I started my first company in 1977. It was an advertising agency geared to meet the needs of the aviation industry that still blooms in and around Miami International Airport. After selling, learning and creating for four years, I was a 26-year-old young woman with a successful business on my hands.
So by 1981, I was looking to expand my horizons. I wanted to work with the big boys -- international aviation companies. I got my chance when I was asked to create a sales piece for the local offices of a fuel systems manufacturer based in Vermont. What they wanted was a piece that could be easily mailed while making a powerful statement at the same time. This kind of job was right up my alley -- a challenge of design, information and "sit up and take notice" oomph. I got to work.
I ended up creating a piece that began small, but kept folding out larger and larger as more content was presented. The end result was a brochure that opened almost two-feet wide with an aircraft fuselage dancing across the center. It was edgy, a bit outrageous, and totally on the mark to visually convey the magnitude of the company's organization. It was the piece that would "take my agency to the next level."
On the day I was scheduled to meet with the marketing bigwigs, I was ushered into a conference room that held a big oblong table and serious men in dark business suits. These guys were not like the men I was used to working with -- the ones with loosened ties, rolled up sleeves and coat jackets hanging on stands behind their busy desks. These men seemed very formal and old. Some of them were probably 45 or 50. My knees where a bit wobbly and I had to wipe my sweaty palms on my skirt a time or two before I was able to begin.
Once I started, I soon hit my stride as my passion for my work took hold. My words were flying with excitement and happy surety. "The layout begins with the executive offices and your service department," I said as I unfolded the piece. "As it opens further, the customer will see the extent of your manufacturing facility," I chirped. Then, with powerful design spread full wide on the table, I confidently barreled in for my closing line, "This page illustrates the magnitude of your orgasm!"
Those three syllables exploded like a gunshot. I was a word-smacked deer in the headlights. I stood there in silent, ear-roaring horror. The six men at the table were stunned motionless, too. Then one man broke the quiet as he quipped, "So, Robin, what did you do on your lunch hour?" There was embarrassed laughter as I gamely squirmed and squeamed through the rest of my spiel. Certain that the color of my face was heating the room, I left my proposal paperwork on the table, scrambled my briefcase together and ran from the room.
I sobbed all the way home, sure that I had made an absolute fool of myself and that I could never hold my head up in the aviation industry again. I was still crying as I opened the door to my converted-garage offices. As I walked in and turned on the lights, the phone rang. I picked up the receiver and said a teary hello. At the other end, a gently laughing male voice asked how I was and then said, "Robin, come on back to the offices and pick up your check. We signed the agreement and want you to handle the account."
I've forgotten the name of the man on the phone, but not the company. Simmonds Precision is still in business today. I am sure the story of my so young and so eager "lunchtime-activity" presentation made the rounds for years. It certainly made the rounds for years in my own life.
As I sit here getting this story ready for submission and smiling over the memories of a so much younger me, I am reminded yet again, that what seems like the awful stuff, so often becomes the good stuff. Then it becomes the really funny stuff and then the so very blessed stuff -- the rich memories and the shared laughter of being alive.