Leading Lady and Inventor

After college, I began my professional career working as a computer programmer at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill and then in Whippany. My first was job was as a hacker. Did I ever tell you that? It fits my personality, don’t you all agree? I was given an office and told to try to break into the computers of some of my coworkers using what I knew about them to try to determine their passwords and usernames. As a new employee, my personal knowledge of them was quite limited. I had to be creative, so it was both a fun and boring job. I recall little else of that job and soon moved on to my assignment in Whippany in the cell phone group.

I shared my office with two other people: a woman not quite old enough to be my mother who also worked as a programmer and an engineer named Ed who was about Grandpa’s age—Old—but very nice. He instructed me on day one to call him Ed, and said that if I ever met the CEO, I was supposed to address him by his first name as well. That was a difficult concept to accept, but since I never met the man at the top of the organizational chart, I only had to deal with learning how to call Ed by his first name.

Cell phones were in their infancy then, so my job was to take data gathered in field trials and write programs to make various charts and graphs, something now done by Excel.

We had a lot of young people in the organization, and I was invited to join their lunchtime bocce ball team. The company encouraged these games and even had regulation-sized courts on site.

I was the “leading lady” of the group, which meant I was the one to throw out the little ball known as the pallino followed by the first regulation-sized bocce ball. It was a nice way to relax after a busy morning of heavy thinking.

After our games, it was not uncommon to go out for lunch and a few beers. I always felt a bit awkward taking such long lunches, but everyone did and no one seemed to care. Our team was quite good.

When I moved to New York, my team took me out to lunch and presented me with a creative keepsake, which was quite thoughtful and funny. It was a rectangular board with a bocce ball glued onto a pyramid of beer bottle caps. It was tangible proof of what went on during lunch. Below the beer caps was a small engraved plaque which said, “Leading Lady.”

I brought that trophy to our home in New York and displayed it in our family room for quite some time. It was a great icebreaker when inviting our new neighbors to our home. Sadly, I think it met its demise in our trash. It’s such a shame. I think you all would have enjoyed seeing it.


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