Crystal Roberts just shook her head.
Around that time General Electric began cracking its doors a little for Negroes to elevate above custodian status. One of the executives clued Mister Lushus in who, in turn, clued me in.
I went up there and completed a battery of tests. As always I aced it. The hiring officer was this Northern cat, Allen Goldberg. Everything about me, my dress, my verbiage, my background, my attitude, just bedazzled him.
Goldberg made me an offer that day. I would be the first Negro in upper management. Shall I do a little buckdance for you?
The money was good and the work was lite. I bought a sparkling white 1957 Chevrolet. Six months down the pipe I go to the doctor for a routine checkup. I’m diagnosed with high blood pressure.
High blood pressure? I’m twenty-two years old, in tip-top shape. What the hell am I doing with high-blood pressure?
The doctor asked me if I’d made any major life changes recently, if I’d been doing anything different. Nothing, except maybe my new position at General Electric. My intuition kicked me in the ribs.
If this job has given me high blood pressure after six months, I’ll be dead by twenty-five. This is the advancement we’re marching for?
Michael Thomas came down for a visit. He was facing a similar dilemma.
“College is bullshit.” “So what you gonna do Bo?” “I don’t know. If you catch something clue me in.” “If you catch something clue me in!” I will.
MT, being very light-skinned, could easily cloak himself into the confidence of white folks, especially with his affable personality. I’ve always admired him because he could have gone his entire life as a white man but never did. Anyway, he struck up a conversation with this military man from Arlington outside a museum.
“What’s the best way to break into the military?”
“Intelligence, communicational espionage. You look like you might be cut out for it. Been to school yet?”
“I’m in school now. It’s boring, not a challenge at all. It’s too easy.”
“Really? Maybe you should look into this. Communicational espionage involves spying with electronic equipment. It’s a wonderful opportunity. You’ll travel all over the world, Tokyo, Taiwan, Panama, Germany, New Zealand...
“After you complete your military assignments if you decide to work for the National Security Agency, you would start as a GS5. With a top secret military cryptographic clearance, you’ll be listening in on the Kennedy boys. You can retire young and wealthy if you like.
“Besides, something’s brewing in Southeast Asia. I’m advising all my young friends this way, to avoid the draft.
“Mike, you seem very bright but only the best and brightest need apply. You’ll be competing with grads from Yale, Harvard, Princeton and you have to pass very, very difficult tests. I think you might have a chance.”
The man passed him a card with a contact person’s name on it.
When he ran it down to me I was sold. Sign me up! Travel round the world and listen to all the secrets of white people! They’re gonna pay me for this! Sign me up.
Again, integration was forcing America to crack its doors of opportunity a little, so we’d be some of the “first Negroes” in the Army Security Agency.
Michael Thomas and I went down to the office to apply. Never have I seen tests like these. I had to send my mind beyond the ozone to come up with some answers.
After completion I had my doubts which I confided to MT.
“Man, we passed. We amazed these people. They thought we’d give up, punk out. They were testing us.”
Well, we were some supremely confident cats and sure enough we passed. I told General Electric to go fuck yourself. Goldsberg couldn’t believe it.
“Orion, you can’t quit. We have big plans for you. You’re the first Negro...”
“I’m the first Negro to quit your ass. Bye!”