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New Horizons

The Star-Telegram was not at a loss for headlines in 1979. The world took notice as a clergy-inspired revolution in Iran swelled to anarchy putting millions in the streets and resulting in deadly stand-offs with the Iranian military. The Shah of Iran was overthrown and replaced by an Islamic Republic, thus destabilizing the alliance between Iran and America. For the first time, many realized that happenings in Iran affected prices at the gas pump. I was suddenly the information source at work as people sought to understand the Iranian situation from a person engaged to an Iranian. Leave it to me to be indirectly involved in an international crisis.

My fiancé was fighting battles of his own as his family objected to our union and insisted that he marry a distant cousin. The outlook for our pending marriage looked even more bleak when the new Iranian government banned all transfer of funds to foreign banks. All of this made for great break-room gossip and both sides of the room were jealous. My side because they couldn’t talk about me behind my back, and the other side because they wanted to hear the inside story of what fueled all of the unrest and the perils of being engaged to a foreigner who was betrothed to his cousin. Like I said, leave it to me.

Big changes were also happening in the function of the department as the IBM Selectric typewriters went to the bone yard, replaced by terminals. For the first time, we experienced viewing on a screen what we typed on the keyboard. Those of us under 40 were excited about it; the older ladies were literally terrified. I now know just how they felt. But then I was young, learned quickly, and found myself appointed as one to assist in training my peers. Some actually trembled and said they were afraid they were going to “make it blow up” as they tried typing in codes and tags which were part of the new technique. We used a tag language to indicate bold type or a larger font. When tagging a word as larger or bolder, one must remember to end the tag so that the text returned to normal size. This was commonly forgotten, resulting in all of the following ads to print in huge type. The classified section looked pretty funny the first week we used the new system.

The ability to type an ad, save it, type another one, then retrieve a previous ad, all on the same screen, was a completely new and confusing concept. Some thought the ads were going to get mixed up. I finally explained that it was like playing records. If you play Elvis Presley, take that record off and play The Rolling Stones, the player doesn’t know the difference. That seemed to click and we all made it through. New work areas were created giving each person a cube with walls. I was grateful for that; it helped with the cigarette smoke that constantly hung in the air.

Ad sales were not quite as easy as the economy suffered due to the rise in oil prices. I maintained my accounts and worked harder to reach my sales goals but it was a difficult time and people in general were more on edge.

My fiancé managed to settle the family differences and we married in August of 1979. However, my dream of a career as a homemaker was stalled due lack of access to the funds in Iran. He sought and found employment but his earning potential was significantly stunted by his lack of English skills and experience. We were thankful for my job and prepared to make the best of things, sure that the ban on transfers would soon be lifted. Shortly after we established our first home in our modest little duplex, the American Embassy in Tehran was overrun and the Americans inside were taken hostage on November 4, 1979.

We welcomed 1980 but the new year brought nervous uncertainty as the hostage crisis continued. Many Iranians were deported and those who had status to remain were targeted. Anyone wearing dark hair and skin was in danger. Iranians and people of other national origins mistaken for Iranians were attacked and injured. Signs demanding “Iranians Go Home” were plastered everywhere. A threatening note was left on our windshield. The Iranian government confiscated all assets and property of Iranians living in a western country. Instead of building a new home and settling into a life of financial security, we faced hardship and danger.

It was a difficult paradox to understand the rage of my countrymen yet be married to a citizen of the offending country. We made it from day to day. We had friends who were loyal regardless of the situation and, in spite of the financial and political difficulty, life in general settled into a pleasant rhythm. In July of that year, I sat on a red leatherette chair in the office of my doctor and learned that the test was positive. I would meet my first-born in March of 1981. The roaring storm of political unrest and financial uncertainty faded to a faint hum. The next day I went to Monnig’s and tenderly purchased a tiny pair of white, hand-crocheted booties. Another heart beat beneath mine. We were parents.

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