If they had an application from me it was one sent to a newspaper box number that didn’t identify the company. The man who called on the telephone was the same one who interviewed me. He glanced at my work and said advertising copy writing was different from newspaper writing. We talked for awhile about the company.
The first day the zipper on my pants broke. They were going to take a photograph for a card that identified me as an employee of that company. Thankfully, the picture only showed my head and shoulders.
That same day I drove to the factory area where a doctor did a physical examination of me. He asked me a few question pertaining to my health, got a urine sample, listened to my heart, and took a blood pressure reading. It was a formality only if the person being examined was healthy. The physical examination prevented someone from working there whose medical condition would require extensive treatment and cost.
The building was full of copywriters, artists and others who made all the printed material detailing what the company did and the products it made. We were part of the Commercial Division at the corporate headquarters. The man who was the head of the Commercial Division was the stepfather of a childhood friend of Jenny’s. Her mother came to our wedding party with another lady and was probably one of the people who didn’t have any duck soup. After a few days I became aware the head of our division was her second husband. There were only about five or six divisions in the entire company. He reported directly to the president of the company.
The manager who hired me seemed very surprised when I asked him if that was why I got the job. He replied emphatically, “no” and said it wouldn’t make any difference if it had. He then went on about the company, and how good it had been to him in the many years he worked there. His grown child didn’t work there, but what he was saying was that the employees are one big family. So according to him it was natural for a family member to work there.
My boss was the advertising manager for the steel making division. Soon I was switched to another manager who oversaw printed material, and the production of visual aids for the company’s “profit centers” located throughout the United States. Several months after the head of our division retired the other manager fired me. The sequence was curious. After I was no longer with the company the former division head was at a home and garden show in the Cincinnati Convention Center where I was pedaling mailboxes. He was going up and down the aisles with his wife looking at things. He died of cancer soon after that day. I expected the company to look me up, give me a box of animal crackers, and put me in a pyramid with him. The animals would plow the fields in never-never land.
The advertising manager, another person, and myself went to a profit center outside Chicago. We traveled to Chicago in a commercial airplane and rented a car. During the drive I asked the manager how he got started in the advertising business and he said his father did public relations in Chicago all his life. He didn’t like talking about his personal life, and he never asked me about mine. He was as brief as could be about how he got started in advertising.
We went to a company that made paper speaker cones. We stayed there most of the day talking with people who worked there. They showed us how the speaker cones were made. We were going to make a printed sales aid that told about the product and to do that we had to know about it firsthand. That is why we went there. We drove the car back to Chicago and returned by airplane the same day.
The advertising manager who hired me asked me to do a brochure about pipe fabric for a marketing manager in Kansas City, Missouri. The company had a facility there called the “Kansas City Works”. We didn’t make the pipe, but we sold pipe fabric. Pipe fabric was a technical term for the steel reinforcing in concrete drainage pipe. When someone sold concrete pipe they sold steel.
The selection of pipe fabric for a given size pipe was technical. When an engineer described the process to me it sounded as if he were talking another language. The marketing manager from Kansas City said he wanted a brochure a salesman could leave with a prospective customer who would then be able to show a government official why spending more money for concrete pipe was a better choice than buying other kinds of less expensive drainage pipe.
I made the rough draft and sent it to an engineer in an office building next door. After a few days he called me on the telephone and we arranged to meet. He had nothing good to say about the brochure. With a red ballpoint pen he highlighted all the mistakes. He didn’t want a good brochure as much as he wanted to belittle me. Whether or not he was counterproductive didn’t matter. He had been there a long time. The advertising manager and him were like brothers. I put the rough draft, which had gotten much rougher looking, at the bottom of the pile of things to do. It stayed on the bottom. Weeks later the manager who gave me the assignment asked me how the brochure on pipe fabric was coming. I said the engineer was apparently incapable of saying what he wanted only what he didn’t want. The manager didn’t act surprised. He didn’t say anything. He left and said to the other manager in the office next to mine, “Did you hear that?”
A few weeks later the marketing manager from Kansas City was in town, and the manager who gave me the assignment said the Kansas City manager wanted to meet with me to go over the brochure. He was youthful and wanted to get things done. The two of us sat in a room with a large oval table and we worked out how to design the brochure and what to say. It took several hours.
Later that afternoon the advertising manager, the marketing manager, and me were talking about the highway to the Cincinnati airport. I said the stretch of I-75 from Galbraith Road to the bridge was the “killing zone”. We were walking to the parking lot. The Kansas City manager started to turn around like he was going to say something. He looked at the other person beside him and at the same time decided not to say whatever he was going to say. When we were working on the brochure he never talked about his personal life, but I knew by the way he reacted to those words that he had been in Vietnam. The people who were put in that environment, with the exception of my first sergeant, quickly shed ideas about the differences between people. What difference did a difference make when everyone had a singular goal: to go home alive. When he was working on the brochure there was the singular goal of making it an effective brochure that would sell pipe fabric. Little else made any difference.
The advertising people worked in a long rectangular one level brick building with no windows. There were clear glass entry doors on the ends. Inside, there were two rows of offices along the sides with a metal door to each one. The offices were separated by high partitions. There was twenty-five feet across the middle. In that section there were twice as many work areas as offices. A work area was defined by a four sided, five-foot high partition with an opening on one side. In each one there was a desk, some file cabinets, and a few personal effects.
The people in the middle were hourly employees who helped the salaried employees in the offices along the side. I got an office, but I was an hourly employee. The director had a large office at the end of the building with four walls that went to the ceiling. He leaned in my door and said a mistake had been made. From then on I would be a salaried employee. He was gone before I could ask anything. On payday the money was the same, but a salaried employee was considered more important to the company than an hourly one. The money was the best part. When I worked on the newspaper I had lots of fun and made no money, and when I had a big company job I had no fun but made lots of money.
When the assistant to the head of the Commercial Division retired there was a small ceremony in our building. Everyone stood around him in a chummy way to present him with a gold colored deep sea-fishing reel as a token of appreciation. He took it and shook a few hands. After more than thirty years of service, when he left, he got a gold fishing reel. I wondered if he liked fishing or if there was something more like a Swiss bank account. It was discouraging. A handshake, a pat on the back, and maybe something made of gold didn’t seem enough. Little did I know I would soon be leaving with nothing but my unemployment compensation. I wouldn’t have left on my own volition. I broke away like an object breaks away from the gravitational pull of another object.
There were three bare walls in my office. I put large pictures on two of them. The Photography Department made one for me. It was a poster size enlargement of a picture in a company book that depicted an artists conception of a strong looking worker, and in the back ground there were tall smoke stacks. It was done long ago before the company became a billion-dollar corporation. In the lower right section of the picture there was a remark by the founder of the company. It signified that personal virtues made the corporation. After awhile I wondered if virtue ever existed there. What made me wonder if it ever existed resulted from an assignment.
The assignment was to make a script and select photographs for a slide show that would tell how well two companies worked together. The company where I worked was the exclusive international distributor for welding equipment made by a second company. Long ago the founders of each company had gotten together and made an agreement that was still in effect. When I was there the people at the welding company didn’t like the agreement, but they lived with it because they had no choice. The slide show was to be given at a diner for people from the two companies. It was intended to show what a profitable relationship each company had.
I got to rummage through company histories. At the welding company the founder promoted welding when it was a new technology. He demonstrated welding to an admiral in the U.S. Navy who thought the only way two pieces of metal could be fastened together was with rivets. The account said the admiral told the welding company founder that he (the admiral) could kick a weld off with his toe. At that time many ships were being made all over the world. A global war was starting. At the company where I worked I read that during those same years tons of welding exports were sent to Sao Paulo, Brazil.
When getting information at the welding company for the slide show they knew I was not from the International Division. A person with a big office asked me to sit down in a chair while from behind his desk he said the company I worked for was asleep at the stick in Mexico City. I asked him why he said that, and he proceeded to tell me about a situation where a big contract sale was lost when it didn’t have to be lost.
The manager who hired me told me there was a saying in that business that you could criticize an employee’s daughter, or question the fidelity of his wife, but you never criticized the company.
When I reported what the man said the International Division already knew the people at the welding company wanted the international business directly. That is why the International Division asked for the slide show and invited the group from the other company to diner. Someone debriefed me from a corner office at the International Division. He told me the right way to think.
When I traveled to the welding company I went there in a company plane with the head of the Natural Resources Division. We were going to the same airport. I was on that plane because the profit center advertising manager’s assistant put me there. When she made travel plans she always checked first to see if there were any seats available on company planes. I told my manager about the trip. That was the first and last time I went on a company plane.
On the plane the natural resources man and me talked about chain saws. Two other people were with him. They carried papers. When we flew back I told him what the man at the welding company said to me. He listened and said, “Who do you work for?” He took another drink. One of the people with him made him a third whiskey drink and he said he had just made a deal with the Canadian government about taconite and needed to relax. Nobody could relax with him.
The head of the photography department wouldn’t let me pay for the enlargement of the picture about virtue. He said I could contribute to the coffee fund. One of the first assignments I had was to go to one of the profit centers with him. He worked for the company many years, and on the airplane he told me I could put anything on my expense account but a horse and buggy. In a brochure about signposts some of them were chipped and needed touch up paint. He said it would be easier to retouch the photograph even if the touch up paint cost fifty times less.
The other picture on my wall was an oil painting. It showed a cold and quiet place just above the tree line on a mountain. A biplane is stuck like a dart in the snow. Another airplane is flying away in the distance. It is barely distinguishable in the haze. The head of the metal products division asked to use the telephone on my desk, and when he finished he said it was a morbid painting. I said some people think the plane is a rescue plane, and others think it’s the one that shot the other one down. He and I met at a Christmas party a few weeks before. Jenny was with me. I was feeling kind of loose, and when the three of us were standing together, unknown to her he shot me a look that said watch it buster, remember who you are. In the corporate world he was the head of the Metal Products Division, and I was a word merchant. At the party many of the people from our building were standing along the side of the room talking among themselves as if the other people spoke a different language.
There were many things I did not understand. Not only that, but each payday the building emptied at lunch as managers and everyone else went to deposit their money in a bank. I could only imagine it was because they had so many urgent bills. When I asked another person who did not go to the bank if that was why everyone else did, he laughed, and said it was a habit more than anything else.
The day after the Christmas party there was a story in the local newspaper about how someone had stolen some cattle from a nearby field the same night. I thought one of the copywriters was pointing a finger at me. I told him it wasn’t me who rustled the cows. I told him I had witnesses that I went straight home after the Christmas party.
During that year Jenny had our first child. It was a boy. No one had to tell me, but when he was still in diapers more than a few people said he was a cute baby. We named the cute baby Whit after Jenny’s father. He grew from a cute baby, to a good-looking child, to a handsome and strong young man. As he grew older, I told him several times good looks and a dime would get him a cup of coffee.
A short time after he was born I got fired from my big company job. Whit usually went with me to install mailboxes. When he was a few years old he would play in the back of my truck with tools or whatever was there. More often than not he would pass the time pounding 20-penny hot dip galvanized nails into a block of wood with an 18-ounce claw hammer. At first I didn’t notice it, but one day a customer’s teenage son came out to where I was working. He said, “Look at that kid drive nails.” I looked up. On the other side of the road my flat bed truck was parked in the driveway. From beginning to end we watched Whit hammer one of those large nails into a piece of wood. He didn’t miss once, and with both hands took long swings with the hammer. Before Whit was born we both worked and were gone all day. After he was born Jenny stayed at home. She took care of him and did strenuous things like talk on the telephone to her sisters. She would go to a garden club meeting now and then.
At first, the idea of a garden club sounded repulsive to me, but it wasn’t. There were quite a few older ladies who set the pace, and they were extremely knowledgeable about plants. One knew everything about the daffodil flower. In her back yard she had many different species from all over the world. Jenny told me her father collected them. Her father was long gone, but in Spring I saw hillsides covered with daffodils that he planted. When I put in a mailbox for that lady I knew about her connection to the daffodil. I almost forgot the bill in my hand. She led me around to the back of the house where the daffodils were growing. Each species was identified with a marker. They were all in bloom. It was quite a sight. I didn’t know so many different ones existed.
Jenny was still in the garden club when I got unemployed, and she went back to work in the middle of downtown Cincinnati. The first thing I did was get rid of the giant wood stove in the basement. That winter it almost burnt the house down while we were in bed asleep.
The wood stove in the basement was more like a wood furnace. It was made from a steel 300-gallon fuel tank. It was cradled above the dirt floor by pieces of angle iron bolted together.
There was a thirty-inch wide, eighteen-inch high door at one end where wood was loaded. It was hinged at the top so if blown open by a sudden puff of smoke it would close again by itself.
The air inlet below the door was made from two six-inch long pieces of 2 1/2-inch water pipe. One end of each piece was screwed onto a flange fastened over a hole in the tank. The amount of heat could be regulated by partially or completely obstructing the air opening.
The furnace was located in the middle of the basement where a rotten staircase had been. Access to the basement was no longer from stairs inside, but from storm doors outside the house. I took a wall out on the first floor so there was one room instead of two smaller rooms. That, and the removal of the rotten stairs, left a large opening in the floor three-feet wide and six-feet long. The furnace was right below that opening. In the winter when the air inside got dry a cloud of steam would bellow up when I poured a full pan of water down on the furnace. The house could be instantly humidified.
Directly above the opening in the floor was a set of stairs that went to the second floor. There were two bedrooms up there that had white stamped sheet metal ceilings, wallpaper, and windows on three sides. A third door at the top of the stairs went into a bathroom over the kitchen. On one side of the room there was a bathtub, a sink, and a freestanding toilet. The center of the room was seven-feet high, but it sloped down to a knee wall four-feet high on both sides. The toilet was a foot away from the wall. Behind it a tropical plant was flourishing with big dark green leaves on vines. Sometimes I felt like I needed a machete to sit down. It wilted and died a few years later. At the far end of the room a chimney came up from the kitchen. On each side of it were windows. When I sat on the toilet amid huge tropical leaves I could look across the field. I did some of my best thinking there.
The four-foot walls had a hatch that opened to the area behind them and that was the only place to store things in the house. Over the years Jenny said numerous times she needed more shelves, and places to put things. I told her to think of the house as a sailboat, take only what you need, and don’t throw disposable plates overboard even though the ocean is deep. Each time the issue of shelves came up I would recite an adage, “However much space you have, you will fill it and need more.” If we had an airport hanger out back we would fill it and need more space.
The advantage of having such a big stove in the basement was that in the early morning I could load it with enough pieces of wood, that had not been split to last until I got home that evening.
Before the furnace was there I split so much wood with an eight-pound maul that I could always hit the bell in the sky at county fairs and win a prize for Jenny.
Splitting wood was time consuming, and when I had the big company job there wasn’t much time for anything else. Sometimes the pieces of wood that went into the furnace were so big I could barely pick them up. I would roll one to the back and then roll another up against that one. The furnace was full after three or four pieces. The wood would smolder and give off even heat all day. It was almost gone at the end of the day when I got home.
It worked very well except it wasn’t maintenance free. The chimneys were a constant source of trouble. The farmhouse was not designed to have a wood furnace in the basement. There were three brick chimneys. Two were in the front, and one was in the back.
The two front chimneys were nearest to the basement. I connected the furnace to them. The cheap sheet metal wood stoves that had been in the front rooms were gone. Two six-inch single wall elbows were connected to holes in the back of the furnace. From there, stovepipe went in opposite directions to each end of the basement. It hung by wire from the floor joists. On each end there was another elbow that went up through the floor. On the West side of the house the pipe went up into the flue on the first floor. On the other side the pipe continued straight up into the bedroom on the second floor. There it went another ninety degrees and three feet in a horizontal direction into a flue.
I had to clean out the long lengths of stovepipe often or they would clog. That was especially true for the stovepipe on the East side of the house. The wood inside the furnace steamed and smoked all day. There wasn’t much flame. The smoke cooled and condensed on the inside of the pipe forming a brown glassy substance. At least twice a month I disconnected the elbow in the basement put a crumpled up piece of newspaper in the vertical end and lit it on fire. The brown glassy substance on the wall of the pipe burned like a fuse. Dark gray crusty material fell out of the pipe.
When the condensed material burned it not only changed its form, but its thickness expanded four or five times. One time the pipe clogged right after I lit the newspaper I ran up to the second floor and disconnected the elbow up there. A heavy, yellow smoke spilled down over the open edge of the pipe. I dropped an eight-pound broken sledgehammer down through the inside of the pipe. In that way I planned to unclog the pipe, but the piece of steel got stuck in the expanding material. When that happened I opened the windows. I felt dizzy from breathing some of the smoke. I sat down on the floor, and waited for things to air out.
That incident didn’t scare me. What scared me was the night I woke up from a sound sleep, and lying there fully awake I could hear the creaking noise of metal expanding. The fire in the furnace was growing. At night caps were screwed on the ends of the air intakes. I listened some more and the stovepipe that came through the floor in our bedroom was making the creaking noise. Something was definitely wrong; the fire was getting all the air it wanted.
I got out of bed and went down stairs to look through the opening at the furnace. It was going full blast and getting hotter. It wasn’t red hot but it felt that way. The door to the furnace was tightly closed and both caps were covering the air inlets. The only other place where air could get in was the opening for the chimneys. The stove pipe on the East side of the house was hot, and the one going to the West side of the house was as cold as winter. The furnace was getting air through the chimney. In the middle of the night the furnace started ingesting air through one chimney and exhausting it through the other. The fire was wide open, uncontrolled, and running away. When I blocked the cold pipe the intense heat died down. The metal made the creaking noise again, but this time it was contracting as it got cooler. I stood there until things calmed down, and then I went back up stairs. I was wearing shoes but no clothes. Jenny woke up and asked me what I was doing running around stark naked. At that point everything was just ducky, even though it was a little warm in our room.
My job was forty-five minutes from the house. Another person and I shared the driving. His first job after graduating from college was at a company near where I worked. He said his job wasn’t very exciting. He worked in a room full of engineers sitting at drafting tables in neat rows busily computing “moments”. A short time after I got fired he quit, and went to law school.
He got a new car the year we took turns driving to work. My car ran good (sic) despite the way it looked. When he got the new car he let me take the luggage rack and other things like the radio from the car he was replacing. I would have stripped more stuff off it, but he said he had to drive home. The next day when we drove to work I told him about a new theory I developed called the crumb theory. It says that whenever a big deal goes down there are always a lot of crumbs. Practically everything I had was an example of the crumb theory at work.
The new car he got was a sporty luxury car. It was still on the new car warranty when he wrecked it at a dangerous intersection. The insurance company delayed in making a settlement. They could take their sweet time as far as he was concerned. After several days he got tired of waiting, went out, and got another one like the first except it was a different color. When we took his car to work we traveled in style.
The big company owned a company that made and sold wire mesh containers used to move things around factory floors. The customers were people who operated factories. The profit center-advertising manager said the containers were going to be the subject of a series of full-page advertisements in a nationwide material-handling magazine. In the next few weeks he wanted me to think up a theme for those advertisements.
My name was the last one on the routing list of a well-known business newspaper. By the time it got to me the newspaper was four or five days old. It told what was going on with the nation’s businesses. An advertisement for rental trucks in that newspaper showed a truck with a chicken on the roof and a few others pecking the ground. In the foreground the owner looked directly at the reader and the print in his own words said how the truck helped him increase the profitability of his business. The manager who gave me the assignment looked at the page without interest and asked me what about the advertisement. I said don’t you believe he is the owner of a company that sells chickens, and the truck helps him the way he says? I said the container advertisement could be like this. A factory person in factory clothes standing on the factory floor would look directly at the camera and the printed message in his words would explain how our wire mesh containers helped him. In the background there would be a large stack of the containers so someone could see he was not just whistling Dixie. I said a testimonial is what it would be.
The manager didn’t say yes or no. Later that year the corporate advertisements in a popular consumer magazine were exactly like that, except in each one the person up front was a different profit center executive. He didn’t give me any credit. One day I was out in the corridor singing a song, or the part I remembered, “Remember why God made your eyes. Don’t shade your eyes, plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize, only, please, remember to call it research.”
The container advertisements that eventually evolved showed a picture of it with words describing its features. In large type over the picture every time it said, “look into it”. The magazine that it appeared in sent a framed glossy copy of the advertisement with a little inscription at the bottom that explained it won something like the golden gloves award. The framed picture was leaning against a partition on top of a filing cabinet. Every time someone went to the art department they went past where it was. The first time I leaned it back up without thinking. When I went that way again it was face down. That happened several more times, and it made me wonder if the magazine sent it to us because of all the money it cost. If that was true why was it put there in the first place. The first time I knew anything about it was when the framed picture appeared on the filing cabinet. No one said anything to me. I called a person who worked for the magazine. The long and short of what he said was that the magazine’s intention of sending the “award” was not to thank us for the money even though it might seem that way. He said the advertisement helped the image of the magazine because it was not dreary. Over the top of the partition I could hear the manager slapping his desk repeatedly except it sounded like he was using his hand not his shoe.
There were people in the Personnel Department who prepared a newsletter. I wrote a response to an article that pointed to all the foreign steel in the parking lot. Our director went by me in the aisle, and he made some sort of brief, barely intelligible remark about how a letter had gone out of his department. That was the only acknowledgment of the letter I got. He smiled the whole time. It wasn’t a jovial matter to him even though it seemed that way. When I wrote a letter to a person at the International Division about what the man at the welding company said our director saw that letter first. I didn’t think a response to an article in a newsletter had to be handled that way.
The article about foreign cars first appeared in the Ashland newsletter. The management there wrote it. The company had a limestone mining operation in Ashland, Kentucky. The people at headquarters thought the article was so poignant that they reprinted it in its entirety for everyone to read.
In those days for the first time steel made in foreign countries was coming into the United States. Previously, several large domestic steel companies had the entire market here, and all price changes and employee benefits were the same. That changed when companies from other countries saw the opportunity to compete. It was of little concern to the foreign companies how domestic steel companies set the price of a ton of steel and determined employee benefits. In my letter I said the article about foreign cars in the parking lot at Ashland was a futile attempt to keep things the way they were, and rather than sulk about foreign steel they should sell steel to foreigners.
The Kansas City operation was part of the Steel Division. The profit center advertising manager who’s office was next to mine didn’t normally do work for them, but he was doing a bill board that he said was both near the Kansas City Works, and a busy highway. He said the management there wanted a public service message.
After thinking awhile I stood in his office door and said why not simply have the words, “Kansas City Works”. We talked about it a little longer. He was busy with something else. I do not know if those words or any other words ever appeared on a billboard there. Several years later when I was doing mailboxes I went to an exhibition of hardware store things at McCormick Hall in Chicago. I drove there and the words “Chicago, the city that works” was said on the radio. I had the long-standing impression the billboard in Kansas City never got made. Maybe it did after all, and I wondered if the people in Chicago got the idea from there.
Two of the other copywriters were made managers. The profit center-advertising manager assigned me to the one who a few weeks earlier had freaked over me. An internal memorandum announced the promotion/change. The day I saw him emote freely he was standing there waiting for a secretary’s attention. I didn’t realize what he was doing. I went right in front of him and asked the secretary if she would type something for me. He made a high-pitched noise. This got the attention of everyone in the building, including the two of us. His face was red. He was having a fit. It was then I realized I rudely butted in front of him. I apologized, but partly with disbelief that I had been the cause of such an outburst. The profit center advertising manager office was across the aisle. Later that same day I could plainly hear him asking the secretary what happened. He never asked me.
When he was promoted to manager I was assigned to him. The door to his office was open so I walked in and sat down in a metal cushioned chair to congratulate him, and have a friendly word with him. Sitting behind his desk he looked at the open door as if to say he would have liked me to knock. He puffed on a pipe. Everything was well lit and clean. His responses were polite. I had to make all the overtures. When I got up to leave I said, since he was a full fledged company man now I would ask him where the ropes were. I felt like a worker bee in a huge hive where another layer had just been added.
Several weeks later I sat down with the profit center-advertising manager and the new manager in one of the conference rooms for my “job review”. The new manager sat there with his arms folded while the other one read something from a piece of paper as if he had been told exactly what to say. In the corporate world the review statement was a necessity to my being fired later. What he said was true and that was the sickening part. He read that I could not spell and that I was severely lacking in numerous other technical abilities. I wanted to cry when I heard how little they thought of my work. I tried to conceal how bewildered and hurt I was. The last line of the review statement was about how I was good at research. In response to that I said I was gifted in that area.
They probably expected me to say I wanted to improve. What I did say was that the review was a real “hatchet job”. The manager who read the words on the paper asked me to repeat myself. I said in newspaper work a “hatchet job” literally refers a murder where someone is not only killed, but their corpse is hacked. Again I said the review of my job performance, although true, was a “hatchet job”.
For the first time the other manager piped up. He leaned forward, took his pipe out of his mouth, put his arms on the table in a professional manner, and said I had a strange way of wording things. That wasn’t on the script. He didn’t open his mouth again and probably got kicked under the table for the one time he did say something. The review was so vehement. I was like a naive child not to see they wanted me out of there. Nothing I could have said would change that fact.
I only did one interesting assignment for the new manager in the last weeks I was there. The company made metal buildings in a small town in Ohio called Washington Court House. The person in charge of the metal building factory located there wanted a brochure that would show what they did. It would be given to interested persons before they went on a factory tour. All the other work I did for the new manager was re-writing directions, which wasn’t very thrilling. When I did the brochure on the metal buildings the man in charge showed me what they did step by step. When I first got the job at the big company I went to a stamping plant in Detroit, an electric motor factory in St. Louis, and a printing company in Lawrence, Kansas. They were customers that had bought the fork truck size wire mesh containers we made in Plymouth, Michigan. In each place someone proud of what they did showed me first hand the entire operation.
The day I got terminated I knew something was up when everybody got their paycheck but me. The director’s secretary who had a desk up front by his office passed them out in the morning.
I took my personal effects out of my office and put them in my car. The two pictures on the wall were the biggest things. When I went past the open door of the profit center-advertising manager he looked up to see what was in my hands. As I walked across the parking lot with the two pictures I saw the other new manager. We stopped, and talked. He said in a short while he was permanently going to Houston, Texas where the company manufactured oil well casing. My hands were full and as I continued on toward my car. I said how it was nice knowing him. I could talk to him.
At the end of the workday the profit center-advertising manager told me to meet him in the director’s office. I got right up, and when I went out in the aisle he was already there at the far end of the building turning into the director’s office. When I got there the director was sitting behind his desk, and the advertising manager and me sat down in two chairs.
We weren’t there so I could get a pay raise. The director didn’t say anything the entire time. He nodded for the manager to begin his soliloquy, and the manager began to read from a paper that was probably prepared by the personnel department. Every so often I politely made an audible acknowledgment noise like people often do. It isn’t two words, but a sort of two-part sound that shows a person is listening.
The first part was about my performance and it set the groundwork for the second part. The “therefore” in the second part was about how I was getting fired. I continued with the same perfunctory acknowledgment noise at appropriate intervals. The director had a sense of humor, and I could see out of the corner of my eye that it all but cracked him up. The manager sounded so serious and remorseful as he read. You would have though he was the one getting fired.
The third and last part was the best part. It told about all the benefits I would get. The government would give me money every two weeks and the company paid another company to find me a new job. When all was said and done I stood up and said it sounded like a good deal to me. I wanted to give the distraught manager a hug and tell him everything was going to be all right, but he never looked at me. Instead, I shook his limp hand. He gave me my paycheck. I bid the director farewell, and walked on down the hall. Unlike the manager who looked undone the director was trying very hard to maintain his dignified composure.
I left a box of color slide film on my desk with a note for someone to return it to a person at the Washington Court House factory. He let it go only after I promised he would get it back. I carried one more batch of things to my car. When I came back in to make the last trip the other person with an office next to mine was out in the aisle leaning on the partition where his secretary worked. His arms were folded on top of the partition. He stopped talking to her, and looked at me the whole distance I walked to what was my office. He was an older man who worked in a marketing capacity for the Metal Products Division. I never knew exactly what his job was, but he was a permanent fixture in that company. By the self-satisfied smirk on his face he wanted me to know he knew I had been fired.
I got in my car, opened all the windows, and fired it up. I went over to the engineering company where my friend worked to give him a ride home. When he got in I told him it was all over for me in that town, that I got terminated. I expected him to call me a poor thing or something like that. I was late picking him up.