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The Way Things Were

Parenthood changes everything. Budgets were reworked, closets were cleaned out, and all conversations led to “the baby.” I loved my constant companion reminding of what I should eat and that I should get up and take a walk around the block. I attacked my sales goals with even more determination because ads equaled money and money equaled ability to buy more things for The Baby. My seven-year accumulation of carefully attended accounts made me a top producer of revenue and up-sells which translated to a pretty nice income for a little Dairy Queen girl. However, even though I contributed heavily to the bottom line, I was not exactly a favorite with management.

The letter that helped change the vacation commission policy was not my only protest. The new assistant supervisor liked strictly defined policy (one minute late equals tardy) and well structured disciplinary measures such as verbal and written warnings followed by suspension without pay and termination for repetition of the same offense within a calendar year. I resisted loudly when, after a sudden increase in disciplinary actions for being tardy, I discovered that his diligence in running a tight ship included purposefully setting the department clock forward to four minutes fast. After some discussion in the Personnel Department, The clock was reset and lost pay was refunded. There was also the “I was just kidding” meeting the day after he sent the memo announcing that each employee would be docked a day in pay for every day they did not make at least thirty outbound calls. The copy of the memo that was forwarded to Personnel, accompanied by a copy of litigation regarding garnishing wages in the state of Texas, may have been an incentive to recant.

He was not a bad guy, just a product of the times. It was a time of transition and protective regulation was either new or non-existent. These were worthy causes for resistance but my victories did not gain me favor with my superiors. The biggest battle of all lay ahead.

The Iranian Hostage Crisis resolved in January of 1981, ending 444 days of unrest and uncertainty. The Iranian government had chosen President Jimmy Carter as a scapegoat, blaming him for all ills in the world and for “making it necessary” to take hostages and teach America a lesson. On the day of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, Iran boarded the hostages on a plane bound for Germany but denied clearance for take-off until it was reported to the world that Ronald Reagan had been sworn in and was officially the President of the United States. In doing this, they punished Jimmy Carter by denying him the privilege of making the official announcement to America that the hostages were free.

January also ushered in the year that our baby would be born. My family breathed a sigh of relief looking forward to a more peaceful world to welcome our child. The baby room was painted a cheerful yellow and adorned with hand-sewn curtains and bedding. Each night before going to bed, I opened the door to the room and took in every detail. I could not wait. There was also preparation to do at work. I arranged a meeting with my manager. I told him that I planned to be take the customary six weeks and that I would start my maternity leave the day before my due date. “Oh, you plan to return?” was the response. Well yes I planned to return! I was the major bread-winner for my family and had no choice or intention of not working. I was smugly informed that when I started maternity leave my accounts would be distributed to other reps and, if I returned, I would need to start from the beginning to build and retain accounts. I could not believe what I was hearing. Losing the accounts I had worked so hard to accumulate would mean an income reduction of at least 50%.

I took a deep breath and asked “Why would you do that? Betty had surgery a few months ago and retained her accounts.” He leisurely swiveled his chair back and forth, breathed a patient little sigh and said “We consider pregnancy an elective condition; you do not have to get that way and you do not have to stay that way.” It was one of the few times in my life I was speechless. It was time to move from letters to lawyers.

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