BOB BLOWS: One summer when I was 19, I went into the cocktail lounge where I worked and one of the big blond bartenders, pushing 40, practically fell on his fountain handle in thanks. "You just won me 50 bucks," he said.
This was the kind of lounge in an upscale restaurant where the horsey set used to come after the Saratoga flat track races in August, so betting was a popular off-track activity, too. Its importance at the bar was pointed out to me on my first day, when Big Bartender No. 1 explained his three-phone system to me: "My bookie calls on this phone, my girlfriend on that one, and my wife on that one. Always get me if my bookie calls."
So I shouldn't have been surprised when it turned out these two guys, having apparently little else to do between martinis, took bets on whether I'd wear a certain shirt again, because, as the loser explained to me, "of the hard time we gave you when you wore it last time." Losing the money, his face said, seemed secondary to the fact I had not responded to the harassment the way he expected.
This summer, in Washington, DC, I met a woman who worked in the late '60s as a secretary to a honcho at the Pentagon. She told me about her boss, who continually harassed her and even asked her to wear certain clothes he liked. "Wear that yellow sweater tomorrow," he'd say. A United States senator began making frequent trips to the office and spending a lot of time by her desk. Often during those visits, she was asked by her boss to go and get something from another table. They wanted to watch her walk across the room. One day her boss told her her ship had come in. The senator had a place for her as his "special assistant." When she turned down the job, saying she couldn't depend on a position that might die with the next election, the senator was miffed. They tried to pressure her, but she held her ground. She says she never complained to anyone because she was afraid of losing her job.
That fear is the same reason women often give today for not reporting sexual harassment. The resignation of Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Oregon, after a 27-year career, offers women a small light at the end of the tunnel. It took 17 women, a 33-month investigation, 10,145 ethics documents, and a detailed written diary to bring down one U.S. senator. And he still wanted to face his accusers in the end because he didn't see what he had done wrong.
Then Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, had the balls, so to speak, to say that we should remember not the "last thing" a man does, but the "best thing he does."
The best thing Bob Packwood did was resign in disgrace. Let's ask his victims what they remember best, warriors.
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