Sandy and Calvin
Chicago, September, 1959
Sandy Mason had already decided that she would rather be employed than married. The marriages in her family, while durable, hadn't produced much ecstasy, or even as much solid comfort as one might have wished. Sandy liked many boys, but, whenever she looked closely at any one of them, the mental image of one or another of her male relatives tended to cloud her vision.
Sandy had expected to get a job within a month of coming to Chicago. She had a B. A. in psychology from a good small college, and she also had a minor in marketing. In her carefully composed resume she explained exactly how she could aid and abet almost any sort of commercial enterprise. She had to over-ride her natural modesty to make some of these claims, but she was advised that shrinking violets are left standing outside looking in.
The first interview was horrible. Sandy mumbled, forgot even the simplest things that she had learned, and wound up close to tears. Her next time out, she did much better. Some of the succeeding interviews seemed to her to go very well indeed. But it did no good in the end. In late September, three months and twenty one interviews after her arrival in Chicago, she hadn't received a single job offer.
Just when Sandy was on the point of going home, she decided to break all the rules. Answering an ad that sounded a little strange in itself, she forsook her usual business suit for a full pink skirt, a pretty lacy blouse, and pink pumps.
The address was in that small intermediate zone where the opulence of Lake Shore Drive met the sleaze of North Clark Street. She got some funny looks as she hurried along the litter-strewn pavement, and was relieved to find the doorway of the Berwyn Psychological Research Associates.
The offices were up a flight of wooden steps which showed a broad band of bare wood where the carpeting had recently been removed. Mounting them quickly, she arrived at the top somewhat breathlessly to confront a large red-haired secretary who looked a little frayed at the edges. She was sitting behind an even larger curved art deco desk whose strips of chrome were coming loose from their moorings. The lady smiled pleasantly, but her raspy voice was loud and rather unsettling as she asked,
"What's the trouble, bubble? One of them drunks chase you up here?"
"No, but I was a little nervous going past them. One of them said something I tried not to hear."
"I just scream at them and swing my purse. I caught one on the ear the other day. You'll learn."
"I hope I'll have a chance to. I've come to answer your job ad."
"I knew that the minute I saw you. You're as good as hired. I'll take you in to see Goodman."
Sandy couldn't imagine that her chances were as good as the secretary seemed to think, and also had no idea who Goodman might be. But there was nothing to lose.
Dr. Goodman Narrison was a large craggy older man who looked as if he might once have wrestled bears at county fairs. He bore no resemblence to any psychologist Sandy had ever seen. As if to counteract this inevitable first impression, the nameplate on the desk bore the words, 'Ph.D in Psychology.' Sandy's teachers in college had had the same degree, but they didn't even like to be addressed as 'Dr.' They certainly wouldn't have advertized themselves in that way.
Dr. Narrison's large hairy hands seemed entirely unsuited for riffling through the papers piled on his desk. It was no wonder, she thought, that he couldn't find the resume she had sent in advance. Fortunately, she had another copy with her.
Dr. Narrison picked up the resume and glanced at it as if he were already familiar with it. Sandy, sitting on the edge of her chair, suspected strongly that he had never seen it or heard of her. Most likely, he would look at it just long enough for appearance's sake, and then tell her that he had nothing available to suit her talents. Instead, he said,
"Yes, I'm sure you'll do. Can you start Monday?"
She was shocked at this verification of the secretary's prediction. After the searching examinations she had been put through, it seemed almost indecent that anyone would offer her a job so casually. Before she could reply, Dr. Narrison named a very good salary. Sandy suspected that something was wrong, but, with no real hesitation, she replied,
"Yes. I can start Monday. Right now if you'd like."
"Good girl. I'll have my young associate, Calvin, explain everything to you."
Mr. Calvin Kastner had been desribed by his boss as a "wise-ass" and as "too damned smart for his own good." If, at twenty five, he was still short a few credits for his B. A., this fact had nothing to do with his intelligence. It was instead because, at age eighteen, he had adopted a plan of "studying a while, working a while, and playing a while." He was now in one of his working phases, and he realized that he had stumbled on to a very good thing. Indeed, it was potentially such a good thing that he was finishing his degree at night and putting off his next play phase indefinitely
Calvin was engaged in writing a brochure when Dr. Narrison led in a fairly tall blonde girl and introduced her as his new colleague. Calvin was used to sizing up girls. He put this one down as pretty, but without grace or sophistication. He liked it when girls wore high heels, but part of what he liked was the flashing of slim ankles and the quick and dextrous movement of dainty feet. This girl, Sandy by name, looked as if she were afraid of tripping over her heels.
Calvin also liked Sandy's clothes. They showed her good figure to advantage, and, if she only moved better, her skirt might swing and swish in interesting ways. But, again, the trouble might be that she wasn't used to her shoes.
As soon as Calvin saw Sandy's resume, he knew why his boss had hired her without even consulting him. She had a genuine and reputable degree in psychology, and anyone looking at her would know that she wasn't a fake.
When they were alone, Sandy's first words were,
"Dr. Narrison hired me without even telling me what sort of work you do."
Calvin leaned back in his chair and smiled. He loved to explain things.
"We have a number of related businesses, all of them offshoots of psychology. For one thing, we test people's reactions to products. I'm sure you've heard those ads which say that five out of seven Americans prefer a major soft drink to Brand X."
"Yes. I never took them very seriously."
"Some of the research behind those ads comes from us. You know how to run subjects, don't you?"
"My senior research project involved designing an experiment, recruiting subjects, and running them through it."
"That's it. Here, part of your job may be to find samples of people who prefer such-and-such a product over the competition. The subjects will also sign statements to that effect in case anyone later questions our research."
Sandy blushed and replied,
"You mean, it can be any sample at all?"
Calvin smiled reassuringly. It wasn't necessary to tell her that she'd have to keep trying until she got the right results. She'd find out soon enough that they had a large pool of tame subjects, originally recruited off the neighboring streets, who were very co-operative.
From Sandy's look, Calvin could easily guess what thoughts were going through her mind. The important thing was to keep her from quitting on the spot. Calvin murmured consolingly,
"Out here in the real world, things are a bit different."
"Yes. I thought I wasn't going to get a job at all. As long as I don't have to torture laboratory animals, I can do it."
"We've never had a white rat or rhesus monkey in the place."
"What are the other enterprises like?"
"We have a set of studies done under contract to a national newspaper. They're really inspired by some of Solomon Asch's work. The part about estimating distances."
Sandy laughed. Asch had asked subjects to estimate the length of an object about a foot long. However, he had mixed each real subject in with stooges who went before and gave wildly inflated estimates, sometimes up to a hundred and twenty feet. The subjects' own estimates had depended on the number of stooges and the relative ridiculousness of their estimates. Supposedly normal people had, with all appearances of seriousness, estimated the foot-long object to be eighty feet in length. Calvin said,
"Suffice it to say, we're exploring what things normal people will do under various sorts of peer pressure. Nothing violent or abusive, of course. The newspaper will sensationalize the results, but that's not our fault. We can get interesting results without faking anything."
Sandy nodded with evident satisfaction. Calvin then went on,
"We also have a psychologically sophisticated dating service. Many people aren't satisfied with the ordinary dating services. We examine people in great detail, from their finances to their personality traits. We then prepare an elaborate confidential dossier for each one. The clients agree to have their dossiers, without names, shown to clients of the opposite sex. They then make their choices."
"What sorts of personality tests do you use?"
"It's entirely up to the person conducting the study. I generally use Rorschach tests, the TAT, and the Gardner- Lindsay-Allport values test. But we follow our intuitions, and we don't have to use the same tests for each client."
"I don't think I'm qualified to do that. After all, I don't have an advanced degree in clinical psychology."
"No one in the matchmaking business does. Many don't have any background in psychology at all. And besides, we do lots of things that clinical psychologists wouldn't. We'll check on finances, and we'll interview divorced spouses to get the dirt on a person."
"They authorize you to do that?"
"Sure. We tell them that, if they want to know everything about the other person, the other person should get to know everything about them. Of course, that's the full service, which is expensive. We also offer a more limited service."
It was obvious that Sandy was reeling, both intellectually and emotionally, and Calvin asked,
"Have I thrown too much at you too fast?"
"No, I wanted to know. It's just that I can't imagine being one of three people who do all these things, starting tomorrow morning."
"Well, we can cut that down a bit. There's no need for you to do much product testing. I do that very quickly and efficiently. But I haven't got my degree yet, and we need someone like you to be enough involved so that you can help answer questions if any consumer groups come around."
"So I have to know what's being done, but don't have to do it?"
"Right. That frees you for the other two areas. Why don't we leave it at that for now. Tomorrow, you can come in and I'll explain what we've got going on."
Calvin insisted on driving Sandy home, in part so that he could watch her get in and out of his old MG. As they moved slowly through traffic, she asked,
"Dr. Narrison isn't American is he?"
"Not originally. I think he sometimes tells people that he was born in Latvia."
Calvin smiled, knowing that Sandy must be mystified by the old man. He helped her a little, and said,
"I bet you're thinking that he isn't at all like any psychologist you've ever met."
"He certainly isn't like my teachers at college."
"I'm sure he isn't. I've heard him tell people that he got his doctorate at the University of Riga before the war. Of course, Latvia has long since been overrun by the Russians, and the university may no longer even exist. It would be very hard for anyone to make inquiries."
"Oh, well, I don't really care about that. I was just curious."
"So was I. As nearly as I can make out, he's really a Finn who's fought for God only knows how many different countries in the course of a number of wars. He apparently just turned up in Chicago one day and began a new life."
"That's quite a romantic story."
"It is, really. But he leads a very quiet life now. He actually lives in something called the Green Valley Retirement Home out towards O'Hare."
"He seems much too vigorous to be in an old folks' home."
"He says that they take care of all his needs, and that he has more time to spend on business. He's certainly found himself a niche. It's quite lucrative."
As soon as Calvin got back to the office, Dr. Narrison pointed his finger at him and said,
"Drove her home, did you?"
"Certainly. I couldn't leave her to wander around in this neighborhood."
"You could've walked her over to the elevated. Now, boy, you leave that girl alone. It'll be a hell of a mess if you break her heart."
"I never break girls' hearts."
At that point, the receptionist, Alice, overheard and came back shouting obscenities. Calvin returned to his office in mock panic at their combined attacks.