This week, in a meeting, a co-worker made a request for help, “I’d like [le Marquis] to help me with the [new] formulation, while he is still around.” His was an honest request for help, and also a flattering acknowledgement of my expertise. I work multiple projects, in multiple areas, and as workloads fluctuate, I can appear and disappear from any one perspective. I took no offense at the remark and hopefully gave none with my response. I asked, “What do you mean, while I’m still, here?” My remark elicited the desired response from the meeting’s participants, laughter. Joking continued, and I became aware of a difference in perception of what others thought the joke was about. I thought that it had to do with my tenure on this particular project; others thought that it had broader implications, as in my tenure in life; in short, a joke about my age.
In retrospect, this interpretation makes more sense. I was likely the oldest in the room, by ten years and surely had twenty years on the median. I was the old guy, but it always wasn’t like that. Ten years ago, when I was rehired, I went through an orientation, and learned, that I was the same age as the median age of the workforce. Over thirty years ago, when I first started working here, I was young and wet behind the ears and the workplace and the workforce was totally different. The company’s name was different, the old man, still addressed his team over the PA, and the old guys then, were other guys than me.
That first year in Saint Louis, was also Anne’s and mine first year of marriage. It was the hottest summer that we have ever experienced, and we endured it without AC. We were both working 9-to-5, but my shift began at 9 PM. We didn’t have cube farms back then, instead we had bullpens. Four desks were pushed together, with one phone in the middle, acres of desks. Casual Friday only occurred on Saturdays; otherwise it was business attire, which definitely included a tie. When I first started, the old guys were definitely full of advice. When I asked them about Forest Park, they told me, “It’s not safe to go into the city.” They suggested that I live in Saint Charles County, “God’s country”, where they resided. About the Arch and one guy said, “I don’t have to go up in the Arch, I saw it being built.” Another guy once complained about, what at that time, was the new Japanese Garden, in the Missouri Botanical Gardens, “I can’t believe that they spent $5M on that garden.” They sound a more anachronistic now than they did then, but even then, I never paid them too much heed.
Now I am apparently, on the other side of the coin, on the downward slide. I still have a few more years to go and I still have a few more years in me. One nice thing about this blog is that it has given me another skill, I can write. I mean, I always could, but I’m better at it than I was, practice makes perfect. A quiver full of skills, a willingness to work with people and a proven track record, these are my mantras. I’ll repeat them over my worry beads until that day comes.
Jane sent along the two pictures with this post. They were taken in Ann Arbor by a reporter for the Observer. They are posted here, without permission, but I promise never to do it again, fair use? Anyway, the railroad trestle on Washington Street has been catching trucks like a spider web catches flies longer than Jane or either of her sisters has been alive. When all three girls were younger, it was great sport to walk down the hill to view the latest wreckage.