Yesterday I drove four hours for a meeting to only be fired shortly after it started. Technically they didn’t fire me but they sure seemed awfully happy when I offered my resignation from this non-paying assignment. I was just glad it happened early so that I could start the four hour drive back home.
On the way home I remembered a similar incident that happened a long time ago.
I graduated from high school on a Thursday and a friend talked me into riding over to International Paper Company the following Tuesday to put in an application for work. They called my house before I got back home and hired me the next day. They never called my friend even for an interview. I don’t know-w-w-w?
Fast forward nearly three years.
I was working as a pipe fitter helper in the group headed by Mr. Otto Smith. To say that Otto was grouchy would be a compliment. Example, one morning while taking a break, I had sat down and was eating a bologna sandwich when Otto walked by. He looked at me and said, “There ain’t but one job in this department that requires a man to sit down and I already got it. You can eat standing up.”
He didn’t get any better than that.
Was he justified in his attitude toward me? Yes.
I worked rotating shifts doing preventative maintenance and repairing problems that came up around the clock. Those that caused operational problems needed to be repaired quickly to keep the mill operating.
In my defense, I did know how to work and did a good job when I was there. The problem was that often I would start doing something during the day that affected my desire to be at work at night, especially on the graveyard shift on Friday or Saturday nights.
Because I was single and didn’t have any real responsibilities, I often found myself at places I ought not to have been and drinking stuff that I should not have been drinking. More than a few young ladies posed as my mother and called the guards at the mill (while music blared in the background) to tell them I was sick and unable to come to work that night.
Larry Funk worked the shift just ahead of mine. He was married with young children who depended on him, so he got to work a lot of overtime covering my shifts.
I can honestly say I had never seen Otto Smith smile, not once. This day everything changed.
I walked into his office, he spun his chair around, and in his usual deep voice he bellowed, “What do you want?”
I said, “I am going to say something that will make you happy.”
He looked puzzled as he said, “I doubt that.”
I said softly, “I quit.”
His scowl turned into a huge grin and he said, “I didn’t think you would ever do anything to make me happy.”
No, Otto didn’t fire me but he sure seemed awfully happy on that day forty-six years ago, I know I was.
Wayne Brady 5/23/2013
Oh Wayne, my Dad worked at IP from 1939 to 1981, except for the two years he was overseas during WWII. Growing up I heard many stories about “Otto,” another IP boss, “Hightower” and a host of other interesting characters. I also remember the Smith name, but cannot for sure put it with Otto. Surely they are one in the same. I mean, how many ‘Ottos’ could there be at IP during that era?!!.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful stories and writings with us, your fans.