Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis


Out of all the IBM offices in all the country, I ended up at the Office Products Branch Office in Greenville, SC. But my work would actually be in Greenwood, SC, an hour down the road pretty much smack in the middle of nowhere.

The branch was in charge of selling typewriters, dictation equipment and the very early word processors.

I was the first female the Greenville branch had ever hired. They hired the first black just minutes before they hired me. Ernie was 6'11". He had come from a job with the Harlem Globetrotters.

For a month, Ernie and I learned all about the machines. How to operate them, what they were supposed to do and what they did do, etc. It was fun and fascinating. Then we had to go to six weeks of sales school. In downtown Dallas, Texas about a block or so from Neiman Marcus.

The branch manager - I even remember his name - Gerry Cope - was a good guy. I think he'd have preferred to have kept his team all white and all penises but he rolled with the punches. Before we went off to Dallas, he called me into his office and closed the door and stood by his desk first on one foot and then the other. And stammered:

"I don't know how to really tell you this but I always tell the guys before they go off to Dallas or any business trip and it wouldn't be fair not to tell you and besides it's kind of important and but well ...."

Then in almost one giant word he blurted "If you are going to screw around don't do it in the hotel!" He was beet red and darted for the door to open it so I'd leave him to his embarrassment. It was hilarious.

Let's take a minute to picture us - me and Ernie. We at lunch together in Greenville every day. Then we went to Dallas together... The year is 1973ish and there we were - a truly odd couple - he's gynormous and very black. She's short and very white. I'm guessing we generated some chiropractic income wherever we went together.

Sales training turned out to be not as much fun as learning the equipment. And I was not a natural. Demos and slick pitches were just not my forte and my sad performance as a student carried over even here. By this time I had learned to skate by using my chick card and I did. Not a pretty or proud picture to be sure.

One day at lunch, I went into Neiman Macus and paid a boatload of money for a beautiful backgammon set as a thank you gift to my parents. They used that set for the next 30 years until Daddy died. I had to replace the felt in the damn thing twice. I tried several times to replace it with a new one only to have them go back to the Neiman Marcus one.

I finally graduated from sales school and went back to South Carolina, through Greenville to Greenwood to start my corporate life.

To Be Continued
Tags: tbc
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