What Was I Thinking…..

It has been almost a month since I had written anything for the Chatham Writers Group or the Chatham Memoir group. A pesky thing called “work” kind of got in the way. This week I took pen in hand and got back to it. The prompt was related to errors, mistakes, mis-steps we have made in our life, what we learned from them, etc. The following is a true story of a job I had in when we lived in Western Michigan, the biggest career error I ever made, but some good did come of it.

What Was I Thinking

It is 4:45 AM on a winter’s morning.  I am pulling out of my driveway in Grand Haven, Michigan to make the 15 minute drive to my place of employment in Muskegon.  It is dark as pitch.  Winters in western Michigan seem to always be dark.  It is dark when I get up for work, it is dark when I come home from work.  My office has no windows, I never know if it is light or dark outside.  The industrial lighting inside the building is an artificial sunlight, it burns at the same intensity 24/7/365 – no clouds ever obscure the artificial sun.  The effect makes me feel as though it is dark all of the time.  I arrive at work at 5:00 AM and enter the building, squinting after the transition from outside dark to inside halogen sun.  My night shift supervisor, Jim, sees me enter the building and begins shaking his head. “What’s up”?, I ask.

Jim grumbles about so & so not getting an order together for the morning shipment.  I say “you are his supervisor, aren’t you supposed to be the one that ensures he gets the shipment ready?  What did you do all night”?  Jim slinks away like a possum caught in the outermost edge of your headlight beam.

I arrive at work early each day so I can get some work done before my boss comes in.  My boss loves meetings, we have several a day, that consume anywhere from 2 to 6 hours, depending on what mood he is in.  His expectation is that the hours you spend in a meeting don’t count towards your work day, you have to put in your regular work day when the meetings are done.  At 5:10 AM my phone rings.  It is my boss.  “I need to see you now”, he says.  I ask “Where? At your house”?.  “No” is his terse reply. “I am in my office. I heard you come in early, so that means we can meet early, I need to talk to you about something”.  “Be right there”, I reply.  

I enter my bosses office, he is holding a Newport cigarette in his right hand. In his left hand is a coffee mug that says “World’s Best Dad”.  He waves his cigarette at a chair, motioning me to sit down.   He farts.  A short, sharp report.  He says “Sorry, that was not meant for you”.  I ask “Is that supposed to make me feel better”?  He calls me a wise ass.  He starts to tell me what the meeting is about.  Apparently an order to one of our top customers is going to be late, so my boss has developed a story that he wants me to tell the customer.  Instead of just saying that a production issue has caused the delay, he wants me to tell the customer that the truck driver assigned to pick up the load was drunk, we refused to load his truck, we are trying to round up another driver.  His order will most likely not arrive today.  I blink and stare at my boss, incredulous.  I then start to laugh thinking it is a joke.  The look on my boss’s face clues me in to the fact that it is not a joke he is serious.  I tell him I will do no such thing.   My boss leaps up out of his seat and back kicks it to the wall.  The Worlds Greatest Dad’s coffee sloshes out onto the papers covering his desk.  He jabs his cigarette at me and says “Right now you big ape, you and me behind the building”.  If there was a meter capable of measuring levels of astonishment, I believe that I probably would have caused it to break, I was that astonished.  “Are you challenging me to a fist fight?”, I asked.  “Right now you big bastard”, growls my boss.  I laugh, a really hearty laugh, and say “no way, I would probably fuck you up pretty badly”.  I turn and leave his office to return to mine.  I look at my watch, it is 5:40 AM.  The sun has not yet risen and I have been farted at and challenged to a fistfight. By my boss.  Walking back to my office I reflect that, career-wise, accepting this position was probably the worst decision I have ever made.  Surprisingly the rest of the work day passes quickly and is actually a good day, given the way it started, but my boss avoided me the rest of the day.  I leave work, it is snowing lightly.  There is a faint gray light of the sun setting on the other side of Lake Michigan.  The colors of winter in western Michigan seem to be white, gray and black.

That evening, dinner is over, my wife and I are relaxing in the family room, our sons doing their homework.  The phone rings.  Our youngest son, Jeremy, answers it.  Jeremy walks from the kitchen and in a low, gravelly voice says, “Dad, it’s Jim from the shop”.  Both of our sons have managed to mimic Jim, the night supervisor’s voice, quite well.  I mean, he calls me almost every night, so it was an easy task to accomplish.  I pleasantly say “Good evening Jim, what’s up?”.  Jim replies “I caught Carnot and Heather having sex in the warehouse, what should I do?”  The astonishment gage flies off the wall.  “Well, you have to send them both home immediately Jim.  We will handle it from there in the morning”.  Jim says “What about the Union?  These two will grieve it and there will be a shit storm”.  “Send them home, now.  We will handle it in the morning”.  The conversation with Jim reinforces my feeling that I made a bad choice. I go to bed that night thinking that the first bit of business to be performed the next day is to update my resume.

Ernie Stricsek

Chatham Writers Group


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