Gail was my first real boss. Previous interns had come from English or Mass Communications, but she wanted two interns from the art department for the News and Information Office at the university. She needed had ambitions for us to help her with graphic design. But first, she had to teach me how to use a Mac. Every time I use key commands, I hear Gail’s voice. She called Apple’s command key do-dah. Cut = do-dah C, Paste = do-dah V. The other intern and I, we both learned the programs, Quark and Illustrator, but I took a stronger interest in writing and editing, so I stayed on long after my classmate left to work for a pre-press studio. I learned editing markup from Gail.

She was ruthless as an editor of my work, but she did it by teasing me endlessly, kidding, pushing, and joking. Sometimes she would try to shame me or cajole me into seeing a mistake or trying something different. She had a great sense of humor, even though she could be pretty dark. I always felt like she believed in me and worked with me to grow into the job.

Gail was petite with short sandy brown hair; she wore tweed blazers that looked too big for her. She was a world-traveler and had studied guitar in Spain. She taught me how to make coffee and expected me to take care of her “science experiments” when she let her coffee cups accumulate on my days off. Mold would form in perfect little circle islands floating on top of the brown liquid. She was a heavy smoker, overly tan from her obsession with sailing on the weekends. She was serious and hilarious and I never, ever wanted to let her down. There is not a single day of professional work since then that I haven’t used something I learned from Gail, whether writing, editing, operating a Mac, making coffee, or making bad jokes.

Our building was historic (old), so pests aren’t unexpected. One morning we discovered we had rats, as evidenced by the perfect little pile of turds on the mouse pad on Gail’s desk in her office — a gift from a real rodent for our mechanical mouse — a fitting joke.

Writer, researcher, observer