Thanks old man.Posted: March 12, 2010
When I started my career, I worked for an old man who had 5 years left until he retired. I absorbed a lot of knowledge from him, and listened to his stories of long ago. Long ago, when he plied our trade without a radio, safety equipment or my fancy college degree. Back when they never hired guys that wore glasses, or women…with or without glasses. Back before I was born.
Sometimes he walked into a situation and changed it just by arriving or with a few words. I asked him how he did it. He smiled and left. I watched closer next time.
I wrecked a car one night when the old man was working. It embarrassed me to have to tell him. He did the paper work and sent me on my way. The next night the dismantled door of the damaged car was waiting,with my name written on it, in the office. I recognized the old man’s handwriting. I’ll never wreck a car like that again. He saw to it.
I often wondered back then what it was like to be the old man. What was like it for him, knowing he’d close his locker one day soon and walk away? Did he know he’d be part of the stories the kid with the glasses told years later? Did he know it scared me to think of what it would be like to work without him?
I never really brought all that up with the old man. I wouldn’t have dared, anymore than I would have mentioned seeing him wearing glasses to do his paperwork, or that I learned he’d gone back to school and gotten his degree.
Times are changing. Technology has replaced what I learned to do on paper, back before Microsoft started poking into my field. Stuff happens now that makes me shake my head and walk away wishing we did it the old way. The system goes down and people look lost. Once, it happened and I gave someone a legal pad and sent him out into the field. I’m fairly sure he didn’t know how to work it.
Kids show up at the office now and go to work. Not all of them are guys and we’re better because of it. I recognize that I call them kids sometimes and know it pushes their buttons. I do it anyhow.
Sometimes I put things right when they’re in tough spots. Sometimes they ask and I’ll tell them how, but smiling and walking away just seems right.
One of the kids hit a concrete barrier in a parking lot with one of our cars the other day. He hung his head when he explained to me how it happened. I did the paper work and sent him on his way.
When the kid came back to work, 200 pounds of concrete were waiting for him. He knows where it came from. He even said thanks.
Less than four years left. I’m going to enjoy each of them, then close my locker and walk away. I’m starting to realize the old man had fun his last few years.
He’s gone now. He still watches over my people, but they only see me.