At 5:00 a.m., almost two hours before dawn broke over the Sierra Nevadas, the run-through continued in the ballroom of the Inn at Spanish Bay at Pebble Beach. But the sun was rising in Plano, Texas. Gale Duff-Bloom put her card in the slot and opened the heavy door to the southern end of the plush executive inner sanctum. It was seven o'clock there, the usual time for her office workday to start. She turned immediately into her suite, the first of a crescent-shaped string of 12 such suites for JCPenney's top management. In the middle of the crescent, dividing the office suites, were the great board room and related facilities. Adjacent were two "living rooms" for directors and VIPs as well as a large "Executive" reception room. This whole area was expensively furnished and detailed in subdued good taste.
Duff-Bloom passed through her reception room with its uniform U-shaped mahogany workstation for executive assistants, where Cathy Rozelle would be on duty in an hour . To the right was a room for filing and storage, to the left her large conference room. Straight ahead was her even larger office, which she entered. As she set her attach case down, the electric-eyed miniblinds on the expanse of window glass automatically adjusted to the sunrise . She glanced quickly at the day sheet Cathy had placed on her desk pad the evening before, when Duff-Bloom had been at a long offcampus dinner meeting.
She had a couple of quick calls to make before an unavoidable human resources matter had to be settled in her conference room at 7:30. Thirty minutes allotted. Then she would grab her case and drive south to Love Field, where Penney kept its planes. Her flight would be to Gainesville, Florida, where she would be met and driven to the University of Florida for a reception and lunch . The occasion was a national retailing conference sponsored by the University's Warrington College of Business. Gale Duff-Bloom was to make the keynote address at 1:30. Although not on the level of importance as Howell's remarks that same day, it was still the first major speech (with trade press ink) of Duff-Bloom's career. Altogether, then, a very big day.
Now she switched out her case, placing last night's reading on her credenza for Cathy to file or forward per Post-it notes. Then she picked up the fresh copy of her speech that Cathy had run and counted, placing the pages in her leatherette speech box that Cathy had placed nearby. Also close at hand were two groups of reading matter, one marked "U. FLA." by Cathy for absorption before arriving in Gainesville. The other, labeled "Home," identified pressing Penney matters for study on the return flight and later that evening. All went into her case.
After her speech, there would be an obligatory roundtable appearance followed by networking during a break ”after which she would pay her respects and head for the airport. Hopefully, she would not have to eat on the plane and would be able to enjoy a relaxed meal with her best friend, partner, and second husband, Darryl. Then she would retire to finish her homework. Bedtime would be midnight, the alarm always set for 5:15. Happily, after all those years of lengthy commutes, getting to work now was a breeze . Her Jaguar practically drove itself the 15 minutes from their Plano home. And Gale Duff-Bloom, age 53, was always eager to get to work. She drew energy from her schedule.
Uncharacteristically, she did not sit down immediately to make her calls but walked instead to a window for a moment of reflection. She looked out through the half-closed blinds. The great deck dotted with planters spread out from her suite and the others. Below was the nicely set out fountain and the terraced gardens that rose up to the giant but well-scaled parking garages sheathed in brick with ornamental copper cupolas. The huge cafeteria was just below the deck, of course, but her view (like all those from the suites) hid virtually all other human beings except gardeners. It was an architectural triumph of sorts.
A special elevator, accessible only by the few with "Executive" access, connected this area with private dining rooms that were walled off from the cafeteria and had a different, more haute cuisine menu. And it was possible for a senior executive like Duff-Bloom to arrive and depart via either of two other small elevators and the underground galleries to the garages. This way one might avoid contact with virtually any of the nearly 3,000 nonexecutive associates who also dwelt in the Plano complex. Duff-Bloom had noted and strongly disapproved of several peers who did exactly that.
The area was officially known simply and haughtily as "Executive," another bit of post “New York posturing. An outsider, a vendor with access, had sardonically dubbed "Executive" as "The Golden Crescent." It was unlikely that any of Penney's senior management had ever heard the term , but its use spread among some outsiders and even a few associates with whom they had regular contact.
Duff-Bloom was not unaware of the changes within the J. C. Penney Company that were reflected by these executive accouterments. Yet, because she was a fairly recent arrival in the Crescent and her success had been by dint of extraordinary effort over the years, she tended to take it all as a matter of course and as her due ”except for the dining rooms, which she rarely used and then only to observe someone's success.