As I stepped out of the revolving door of the First National Bank Tower the wind slapped my scarf back over my face and my eyes clouded immediately from the bitter thrust. I grabbed at my coat to protect my exposed skin and as I precariously began my decent down the steep steps to the bus stop at the Marietta and Forsyth Street intersection of Five-Points in downtown Atlanta. This was my new normal route now.
I had snagged my first desk job that would one day launch me to my affluent corporate dream job. Obviously this was one of my great aspirations. I pulled my long shoulder strapped purse close to my side and reached my hand in my coat pocket to confirm my ticket was still there. My heels clicked on the concrete as I strolled confidently towards my stop.
My mind danced around, a million miles away, as I considered my plans for dinner and my options for the rest of the evening, when I heard her voice call in my direction. “Do you work here?” she asked. Not recognizing her, I looked around to see if she was possibly addressing someone else. I turned back to see if maybe she was someone from my new job that I may have recognized me but that I might only know by face. But I had no recollection of her face.
My defenses rose immediately as I considered the possibility that she may be a con artist or have some devious intention to rob or attack me. I pulled back to put a little distance between us and replied, “yes, I work here”, as I looked back towards the building I’d just exited. Still cautious about providing too much information and uncomfortable about her reason for such questioning I hesitated to say more. But she pushed on, “Is this a good place to work?” Now, what kind of question is that? I wasn’t sure how to answer her so I just responded with a simple, “yeah?…”
I gave a politely closing (fake) smile and started to pull away to return to my zone when she asked another question. “Do you do well?” Now, what she really caught me off guard. “What was she asking me that for, was she trying to see if she could get a job here too”, I thought. I hesitantly answered. “I do ok.” Was she able to see through my façade? I didn’t want her to know I had just started as rookie with the stock exchange and had not yet reached my obvious potential? Was it obvious that I was just a simple a file clerk? I tried to not give my embarrassment away. “I really enjoy it”, I said as I lifted my chin in confident defiance that she might consider otherwise.
Then she landed the final question in our impromptu interview. “So, how much do you make?” That was it. Now she had pushed a little too far, that was personal and I thought unfair and why would she ask something so forward when she didn’t even know me? She noticed that I was obviously taken aback (as I stood with my mouth hanging open) and she restated, “about how much do you make an evening?”
Did you hear it, the whistle blow? The sounds around me blurred and I could hardly catch my breath. I tilted my head and looked her in the face. Then I caught myself looking a little closer at her short dress (if you want to call it that), her spiked heels, her tussled, loudly multicolored, spiked hair and her lack of covering…just a thin scarf. Had I been that raw, that inexperienced, that I missed the spotlight right in front of me? She was a prostitute , a street-walker…
With embarrassment and a total loss for words, I responded, I work here at a stock exchange. She quickly replied as she belly-laughed, “me too.” Before she could take another step, I stepped forward a bit and said curtly, “I work in this building.” Then I turned quickly and walked as fast as I could in my heels to the other end of Forsyth almost to Alabama Street before I turned back to see if she had followed me or if anyone had noticed me talking to her.
I was flustered and disgusted that she had taken me to be one of her competitors and that she would even consider that I, a obvious Christian woman, would be mistaken for someone like her. If I (a black woman) could have turned red I would have. When I finally stopped I turned to see that I was standing at a store front with a wide window that showed my reflection. I begin to examine myself very closely. Did I really look like a prostitute or act like a prostitute? I checked my face and my clothes then quickly pulled my coat closed tightly and ran to the nearest bus, not aware which direction it would take me. I just had to get away.
That day, I learned a lesson that has stuck with me even to this moment. I should always reflect God. If I am His then I should always resemble Him, outwardly and inwardly, not trying to keep up with the world’s view of what pleases. My mother use to say, “Remember who you are and whose you are”. That was one interview that I would never forget and I will share with other girls that they would learn from my textbook of mistakes and not from their own experience.