“I never have to ask for permission” by Maran Banta

Maran BantaSometimes it’s the non-events that reveal the most powerful ‘why’ of all. I love TouchStones. There are lots of actual stones in my office and home, each has its own meaning. Some are defined by where they were found, on the beach in Chicago, or a mesa in New Mexico. Some take their meanings from their appearance or what type of rock they are. Others have words or symbols painted or carved into them. You get the idea. On days when I want to be reminded of my spirituality I might slip a smooth rock that has an Om symbol carved on it into my pocket. Or if the desire is to be reminded of my own wisdom then the choice might be the chunky piece of malachite. And the little stone works throughout the day, when I reach into my pocket or even when awareness shifts to the weight I’ll remember why it’s there. I also have several “figurative” touch stones.  NULL

And my touch stone for why I am doing this business is “Pencils Down.”

I had a job one morning when I was 19. The job description was accounting clerk for a large auto dealer in Chicago. I felt so very adult and cute as I was shown my desk amidst a sea of other desks with many other nearly adult and cute young girl women. The person doing the orienting showed me where to find fresh pencils every morning and where to pick up the stack of reports that needed to be penciled on. I had not been away from high school long enough to rebel when she told me we could have water at our desks and of course we could have an ashtray (gives you a clue about how old I am) but we had to go to the break room for coffee or cokes, lest we spill and stain the valuable reports. It was already 11:00 am; Personnel had taken a bit of time with the all-important paperwork. I spent the next hour happily penciling in the reports, and admiring the fresh Eagle #2’s with the untouched erasers. Shyly smiling at a few potential friends in the other desks nearby. It was just a few minutes before noon when I realized what was wrong with the picture. This room holding a couple dozen young women at their desks was quieter than a library. That’s unnatural to the point of eerie. In fact it wasn’t until September 12, 2001 when there were no planes flying overhead that I ever experienced anything quite as eerie. At noon a loud buzzer rang — just like the one that had rung between classes throughout high school. The Supervisor stood up at her own desk and said “Pencils down.” And demonstrated by putting her own pencil down on her desk. Every woman in the room put her pencil down, and reached into the drawer where she had stowed her purse. And there arose the buzz of chatter that had been missing. A woman at a nearby desk smiled over and asked if I wanted to join her and her friends for lunch. No, no thank you I said, my stomach knotted and clenched. I scooped up all of my belongings, leaving the pencils that certainly did not belong to me. I walked out the front door and marched across the street to the CTA bus stop, my knees shaking and fully expecting a Truant Officer to be sent after me. Why am I doing this business? It’s like the old Tom Waitts song: Ode to The Single Life I never have to ask permission when I want to go fishin’ And I never have to ask for the keys…

And I decide when to put my pencil down.



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