A Candy Dish, a Pencil Holder, and a Clock
I recently retired from a large aerospace company which I was employed at for 37 years. Just to break this down even further.
37 years employed
9,028 work days
85,766 hours (9.5 hrs work/commute. Does not take into account overtime)
5,145,960 minutes (work/commute)
During these 37 years, if I use 57 non-work/non-sleep hrs per week (5 hrs each M-F, 16 hrs each Sat/Sun):
Summary: The 85,766 work hours were a means to an end. In this case, the end was being able to enjoy the 118,104 non-work hours while employed, and the non-work hours I’m now accruing in retirement.
When I reflect back on my career, I was fortunate to have worked for some outstanding managers. I worked for a few clunkers, but over 37 years, that’s to be expected. So what do I mean when referring to a manager as outstanding?
His name was Henry Seibert. Everyone called him Si. The manager I worked for at the time was retiring. When it was announced that Si was going to take over the group, it spun a lot of people up. Some had worked for him in the past, while others had just heard the rumors. Some were so upset; they started looking for other job opportunities. Apparently, Si was a hard taskmaster. He was old school, gruff, and disagreeable. I was already intimidated before I even met him.
When I first saw Si, he immediately reminded me of Mr. Magoo, a curmudgeonly cartoon character created in 1949. When he took over our group, Si had already logged over 40 years with the company, and had no interest in calling it quits.
It didn’t take long for me to figure Si out. Si was a company man. And why shouldn’t he be? The company was good to him, and in return, he was good to the company. Both sides benefitted. It also didn’t take long for me to figure out why certain people disliked Si. Some would call it his unrealistic expectations. Si would call it – “just do the #$%! job you’re being paid to do. It was not coincidental that most, if not all of the people who disliked Si, didn’t do their #$%! job.
Shortly after arriving, Si made a decision to promote me to a position I was clearly not qualified for, nor trained to perform. He sensed my apprehension, and reassured me that with the proper training, he was confident that I would learn quickly, and do a very good job. Sometimes it takes someone else to recognize what you’re too close to see in yourself. Si followed through with training, and he personally mentored me long before mentor programs were in vogue. He set expectations and held me accountable. And he made sure that I was properly compensated for my good performance. And years later, when I began taking on leadership positions, I tried my best to replicate what he demonstrated.
For most of us, we have two sets of friends. Our work friends and our non-work friends. I don’t know what it’s like today, but back then, there was rarely any crossover. Si was one of a few exceptions. He and I made several non-work related trips up to Anacortes, WA, where Si moored his boat. We went fishing and crabbing, and then we’d have lunch at the marina’s restaurant. At some point in my tenure with Si, he stopped calling me Dustin, and began calling me son. I was told it was a term he used very sparingly beyond his non-work family.
In 1992 Si retired with over 50 years with the company. I was honored to be the Master of Ceremony of his retirement party. For an “old school, disagreeable hard taskmaster,” there was not a single empty seat in the large banquet room. And many who attended gave very moving tributes.
Like most people who make commitments to keep in touch with one another, Si and I started out strong, but after a few years… Okay, I could get very creative and write something that doesn’t sound like a lame excuse. But the fact is, there is no excuse. I should have… No need to even finish that sentence. In 2005 Si passed away. He was 80 years old. I wished I could have spoken at his funeral. But I wasn’t even aware that he had passed. I should have…
By now, you’re probably curious as to why I included the photo. Si was both a generous person and an excellent craftsman. For Christmas, Si would give those of us that worked for him a pencil holder, or candy dish, or a clock. I kept the candy dish and pencil holder at work until I retired. They now live in my den along with the clock. I wonder how many people that worked for Si still have their candy dish, or pencil holder, or clock in the shape of the state of Washington. I find that as I get older, the possessions that appreciate the most in value are those that appreciate commensurately in sentimentality.