An Organization Man Has an Epiphany

The cast of The Mod Squad. ABC Television, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

I have never been the same since a peak experience that happened the second week of June, 1968. Maybe the stars were aligned and aimed at that particular spot in Austin, Texas, at noon. Perhaps the wheel of fortune attached to my fate caused an energetic chasm in my reality. Whatever it was, here is my memory of that life changing event.

First, imagine Dick Gartner, the consummate bureaucrat in his black, brown, or dark blue suit and matching narrow tie, driving in to work at 7:30 a.m. from his stone ranch house on top of a hill outside of Oak Hill, south of Austin. Picture him pulling into the parking lot behind his building, walking in with a sack lunch and a furrowed brow and thick glasses and a parted conservative haircut. He greets people coming to work and enters his spacious office with a wall covered in pictures of ships. Barbara, his secretary—young, ample, German, and efficient to a fault—is already pounding away at the typewriter. Dick, as 47 of his staff call him (except of course the secretaries) makes the rounds to offices to see who’s in and to get a reading on the day’s work.

One very important change had occurred over several months. He had become increasingly distracted and bored with the job. Managing the public school adult education program for the entire state within a tried-and-true conservative bureaucracy was taking its energetic and psychic toll. Combine this with a picture-perfect marriage, two beautiful children, a nice home, and, yes, an unsatisfying marital relationship, and the stage is pretty well set for something to happen.

I’d begun eating lunch during my fifteen-minute coffee break in the morning and then walking around the city for an hour instead of lunch. The goal was a midday break from the boredom and stress. On that incredible day I remember walking out of the front door, turning right, crossing the little alley drive between buildings. I stepped up the curb on the other side, took a couple of steps, and then it happened.

The day was a cool eighty degrees for June. The sky was clear and an overpowering blue. I glanced up at the intensity of the sky and suddenly became transfixed, staring. I remember a fleeting feeling that it was the bluest sky I’d ever seen. The next thing I knew, my body was trembling from the inside out. I was paralyzed and yet in vibratory motion at the same time.

When I recall the event my skin still shimmers. Approximately fifteen or twenty seconds passed, I think, and it was over. I took another step or so in complete shock, not really realizing what had happened and yet filled with overwhelming sensations. As I walked on down the street, I started laughing, not just snickering or chuckling, but full-out guffawing. The embarrassment was so overwhelming I covered my mouth in a futile attempt to remain inconspicuous. I walked two blocks to a small men’s clothing store selling the new mod styles and told Jerry, the clerk who became a friend, that I wanted to try on a suit I wouldn’t wear. He asked my size. I said forty long, which I had worn for all my working life. He had me try on two mod suits, one with slightly belled trousers, the other with stove pipe legs and no cuffs. I said they didn’t look right. He smiled and asked if I wanted trying on my size—37 regular. I gave up and said to give me whatever he thought was right. I left with two suits that hung in my closet for a week before I built up the nerve to wear one.

I was 35 at the time and at 88 I’m still reeling at some level and will continue to do so for as long as I live. Yes, I say to the eternal vibration of it all and yes to continuing evolving.

Note. I told no one about this for five years and when I did tell a dear friend, I burst into tears.


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