Annie Gray’s Diary

Secretary Confidential

Please file this under: “What was I thinking?”

By Annie Gray Sprunt

Sometimes I look back at my life and wonder how I had enough sense to come in from the rain. After graduating from college, I knew I wanted to set off to seek my fame and fortune. But where? My mother didn’t think the ratio of men to women was in my favor in Atlanta or D.C. and therefore, I would not be very successful finding a husband, so I moved to Boston. (For the record, I’ve been able to find two husbands, and the night is young.)

Nor did my parents have any confidence in my career potential. My father thought I would benefit from a stint in secretarial school, so off to the Katie Gibbs Secretarial School I went. Seriously. I learned how to type, file and shorthand. Not very titillating, but I learned some skills and was finally employable! My first job was with the investment boutique Hellman Jordan. It was a very prestigious firm, but I was the lowest woman on the totem pole. There were four executives, two accountants, another secretary and me. Every Monday morning, I would sashay into work and blab on about my weekend adventures, assuming they wanted to be my friend. They did not. They wanted me to zip my lip and be a secretary.

In hindsight, it was very wise to live out of town as I started my adult life. I could make my mistakes and missteps in a town where I knew nobody, and there would be no witnesses. At the time, I thought I had it going on but in retrospect, I was absolutely clueless. Sit back and enjoy as I share three examples while throwing myself under the bus.

Example One

When I was living in Boston, my best friend, Bettine, and I just knew we would run into John-John Kennedy. We would drag our secretary selves to the bar at the Ritz and wait for him to show up. We were barely able to pay our bills so we would sit at the bar and nurse our one and only martini, straight up with a twist, waiting for the bachelor of our dreams to walk in. Needless to say, he never did. And if he did, what in the world was I thinking? Young and clueless was fun at the time. Or was it delusional gall?

Example Two

I was never allowed to have a credit card growing up because my parents had even less faith in my financial prowess. They were right. This was back in 1987, and salesclerks would ask if you wanted to open up a store credit card. Well, yes, please! Ignorantly and unfortunately, I applied for a credit card at every single department store in Boston. The real tragedy was that it was never explained to me that it was not brilliant to only pay the minimum payment. Why would I pay $100 if I had the option to pay $10! Well, hello! I didn’t have a clue what interest was and it didn’t occur to me to read the fine print. (Ironic since I was working for a money management company.)

In no time, I couldn’t even afford the minimum payments and was too mortified to tell my parents (if they had known, they would have thrown me in the loony bin). So off I go to get an additional job, telemarketing for the Boston Ballet. (Just so you know, I did extremely well because having a Southern accent was the secret sauce!) It took about six months working two jobs, but I paid off my debt and swore off credit cards.

Example Three

It’s almost too humiliating to share, but it really did happen. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you are missing a big opportunity.

Being from North Carolina, you know the drill — at the first hint of snow, schools cancel, milk and bread disappear from the grocery store shelves, liquor stores sell out, and we hunker in for the show . . . usually to get a total of 12 flakes. It was the end of September and lo and behold, it started to snow. I was snuggled up in my sofabed in my micro-studio apartment, in my Lanz flannel nightgown, smoking my Virginia Slim Light Menthols, drinking hazelnut coffee, blissfully watching Good Morning America. So happy to luxuriate with a snow day. It’s exhausting being a typer and filer!

Well, the phone rings and my boss, indignantly, inquires where I might possibly be. I said, “IT’S SNOWING!” Duh, I thought, can’t you see for yourself? I delusionally thought that the entire town of Boston would shut down at the threat of snow. It was the end of September, and I was wrong.

“Get here immediately!” he yelled into the phone. And I did. Let’s just say that he never looked at me the same way again. But then I remembered that I had a brand-new Filene’s Basement credit card. I trudged my sassy secretary self through the snow and charged up a new winter coat (fur may or may not have been involved; this was pre-PETA.) Then again, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to have those credit cards after all! 

Annie Gray Sprunt is a lifelong Wilmingtonian, award-winning mother, and self-deprecating bon vivant.

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