Sunday, December 25, 2016

Strength in Numbers

Did you ever have a job in which you felt underpaid and unappreciated, and you deserved a raise, but you kept running into brick walls at work so you fantasized about leaving your job suddenly, but you didn't for any of a number of reasons?

If you have — and most of us probably have — you can sympathize with the situation confronting Mary Tyler Moore in the episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show that aired on this night in 1976, "Look at Us, We're Walking."

Mary hadn't had a raise in three years, and she decided to approach Lou Grant (Ed Asner) about a raise when she realized she had $400 to her name. (I know that doesn't sound like much, but to put it in perspective, when you adjust that for inflation, it would have the buying power of about $1,700 in 2016 dollars.) Before she did, though, she went through all the possible reasons Lou would say prevented him from being able to give her a raise.

But she didn't anticipate the reason he gave. It was out of his hands, he told her. Such decisions were being made by the TV station's new manager.

The station manager wouldn't give either a raise, Lou said, figuring that if one quit, the other would pick up the slack on the production end. His logic was that neither could get a raise because both were good at their jobs. "If we were both incompetents," Lou told Mary, "we'd have 'em over a barrel."

This was a situation, Lou told Mary, that called for solidarity. They should go to the station manager's office and demand that both be given raises.

Mary wasn't especially keen on that idea, especially after the meeting with the station manager. He gave them two weeks to change their minds before he replaced them.

They didn't change their minds, though, and Mary was struggling to occupy the time. Lou was finding projects to keep him busy — like painting a chair for the 27th time. "I figure it will take a year and a half to dry," he said.

Mary was wavering. They had a talk and solidarity was restored.

But Mary was feeling a financial squeeze. When Ted (Ted Knight) and Georgette (Georgia Engel) came by to visit, Mary told Georgette that, for the first time in her life, she was in debt "up to my ear lobes."

"What a classy place to be in debt up to," the ever–positive Georgette replied.

She persuaded a reluctant Mary to accept money from them, then she persuaded a reluctant Ted to give Mary a blank check. ("It's better that way," she told him. "Better for who?" Ted asked.) Pretty impressive for the normally mousy Georgette.

Neither accomplishment was insignificant, but it was the last straw for Mary. She called Lou and told him she was going to renegotiate her contract.

"Don't tell me things aren't that bad yet," she said into the telephone receiver. "I just accepted money from Ted Baxter!"

In the end they came back to work for WJM — and got what must have been by 1976 standards pretty good raises.