Wednesday, November 2, 2011
I’ve come the full circle
The other day a young former coworker asked me if I missed being at work. Looking at his grin, I knew it was a rhetorical question, but I played along, and said, " hell no." As I'm preparing for a two-day seminar in Corpus Christi (tomorrow and Friday) I know I should've said “I missed the seminars, we went to."
I worked for a company who had "money up to the Yazoo" and wasn't afraid of spending it on its employees, goodwill, or experimentation with the latest techniques. I remember being chosen to go on a seminar for the mere reason that it would be my first. I went to the library and checked out a big book, bought some pens, pencils, and a notebook to take notes. To my surprise, I didn't read a page out of the book and the writing tools, and the notebook became part of my children's school supplies. I remember feeling guilty because the company was paying for what I thought was a vacation because we were staying in a four star hotel,eating some great food,getting away from the workplace,touring a big city ,all on the company’s American Express card. As we were approaching the Victoria city limits, the guys handed me some notes to be part of the presentation I was going to write. I knew there was a catch. I should've put so much work into the presentation because the only parts that perked up my fellow coworker’s ears were the parts about where the cheapest cold beer and best breakfast establishments were. The rest of the presentation fell on deaf ears and was filed away.
I acquired what little computer skills I have, on the company's dime, by going to seminars that taught Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but I was expected to help my fellow coworkers every time they needed to use those software applications. It was a wonderful tradeoff. Seminars soon became tiresome, so I went for years without volunteering to go on one, but I did enjoy my last two seminars on " Cohesion in the workplace" and another called " A matter of Respect" the latter was mandatory. Women were just coming into the workforce as a matter of standard practice, and we did need this seminar because I was dumbfounded when I heard some of the questions from some of my old prehistoric coworkers. One question was” what should we call 'em,"Ms Jones, Mrs. Jones, or ma'am?" The lecturer said, " how about Linda?"Then an old war horse stood up and said, "If they want to come into a man's world, how much are we expected to help them?" The lecturer was ready for that question; he promptly said" as much as you expected your fellow coworkers to help your favorite nephew." At the first break, I over herd the speaker say that the old coots were more afraid of what their wives thoughts than the made-up problems they were asking about.
Come to think about it, I'm fortunate enough to witness some major changes in the workplace. We've come a long way from that initial meeting when I was working for the Texas Highway Department where the foreman said," we were forced to hire our first black man; we don't have to socialize with him. I choose not to myself, but he is to be treated with respect, and I won't be easy on you if you're caught being disrespectful to this man." That wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement but in the late 1960s, that's about as good as it was going to get, especially in the south. We never had any racial tension, but it wasn't because we were warned; it was because we weren't racist to begin with.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow's seminar because it breaks up the monotony of retirement. I enjoy listening to the lecturers as they put some clarity about the subject that I'm interested in. I especially enjoy mingling with people from San Antonio, Houston Austin, Kingsville, and places in between. I enjoy getting their perspective about all sorts of topics.
I've learned that you don't have to overindulge in coffee, cookies and sodas merely because it's there. However, as always, come Friday afternoon around 4:15 P.M., my books will be stored away, and I'll be looking at that clock more than I will be listening, because it's a great feeling, knowing that in a few minutes, I will be on my way back to good ole Victoria, Texas.
Saturday morning I'll hear the usual complaints ,when I take my wife's Prius ( I gave up on dual ownership a long time ago) "I had to readjust the seat,mirrors, and change the radio stations back to where they were."