Jo Ann Beard:
[My day jobs were] Secretary and glorified secretary. For a while in my early forties I had a job stapling. It was actually fun but then it started bothering my back.
I worked once for a woman who was younger than me; she had me doing things like bringing her bagels and guarding her car when it was illegally parked. I liked her quite a lot and liked the job too, mainly because I could smoke while I guarded the car. Then she ran across a piece I had published in The New Yorker and almost had a coronary. She couldn’t adjust her idea of who this person she saw every day was. It’s like a box of paperclips had started talking to her. She just kept staring at me all day, and her friends kept coming by and laughing at her. To them this was high hilarity, that their colleague had underestimated her box of paperclips. At the end of the day she called me into her office and said: “You don’t know it, but The New Yorker is a big deal.”
I might be making it sound bad, but it was actually pretty great, all of it. The cigarettes, sitting on a fire hydrant in the sunshine, this woman’s genuine desire to let me in on my good fortune.