I would like to preface my recitation of an experience that I had while working at the University of Minnesota by saying that for me to lie or betray is out of character, and not at all how I typically behave. It is wrong.
After the Target firing debacle, I asked a close friend where on Earth I might find a better job? She recommended applying for work at the University of Minnesota. I was freshly fired and still quite shaken, also while I was confident of my young, nimble mind, I felt inferior in that I had not taken any college classes, much less earned a degree; but I yearned for knowledge and experience so off I went onto the campus of grand, old buildings built long ago for mental giants. In a dark, basement hall I found the dingy little bulletin board with index cards posting the available jobs on campus (pre-internet). Curiously I recall one job as a parking garage attendant that stated up front that one could study on the job, which was appealing but I did not feel capable of guarding anything. Anyway, at the time I doubted that women were hired for those sorts of jobs. Then I saw it, a job for twenty hours a week typing a professor's manuscript from dictation tapes. I had already had a job as a transcriber at an insurance company, it was dreadfully dull work, but maybe in the university context it would be interesting. So I applied, I was hired, and I was soon typing away with the young, handsome professor's pleasant voice flowing in the headsets clamped on my ears. I liked the job very much because I was learning so many things, both from working for the professor and simply by being at the university. However, as my confidence grew I became increasingly annoyed with his use of the singular "he" instead of using the new and daring gender inclusive pronouns "he or she" which I had been hearing about on campus. So, I corrected his manuscript—every time he said "he", I typed "he or she" into his manuscript. The next day he brought the most recent chapter to me and asked me to look and see if I saw any errors. I knew what he meant and I lied, I said nope, not me, I don't know about any errors. Of course I knew very well that he meant the "corrections" that I had made of my own accord into his manuscript.
As they say, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. My new knowledge of gender inclusive pronouns had lead me into the mistake of betraying the trust that the professor had placed in me when he hired me to type his manuscript. He said sadly to me, "I have to let you go." I pleaded for my job, I promised that I would never again change anything that he wrote. "I am sorry." he told me, "But you have broken my trust, I can never trust you again." I may have cried.
The professor talked to me for a while before I went on my way. He asked me what I wanted to do in life. I had not yet had a life goal beyond making enough money to pay for rent, food, clothing, and savings. In that instant I realized that I wanted to be a writer. (I had seen how he did it!) He asked me what I wanted to write about and I was stymied. He said to me, smiling so kindly that I remember it half a century later, "Wait until you are old and write about your life." What did he see in me to suggest such a thing?
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2021