Friday, July 9, 2010



Before heading back to Winter Haven I put a deposit down on an apartment close to the campus. When I got home I immediately tackled the challenge of moving. Since I took nothing with me when I left my husband, everything in the apartment was new, or at least newly purchased. I wasn’t about to go through furnishing another place from scratch Naively, I thought since I wouldn’t be moving far it wouldn’t cost that much.

The representative from the third moving company I called for a bid reconfirmed the bad news: No professional mover would handle the job for less than $1500. It might as well been 15 million dollars. “Thanks,” I said as I walked him to the door. “I’m just going to have to find another way to get my furniture to Gainesville.”

He looked at me thoughtfully for a moment. “Do you think you could come up with $100?” he said.

“I—I guess I could scrape up that much.”

“Look, my Buddy and I, we’ve been toying with the idea of setting up our own company. He’ got access to a free truck. We wouldn’t be competing with Beacon or anything like that. Just doing a little moonlighting locally."

“But I’m moving to Gainesville,” I reminded him.

“I know, but... well UF is playing Florida State in two weeks, and my friend and I were planning to go up there anyway. It would give us a chance to do a dry run to see how it would work. If you can move that Saturday, we could do it for $100."

I hesitated. It sounded too good to be true.

“Look at it this way,” he said, “you’d get your furniture moved, and we’d make a little traveling and drinking money for the week-end.”

I agreed to the arrangement. He gave me a piece of paper with his name (I think it was John) and phone number, said he be back around seven A.M. that Saturday morning, and left.

As promised, John and his friend showed up bright and early the morning of the “big game.” There had been a complication, he said. The free truck they had counted on wasn’t available. They had to rent a truck for the trip. “But a deal’s a deal,” John reassured me before I could panic. “I told you I would move you for $100, and that’s still the price.”

It took them a little over an hour to load the truck; I didn’t have that much stuff. “What’s wrong, Mom?” my daughter asked as the truck drove away. “You look worried.”

“I’m fine,” I told her, but there was a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had just sent two strangers off with almost everything I owned in this world. I knew John wasn’t bonded. I didn’t even know where he lived. All I had was a name and the phone number he gave me. What if this was a scam? What if it was just a way to steal my stuff? Not that I really had anything worth stealing. I shook off the idea and loaded Eileen and the few personal items I had decided to take myself into my car, and off we went to our new home.

John and his friend were waiting for us at the apartment. They were anxious to get to the game so unpacking went a lot faster than the packing. I thanked them and paid them the $100 in cash, and they were gone. Eloise was right again. The stranger came into my life, moved me to Gainesville, and then disappeared from my life. I never saw John or his friend again.

The next few weeks were tense. I enrolled Eileen in school, fixed up the apartment, and prayed that no one of color would show up before the semester started. Fortunately, my gamble paid off. The first day of the new term I was still the only applicant under consideration. Dr. Christiansen signed my contract and my academic career was officially launched. I took my place as an adjunct professor in the Broadcast Department of one of Florida’s most prestigious universities.

I had never taught before, at least not at a university, and worried about how steep my learning curve would be. The course was writing for radio and TV. Don Grooms taught the lecture part, and I was to teach the lab—the hands-on practice part of the course.

Now, for those of you who do not know me, physically, at five feet and approximately 102 pounds, I did not cut a very imposing figure. And although I was confident in my writing ability and had spent the weeks waiting for the job to be confirmed brushing up on news writing rules, I had no formal training in the subject I was about to teach, nor had I ever worked in a radio or television news room. As the students began to file into class I was truly terrified. I knew I was an imposter; the trick was not to let my students know. That’s when my acting experience came into play.

I had minored in theater in college, and worked in summer stock and Community Theater, so I decided to create a character, a new persona for my teaching role. Sunny Fader may not have had the confidence to face the students, but Professor Fader...the knowledgeable, tough, but compassionate college professor did.

That day I played the role to the hilt. I laid down the law, told the students what I expected of them, assured them if they held up their end of the bargain I would give them all the help they needed. I stood tall, spoke firmly. And, by God, it worked! The students believed I knew what I was talking about. And soon I began believing it. My student evaluations at the end of the semester were, as Dr. Christiansen reported to me, “glowing.” One of the things I had going for me, I learned from my students, was that, unlike the majority of the staff, I had real life experience. That was an important credential for them. They came to me not only for writing help, but career advice, and sometimes personal advice. And I loved working with them on all levels. To this day I love that many of my students keep in touch with me.