Training Triumphs

At the age of 30, I registered for college for the first time. My goal was to earn a degree in education and teach school so that I could be off work when Susan, and other prospective children, were out of school. Within two years, I accumulated a decent number of hours by taking classes online and on Saturday, anything to accommodate a full time job and family time. The Word Processing Department was changing as memory equipment was installed in key departments. I was working with Susan to train secretaries and other administrative personnel on using the Xerox Memory Typewriter and the personal computer or PC.

The Xerox looked like any other electric typewriter except for the tiny bar of screen above the center of the keyboard. Documents created using this machine could be saved, retrieved, and “played back” (look mom, no hands!) all at the push of a button. The playback could be stopped for editing and replay. The PC was a funny looking contraption with a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) on top of a base sporting two slots that resembled a place to drop mail. To fire this thing up, a “boot disc” was placed the left slot and used something called DOS to cause the CRT to come to life offering Word Perfect as a method for creating documents to SEND to a printer. It was all so new and strange. Text could be bolded, made larger, deleted and reinserted with great ease in this new world of office administration. However, it was all the equivalent of voodoo to some employees, thus making training somewhat eventful.

The bank president’s personal secretary, Bonnie, was a mature, soft-spoken, Jackie Kennedy look-a-like who firmly stated that she didn’t like or want “that contraption” (the Xerox typewriter) on her desk and she didn’t know why things couldn’t be left alone. I was assigned to train Bonnie in her own familiar environment, the executive suite. The spacious rooms were on the top floor of the bank building, bedecked with wool rugs, gold-legged wing-back chairs, and fresh flower arrangements. I was surprised to learn that bank business made up a small portion of Bonnie’s daily tasks, the majority of which involved the personal calendar and arrangements of the bank president and his family. In between calls to make sure dogs were taken to groomers and dresses were delivered by Neiman Marcus, I managed to teach her how to create and name a document. Lunch was served by a gentleman dressed in a three-piece suit whose sole duty was to sit in a small room of the suite and wait to deliver or pick up a variety of things and to serve lunch and refreshments. After several hours of attempting to explain the concept of choosing a document name in the display window and bringing it forward to edit or reproduce, I came up with the juke box idea – the letters are just like songs on a juke box, I explained, but you don’t need a quarter. That clicked with Bonnie and training was a success. She wrote a very nice letter about my training ability and also mentioned my good manners. Reference to music media again saved the day.

Susan and I both provided PC training to a secretary at a Dallas location. She took excellent notes and seemed to catch on quite well. However, one morning after her training, she called to report that all of the work she created the day before was missing from her floppy disk. We went asked her to carefully describe, step by step, how she stored documents, shut down the machine, and removed the disc from the PC. She seemed to be doing everything right but day after day, her work mysteriously disappeared. Finally Susan traveled to Dallas to watch her shut down. She shut down the PC, removed the floppy disc, and used a magnet to attach it to her typing stand. The phrase “never put this near a magnet” had not made it into her notes.

In addition to all of the new job developments, we were waiting on a new addition to our family. As with our Susan, I had a dream about the baby. This time I saw an image of a sleeping baby boy. Just before I woke up, he opened his eyes, raised a hand, and waved at me. On February 5, 1985, I conducted an all-day training session. The class was made up entirely of men who all tried to conceal their uneasiness at being faced with a profoundly pregnant woman who stopped periodically to hold her back and take a deep breath. On the morning of February 6, we welcomed Stephen, our sweet, beautiful son. My heart grew another room and our family was changed. Other major changes were on the horizon.

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