I worked with the invisible man.
Bill was pale to the point of transparent and about 5'-5" tall. He was soft-spoken and had been slotted into a "support" activity that he did with such skill and aplomb that he had quickly attained the invisibility of two Southern Baptists bumping into each other in front of the beer cooler at the Piggly-Wiggly.
His specific job was to oversee the build of advanced product to ensure compliance with Federal and California regulations. He bird-dogged getting the parts and getting the matrix of products built. He shepherded the product through the myriad of testing.
It was detail oriented and thankless work.
Not one to make waves, it was soon clear that he would retire out of that position even though he was just over forty. He was one of those guys who had gone back to night-school and attained his engineering degree. He had gone to the wrong schools and hadn't rubbed elbows with any of the corporation's future movers-and-shakers.
Bill was content with that. As long as he could provide for his family, he was happy. Family was everything.
One day I saw Bill smiling like the cat that had eaten the canary. Bill's normal demeanor was serenity, not smug satisfaction.
"Spit it out" I told him.
Bill let everybody boss him around. It was water off a duck's back.
"I bought my daughter a swim-suit" he informed me.
I raised an eyebrow. Buying a swim-suit is not normally a reason to bask in the warm glow of unanticipated victory.
He had been dying to tell somebody this story.
His wife ran the household with an iron rod. Bill was the "outside guy". His wife was ran the household. She had VERY firm ideas of how things needed to be run and she brooked no "nonsense".
Bill and his wife had a passel of kids, maybe six or seven. His oldest daughter was in band and they were going to band-camp which was in the deep-sand, blue-water country alongside Lake Michigan.
His daughter timidly asked her mother for a new swimsuit.
"ABSOLUTELY NOT!" was her mother's reply.
|Picture this swim-suit in olive-drab|
Bill's daughter was in tears. She was fifteen and she would be the only girl in a one-piece swim-suit. Not only was it a one-piece, but it was frumpy, hyper-modest one-piece swim-suit that would not have been out of place in a convent in 1949.
That posed a dilemma for Bill. It was very clear that the matter of girls' swim-suits fell within his wife's domain. On the other hand, he was filled with a vague feeling that every girl, even dowdy, pale, under-developed 15 year-old girls needed to feel pretty. Upon reflection, it snapped into focus that ESPECIALLY dowdy, pale 15 year-old girls need to feel pretty.
Bill did the unthinkable.
He purloined a pair of his daughter's panty and one of her brassieres. He asked the secretary of the test-engineering department (the most sophisticated and worldly woman he knew) where girls shopped for pretty swimsuits.
He marched into Macy's like Caesar crossing the Rubicon. He found a saleswoman and explained his requirements. Saleswomen are unflappable. Their job is to sell. She sold.
Tucking the brilliant, yellow two-piece suit with the breast-lifts into his suitcase he smuggled it home. Then, while everybody else was otherwise occupied (a small window window of time with eight or nine souls packed into the household) he slipped the contraband beneath his daughter's undies in the top drawer of his daughter's dresser.
Bill's wife had trained each child to do their own laundry on designated days of the week. There was virtually no chance his wife would stumble upon the wanton wickedness of the yellow bikini before band-camp.
Then, finding a time and place when there were no witnesses, he told his daughter about the gift he had given her.
Her world shifted.
"You are growing up" Bill told her. "Every girl should feel as pretty as my heart tells me you are every time I look at you."