Concrete Cadillac, Chapter 1
Pulling Up Stakes
The year I moved to Dallas, I pulled up stakes and left a house in Florida filled with my worldly possessions. The hardest part was leaving behind the two family members I would miss most, my step-son and my dog. It was the only choice that could offer a brand new start somewhere with a fresh, clean slate. A new beginning.
I was lucky that my old 1967 Malibu survived the twelve-hundred mile journey without too much trouble. There were a couple of times I had to let the engine cool down, but the fact that it continued running was good news. There was no money set aside for car repair or for that matter, much of anything beyond basic bills.
I wasn't sure I'd be staying in Texas forever. Who could know that sort of thing? Signing up with several different temp agencies made it nearly a certainty that I'd have work. During the weeks that followed, I worked in various offices all over the city of Dallas. It helped me get a good idea of where I wanted to live and where I didn't.
Dallas Texas Central Expressway
The secretary that worked the position before me left in a big hurry. I later found out that she embezzled several thousand dollars from the company. After they told me that, it made it easier to understand the reason for the intense scrutiny when I started the assignment.
The assignment was in a suite of offices set on the third floor of a high rise building. The offices took up nearly the entire floor and was elegantly furnished with designer couches, antique tapestries, artwork and real oak desks with leather inserts. There were Native American statuettes and even a Frederic Remington bronze horse sculpture worth thousands.
The break-room refrigerator was always stocked with sodas and snacks, which I learned later that I would be carting in from the parking lot, but the sodas were free. And that was a big plus on my budget. There was even a Xerox copier, quite a luxury in the days before printers and computers became common.
Luxury Office Suite
For the most part, the principles came in around ten each morning and after making a few phone calls, I made reservations for them at their favorite restaurant. Most of the family members left early in the afternoon leaving much of the day to myself.
With quiet time on my hands, I found a way to fill the hours by overhauling the filing system. Afterward, the dusty files were organized into alphabetical, color-coded folders. Typing out business invoices, reviewing bills, writing payroll checks and administrative duties filled my days. I was soon asked if I was seeking permanent employment.
Under My Thumb, Rolling Stones
Driving Miss Jeannie
Over time, my duties gradually evolved. In addition to being the president's secretary, I also supported the two sons (one evil and one sweet), their two wives and a few others who worked out of the office.
A few weeks into the job, I began to get invitations to join the family for lunch, which was a real treat, since grocery money was scarce. Dallas apartments were more expensive than I could comfortably afford on my salary, so the free lunch was a bonus to my limited grocery funds. I enjoyed expensive meals at fancy restaurants that I could never have afforded otherwise, and although I took care of the routine task of making reservations, gathering the coats and belongings and taking care of the bill out of petty cash, I really didn't mind. I almost felt like I was part of the family, likely, the black sheep.
Then came the day when Miss Jeannie asked me to drive her to downtown Dallas.
Start Me Up, The Rolling Stones
It was a crisp sunny day, yet cold enough that she wore a full length fur coat which I stowed in the back seat. I quickly hopped behind the wheel and started the engine and we headed toward the Dallas Tollway and made our way south.
She paused her conversation as needed to give further directions, thankfully, since I didn't know my way around. "You'll be turning off at the next exit, dear," she said, her hand over the receiver of the car phone where she spent a good deal of the ride. At the time, a mobile phone was an expensive luxury in addition to being about the size of a car battery. I couldn't believe someone was actually paying me to drive this brand new luxury automobile with leather seats, power windows and a working heater; something my own car lacked.
She rode in the front seat beside me, making it seem more like we were Thelma and Louise out for an adventure, rather than on the job, really. So we got downtown and she had me pull over to the curb and let her out at some fancy jewelry store. I was supposed to drive around the block and look for a place to park, then, wait for her to come out. It felt more like I was driving the get-away car.
Here I was, trying to maneuver my way around the block with all the one way streets and construction zones that blocked off lanes randomly and unexpectedly, when I unknowingly got stuck in the bus lane.
Downtown Dallas - Forward Momentum
Traffic was whizzing by on my left as I got stuck next to the curb and blocked in by a bus that pulled to a stop. Suddenly started raining, only it wasn't rain. Huge drops of gray cement begin spattering the windshield. Soon they covered the whole car in liquid drops of concrete from the construction on high rise building above.
I immediately pulled out into the next lane in a panic. Fortunately, there was a small gap in the relentless traffic. I waved a Texan hello to the guy behind me who, luckily, didn't hit me and was kind enough to let me out as he gave me the one-fingered wave.
I pushed the windshield washer button repeatedly and which gave me a moon-shaped view to continue around the block, when I saw Miss J come out of the store. I pulled next to the curb to pick her up knowing there would fireworks about the condition of the car.
The Velvet Box
Totally engrossed with the velvet box in her hand, she slid across the leather seat to show me her latest purchase. "Oh, thank goodness I was able to find this little trinket for Bob's birthday." She positively radiated with the joy of the moment. I tried not to stare too long at the ten thousand dollar price tag, mentally comparing the amount to my annual salary.
I checked the side mirror and eased into the stream of traffic, pulling the Cadillac away from the curb and made a point to avoid Miss Jeanie's eyes. There was no need to point out the damage to the car, speckled with patches of spattered concrete. When I started to explain how it happened, she interrupted.
"Don't worry, we'll just run it through the car wash," she said with a big smile. "Afterward, you can make reservations for lunch." She beamed again, closing the green velvet box over the sparkling diamond face of the watch. I was truly lucky to have a boss like Miss Jeanie and often thought about her calm reaction that day which could have turned out so much differently than it did. It would be a few months later when I moved into a tiny house on the three-hundred acre ranch. That's when things started changing.
My one-bedroom guest house was perfect, located at the far edge of the driveway on the direct path to the big house. In no time at all, my house became the place where visitors and solicitors stopped to checked in on the availability of the missus. My duties as gate keeper was only the beginning of other things to come.
© 2013 Peg Cole
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