My first job out of school as a young architect was as an in-house architect for IBM. I took care of, remodeled, and designed buildings for many locations in the Western United States. You can imagine I did not have the plum spots (though they gave me my favorite city at the time, San Fransisco), but places that took a whole day and several planes changes to arrive. One of these places was Juneau, Alaska.
I was also very new to travel. I had gone few places in a plane, and was broke from college. Thankfully I owned a warm brown herringbone proper skirt-suit, and bought a raincoat, my first of my life, with a lining. The guys I worked with all gathered round when they heard I had Juneau, and sent me to a GREAT place for dinner my first night in. Had my secretary heard what they were up to she would’ve saved me, but she was no where when they were regaling me with the merits of this quaint pub with great food.
Flying into Juneau was terrifying. We headed straight into a cliff, and I prayed the pilot was not on a suicidal mission. He stopped at the end of the runway inches from the road. It was February, and I had a reservation for a car. I asked for studded tires or chains, and they laughed. I figured they knew what they were doing. I was a Southern California beach girl who had driven once in Mammoth Lakes in fresh snow with snow tires. I got in the rather beat-up car, and headed out. There was one two lane road, which thankfully had a wide bank on my side, the ocean side, because I was already sliding. I found God again, forgetting my anger at all things Catholic, and prayed. I managed to creep along until I saw the Holiday Inn, the beginning of civilization (or so I thought.) I turned into the parking lot and there was a slope! CRAP. I went as slowly as I could but I was sliding and finally I did was any sensible beach girl would do, I got out of the car sliding toward the front door and ran in and asked the guy at the front desk to stop my car from hitting the hotel. It had, thankfully, stopped at the curb, and he parked it for me. I vowed never to behind that wheel again. I checked in, shaken but determined.
I walked to IBM. At that time Juneau was very small, in my memory it was maybe twelve blocks square. I was freezing, and before I left I had put on every pair of stockings I brought, and a t-shirt under my silk shirt. I had heels, silly me. The moment I stepped out the cat calls began.
Remember, I grew up a blonde girl in So Cal, had also spent time in Mexico, and was now seasoned to constructions sites. I was used to attention, cat calls, and handling myself on a construction site, but Alaska was so different. Guys in jeeps were not only asking me if I would service them in detailed ways, but they got out of the frigging car to come and get me. I socked a man who took my arm, and ran to IBM in heels. No Mexican gang in Venice Beach, no Tijuana boys, and no construction guys had ever scared me; where had I landed?
I made my notes and surveyed the premises, had my meetings, and was not looking forward to walking to lunch. The marketing manager said he’d take me to lunch, and he was old enough to be my father, a 6’4″ pasty-faced man with red hair. Over the most expensive hamburger I ever ordered (and later had to justify to our accounting department) at the bar/restaurant the guys had suggested I go to after work, he invited me to dinner at his house that night, explaining he had two sons between 22-24 who were looking for a WIFE.
Exhausted, and feeling like I was in another country, chilled to the bones and wishing, really wishing, I were HOME, I had him drop me off at the hotel. I bought several magazines, determined not to leave my room until the next morning. I took a brandy from the room bar and got into the tub. I could not get warm, and when the water cooled I filled the tub again and again until I finally was warm from the inside-out. I ate dinner in, and tried to go to sleep to the sounds of what seemed like a party outside my door.
The next morning I discovered that I was on the floor with the stews and pilots from my morning flight. They had partied, it seemed, late. As we all made our way down to the lobby to catch our plane, I asked if any of them were competent ice drivers. Yes, sure, no problem. We all piled into my rental car, I squeezed my eyes shut, and my pilot drove my car to Hertz.
When we took off we headed straight for the mountain. The pilot turned at the last minute and banked the plane fully on its side to avoid hitting the cliff. At the office the men I worked with explained that women in skirts were all hookers in Juneau at that time. . . It was the first of many initiations, and the last time I trusted the guys to send me anywhere.
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