Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Shatterproof Saucer

I stood on my desk, flinging saucers to the office floor, one after another. None broke. That astonished me.

Corning's public relations guy insisted that my boss and I couldn't break the saucers. We tried. We heaved them until we were 99% sure that the damn things just wouldn't break.

The PR chap, who picked saucers off the floor and handed them back so we could heave them again, called the dinnerware "melamine," but it didn't look plastic like the ugly but colorful Melmac so popular then, in the Sixties.

Instead, the stylish saucers, a glossy white, resembled fine porcelain, but they weren't. The PR dude said Corning made them from a new glazed glass-ceramic formula, and he mentioned missile nosecones.

By the end of the day, I'd written up the new line--Centura--and praised it in print. The PR guy handed me two 10-inch Centura dinner plates as a thank you.

Then my boss, Patricia Chapman, and I headed to Atlantic City to cover the national 1964 dinnerware convention.

We were market reporters for HOME FURNISHING DAILY, a Fairchild publication. Our paper was prestigious, but not as famous as our sister newspaper, WOMEN'S WEAR DAILY.

Pat and I covered trade news about insignificant home furnishings: dinnerware, lamps, and wall decor. Male reporters covered the important items, like washing machines, that women wouldn't know how to cover.

After an exhausting weekend in Atlantic City, I returned to our New York City office to discover I'd been fired. Why? Because in one news story I'd submitted from Atlantic City, I'd neglected to capitalize the word "melamine." It was a trademark, like Kleenex, the managing editor said. I should have known better.

Pat snorted when I told her. "They only fired you to show off for Corning, their big advertiser," she said.

Since Fairchild had fired me "with cause," I couldn't collect unemployment insurance. However, before many weeks passed, Pat called to tell me that Fairchild had hired no one to replace me. "I'm doing your work as well as mine. That's why they fired you, to save money by getting rid of your position."

I sued the publisher, won, and went on to another reporting job.

When November rolled around, my husband Tom and I invited a handful of friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. The women joined me in the kitchen. As I pulled out dinnerware, my eye landed on my beautiful Centura plates. I showed them off, explained how I'd gotten them, and bragged that they were unbreakable. When questioned, I simply picked up a plate and smashed it to the floor.

To my amazement, the plate broke. However, it didn't just splinter. It disintegrated into hundreds of pieces, many as small as dust. We stood openmouthed around the trashed remains until I could lay hands on a dustpan and scoop the shatterproof Centura up.

That Monday, I called the PR feller for an explanation.

He laughed when he heard. "Didn't you know? You only drop the little plates, silly."

1 comment:

  1. I had some unbreakable glasses. they were really nice, but by the time the kids had dropped them a few times they, too, shattered into dust.