the company of people, despite Briggs-Meyers confirming that I am an extrovert (JUST barely over the line).

    I love this post.

    Thanks for the memories!

    Like

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