A hundred years ago, I was living in New Orleans, and, sister, I needed a job. I was in for a rude awakening. There were no openings for teachers. Nada. Zip. A big fat zero. I needed a job. Employment. Regular paychecks. I heard about an opening in a little town south of New Orleans called Port Sulphur. I called the principal and put on what I hoped would pass for self-confidence.
“I understand you have a teaching position opening. Don’t hire anyone until you meet me!” (I was such a doofus at that age.)
He laughed. “When would you like to interview?”
“Tomorrow.” I knew I sounded like an overly eager beaver, but I wanted that job. You have no idea.
I consulted a friend who had a sense of style.
“You need help. You’ve got to make a good impression,” she said.
I was a tomboy. Born and reared in the tropical country of Panama, I had a lot to learn about life in the big city. My friend loaned me a dress with a mini skirt. I don’t know what we were thinking in the ‘70s. Those skirts were SHORT. She also suggested a few more necessities to improve my chances of being hired: make-up, Lee Press On Nails, and pantyhose. I understood the make-up and the fake nails, but pantyhose were new to me. Panty-what? We didn’t have such in the jungle. Nope. Not ever.
“Look for them where they sell the eggs,” she coached.
I searched K-Mart until I had to seek out a worker. “Uh, sir, where are the eggs?”
“We don’t sell eggs.”
“My friend said to look for pantyhose near the eggs.”
“Oh. You mean L’eggs.” He eyed me like I had just fallen off the turnip truck.
The L’eggs wall was a veritable Shangri-La, a cornucopia of glittery plastic eggs. I had no idea that you bought pantyhose by size and color. I ran my hands along the lot of them until I stood transfixed in front of the shiniest of all, silver. It was a wonderment. To me it could have been Fabergé.
Interview day dawned bright and early. I showered, did my hair, put on make-up, pressed on my Lee Press Ons, and threw the miniskirt over my head and smoothed it into place. I unsnapped the silver egg, which hinged in the middle, and lifted the top. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the contents looked like a small, curled animal with wrinkly brown skin. I pulled out the panty hose. They were 4 inches wide and 11 feet long. No kidding. The panty part looked too small for a newborn. I checked the label. Control top. Now, if you’re unfamiliar with control top, let me school you. The Army uses control-top material to stop enemy tanks. Not one has ever broken through. Ever. Spider-Man’s spidey suit is made of control-top material. Olympic trampolines are made of control-top material. I tried slithering into them. Stretching. Pulling. Sliding. Jumping in place. At one point the recoil bent me backward, and I ended up on the bed in the birthing position, panting. I finally managed to pull the waist up where I thought it should go, but the crotch part was somewhere between my knees and my nether regions. There was still a good 12 inches of wrinkly material hanging off the ends of my feet, but that was the best I could do. I put on my open-toed high heels and tucked the hanging pantyhose part in under my feet. I checked my reflection in the mirror. Not bad, if I didn’t move too much and reveal the crotch of the pantyhose was 1 inch above the hem of my dress.
At the interview, the principal welcomed me and offered a chair. I walked stiffly and sat down, careful to smooth my hem down as low as possible. I crossed my legs into the position my mother had ingrained in me as “ladylike.” As the principal launched into a diatribe about the need for good teachers, something caught my eye. I looked down. Twelve inches of pantyhose were hanging out of the end of my high heel. My face went scarlet. I reached down as nonchalantly as I could and, keeping my eyes on his, I poked it back into place. I rested my hand on my leg, just above the knee. I felt something bumpy. I looked down. THREE OF MY LEE PRESS ON NAILS WERE STUCK TO MY LEG UNDER THE PANTY HOSE.
A shocked, guttural sound burst out of me. “UUUUUUU!!!” I slapped my hand over the Press On Nails like I was killing the worst mosquito. The principal stopped, mid sentence.
“Are you okay?” His eyebrows raised up a full 2 inches.
Thank goodness for principals. They can talk all day. He continued where he had left off. I, however, hung between mortification and misery. This was the only job available in the entire free world, and I wasn’t going to strike out because of careless grooming. While the principal talked, I began rubbing my leg with both hands, trying to unstick the nails. There was no way to go but up. My plan was to rub them up out of sight and re-stick them to my leg where they couldn’t be seen. This was hard work. Millimeter by millimeter. Intense concentration. I didn’t hear a word the principal was saying. I went into a glazed over, semi-vegetative state. I lost track of time. I was beginning to make progress when I realized the principal had stopped talking. He was staring, mesmerized.
Thank goodness for pity. His voice was gentle. “Do you need a moment alone?”
Thank goodness for mercy. He left me alone.
Thank goodness for grace. I got the job.