It’s just before 11:00 AM when the phone rings in my office at the E.F.MacDonald Travel Company in Dayton, Ohio.
“Hello, this is Marilyn.”
“Hi. My name is Herb Medrow. I’m calling because you sent me a resume. I own an incentive travel company, Creative Travel Planners, in Woodland Hills, California.”
The voice is deep and resonant. I try to recall anything I might know about the company he mentioned. Did he mention his company? All I heard was California.
“Oh, yes, hello.” I speak in hushed tones because my boss, Renate Glasscock, is in her office just around the corner from mine.
“I’ve read your resume and wonder if you can tell me a little more about yourself.”
“Um, yes, I’d like to do that but it’s a bit difficult at the moment. Is it possible to call you back? Maybe in an hour or so, when I’m on my lunch break?”
“Sure, I understand. That’s fine with me. Got a pencil? Here’s my number: 213-704-7033.”
“Super. I’ll give you a call. Um, pardon me, what did you say was the name of the company?”
“It’s Creative Travel Planners, CTP for short. If you’ve got a minute, let me tell you a little bit more.”
“Sure, that would be great.”
“I started the company about four years ago. I come from a cruise industry background and have a lot of good connections. We do a fair amount of cruise business. I have four employees, but none of them are focused on doing proposals. You indicated that’s your specialty. Is that right?”
“Yes, that’s correct. I really like doing proposals.” I track Renate’s movements toward the telex operator on the other side of the office.
“I see you’re from Michigan. I was born and raised in Chicago. You must have that midwest work ethic then, right?”
“Um, yes, I believe I do. I work hard and do a good job, but don’t feel my efforts are appreciated. There’s nothing keeping me here.”
I watch as Renate walks back to her office. “May I give you a call back? Will that be okay? In about a hour?”
“Yes, please do.”
“And, I’m sorry, can you repeat your name again for me?”
“It’s Herb. Herb Medrow.”
“Got it, thanks. Goodbye Mr. Medrow, and thanks again for calling.”
I hang up the phone and do a little victory dance in my office chair. I look across to see if my friend Debi is off the phone. She and I are in competition to see who gets hired away first. We’re the only single girls left in the department. My other good friend, Beazy, who was hired on after me, has already quit and is living in Sweden. I got a letter from her the other day telling me she’s traveling to India in the spring. “You’re the one who really inspired me to go to Asia,” she wrote.
I hurry over to Debi’s office. “Guess what?” I ask her, excitedly. “I just got a call from a guy in California about my resume! We couldn’t talk much, but I’m going to call him back during my lunch break! He said he’s in Woodland Hills, but I don’t know where that is. It’s a really small company – really small. I don’t know how he can do business with so few people.”
“That’s nice. California? Wow – that would be so cool.”
“Yeah – I have to rush home and call him. It’ll be long-distance, but I hope it’s worth it. He sounded nice. I’m excited!”
Herb’s call is the first response I’ve received to any of the resumes I sent out in the last six weeks. I type up and mail out at least three letters every week. At first, I wrote to companies on the east coast – Boston and Washington, D.C., because I really like the colonial architecture there. After getting rejection letters or no response from any of those companies, my geographic range expanded. I wish I could remember who recommended Creative Travel Planners. I want to write to thank them, and maybe find out a little more about the company.
After my annual review in December, my supplier friends had given me hope that there were good companies out there. I know I can probably do worse than EFM. Every time I have a private meeting with an industry rep or hotelier, I ask them to look through a list of incentive travel companies and mark the “good” ones.
Without revealing much more than, “I’m no longer happy here,” they always understand and are willing to help.
I’m still seething about that meeting with Mr. Connelly. For 12 months, I had poured my heart and soul into every project. After all the times I worked late to get an urgent proposal done! Then there was the night I dreamed about a proposal, woke up at 2 AM, and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I went way above the call of duty to come into the office and work on it in the middle of the night. Gas is over $1.30/gallon. My rent increased by $35 to $175/month. Inflation is 12%, and he has the nerve to tell me they’ll only give me a 3% increase because of company policy?
All the executives here are men. I wonder if Eric will get more than 3% after his first year? Most of the female employees are stuck here in Dayton because they’re married and can’t leave. As career opportunities go in the midwest, this job certainly has its benefits, but when I can’t afford to turn on my heat in the winter, what use are travel benefits?
I’ve heard rumors about our Executive Vice President. He supposedly summoned one of the female account executives to his hotel room during a sales trip and when she got there, he was wearing only a bathrobe. He doesn’t give me a second look, but Debi, who’s really pretty, said he gives her the creeps.
I have GOT to get a better job!
I grab my purse and the egg salad sandwich I brought for lunch and head out to my car. It’s supposed to snow later today, but right now it’s cold and dry. A gust of chill wind follows me into my red Chevette. I shiver, thinking how cold it’ll be in my apartment. Too bad I can’t call this guy from under the covers of my electric blanket, but the phone is in the kitchen.
It’s about a 10-minute drive and I’m nervous. What if he asks about cruises? I’ve never been on a cruise. We have a separate department for cruises. And how can he do groups with only a few employees? There are 800 people at E.F. MacDonald. Would I like working for such a small company? I’ve never heard of Woodland Hills. It sounds pretty, but I wonder where it is? North or south? Mr. Medrow, Mr. Medrow – I can’t forget his name this time. I wish he had a toll-free number. I don’t know how long we’ll talk, but this could cost me $5 or more!
I’m too nervous to eat my sandwich. It’s too cold to take off my coat or gloves. I take a deep breath and dial his number. A friendly voice answers the phone. She identifies herself as Doris and transfers my call to Herb. I impress him with my knowledge of European destinations, but he tells me they don’t do many groups to Europe. I tell him about my background: growing up in Michigan with three brothers, going to Catholic school, my dad works for the phone company, mom is a homemaker, my family’s summer vacations around the U.S. with a camper, my Home Ec Education degree, and my travels through southeast Asia. I describe my tasks at work: researching destinations, creating itineraries and budgets from specifications given to me by the account executives. I promise to mail him some examples of my work. He tells me he’s heading out of town and will get back to me in a couple of weeks.
I make copies of some of my cost sheets and EFM forms, with client names blacked out for confidentiality. I compose an intelligent, enthusiastic cover letter expressing my interest in the job, which sounds perfect. Before sealing the envelope, I add a newspaper story that was published in the Sunday Saginaw News after I returned home from my trip to southeast Asia. Although my dad never told me to my face that he was proud of me, he called the newspaper and suggested, “You should interview my daughter. She just traveled all the way around the world by herself.” The date is August 5, 1979. The story takes almost half the page and is titled, “Taking your time in Asia pays dividends.” It even has an artist’s sketch of me so Herb will have an idea what I look like.
“Can’t hurt,” I think to myself.
And then I wait.
His call came late one afternoon. We made small talk about his trip. He had just returned from Tahiti. And then he got to the point. “I received your packet of information. I’m impressed with all of it, and really impressed that you sent it.”
I stammer a little bit, “But – but, I said I was going to send it. I don’t understand why that surprises you.”
“Let me just say that many people never follow through with their promises.”
“But … but if someone wants to get hired, why wouldn’t they send you the information they promised to send? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“You’d be surprised,” is all he says in response. “And that newspaper article – that was quite an adventure you had. You must be a celebrity in Saginaw.”
“Yes, it was an amazing experience, and my dad was pretty proud of me after I got home – though he and my mom were not at all supportive beforehand. After I got home, he called a reporter from the newspaper. And, before that trip, I never considered a travel career, but somewhere along the line, I just knew that I had to get a job in the travel business.”
“I’d like to meet you, and – assuming you’re still interested in the position – I’ll send you an airline ticket to come out to Los Angeles for a face-to-face interview.”
I catch my breath and untwist the phone cord from around my finger. Debi is watching me from the other side of the office. I flash her a big grin and a thumbs-up sign. “We only work half-days on Fridays, and I could take a personal day on any upcoming Friday.”
“We’ll check flights and book a reservation. We’ll confirm with you before ticketing. Okay?”
… to be continued …