When I first came to the U.S. sixty years ago, I worked for a family in Princeton, N.J., looking after their children and helping with household chores. The family sponsored me for my Green card. After I finished my job with them, I decided I wanted to stay in the U.S. and in Princeton.
I had no thoughts about a career or about studying for a degree. I had studied philosophy and 19th century English literature in London, pretty useless for getting a job here. Actually I didn't have any plans that I can remember, except that I wanted to stay in the U. S.
In order to do that, I needed a job.
One sunny morning, I went for a job interview with a professor of economics at the University. He was an older gentleman, originally from Vienna, I believe, and he was very charming. I have forgotten my brief interview, but never the extended conversation about everything that followed. At the end of which, he offered me the job and I accepted.
The job location was in the building at the top of this post, the Firestone Library on the Princeton University campus.
My immediate supervisor was a woman who was on vacation when I was hired. I learned I needed to be a very good typist. Which I was not. I told the professor this and that I would stay late and practice on my own time to get better. This was fine with him.
However, typing on those old fashioned typewriters was not what I was meant to do, at least not in this department, where, as it turned out, one needed to be an extremely fast and accurate typist.
The main part of the job was typing papers for the graduate students on those horrible green sheets with tons of copies behind the front page. You just couldn't make mistakes on those things.
The job was just not for me. So when the female supervisor came back and found out that I would not be able to do the job, she fired me.
I was OK with that, because I too knew I couldn't do it.
However, I've never forgotten her parting words, which really stung: "You only got the job because of your looks!"
This made me absolutely furious because the old professor and I really liked each other. I was way taller than he and he was way older than me. Yes, I know some women, particularly back then, probably got hired because of their looks, but the time I spent with the professor was not about that. We were both immigrants, he had fled the Nazis, I had fled boredom and anxiety, and we were able to connect and have a conversation about EVERYTHING.
Looking back, I realize that I was too young to know how to deal with a comment like that. I was actually so hurt that I never forgot what she said and how unfair I thought it was.
I was also too young to know how to deal with unfair stuff.
Many years later, with more life experience, I would not have been so hurt, but at the time I was.
And I never forgot her exact words.
But now I think back on what a great experience it was to meet a world famous economist, have an inspiring conversation with him, and to get to spend some time working in a building like the Firestone Library on the Princeton University campus.
The Princeton University Library with holdings of more than 7 million books, 6 million microforms, and 48,000 linear feet of manuscripts is among the largest libraries in the world by number of volumes. ~ Wikipedia