TEMP MAN FOR SALE OR RENT

CHAPTER ONE

INITIAL THEME SONG

Temp man for sale or rent, jobs to let low percent

No phone, no food, no frets, I ain’t got no benefits

Ah, but 8 hours of punchin’ keys gets a 1st floor, 6 month lease

I’m a man of means by no means, king of the temps

Fifth ‘signment daytime shift, destination 3rd floor lift.

Old worn out suit and shoes, don’t pay no ‘surance dues.

Sup' visors I have found, think they walk on holy ground.

I'm a man of means by no means, king of the temps.

I’ve done er' temp job in every town

Whatever the job needs without a frown

'N every kind of work I’m renown

'N every one day ‘signment I am found

I sing... (first verse above)

STARTING LIFE

I was born into a dysfunctional and abusive family which led to a divorce and remarriage into yet another bad one.

Pop came to one of my swim meets one summer. I had injured my back so I was not going to swim, just coach the team. It looked like another close meet again with Swarthmore Vanderbilt.

The last meet they were ahead by a few points going into the last relay. I swam anchor and touched underwater first. But it was ruled a tie by the judges two to one. With a lead going into the last event, Vanderbilt took home the trophy. Got to learn to touch above the water!!!!

When it came time for the return meet at their pool, my back was all plastered up from a back sprain. I couldn't enter any events. Everyone pleaded with me to swim.

OK, I ripped off the mustard pack like some kind of hero and stood on the starting block wondering if I could even finish the first event.

"On your mark," said the starter.

Oof, hard to bend over.

"Bang!," went the starter's gun.

I got touched out in the 50 yard freestyle. But our second and third place kept us in the meet.

Then I turned over and won the 50 yard backstroke as I drank up half the pool. Backstroke is not my thing. I just gutted it out. That kept us nip and tuck. Every point counted.

We picked up some badly needed points in the diving. I didn't enter because I needed to save myself for the last relay. I wondered if that might have cost us the meet. But diving is what caused the injury.

Thirty minutes later it was still nip and tuck.

It would go down to the last event: mens 200 yard freestyle relay, again! Winner take all.

The joint was jumpin'. You could hear the noise all the way across the golf course.

My back was real stiff, but I ignored it as our third man battled to catch up to the Vanderbilt man in the lead.

I leaned dangerously over the water from atop the starting block as my man came close to the end of the pool.

My toenails were the only thing that touched the starting block when he finished. The anchor of the Vanderbilt team and I dove together.

I was so stiff that I started windmilling too much and got behind. I could see he was half a body length ahead of me.

I calmed down and stretched out my stroke and got my rhythm back, and then speeded up the tempo. We were neck and neck.

At the wall, I reached out and clearly touched first on top of the water.

Someone lifted me flat out of the pool. We had won and the roar was heard in three counties. I was hugged and lifted up on someone's shoulders and then sent flying unceremoniously back into the pool. The whole team joined me.

Pop saw it all. He had no idea about my swimming. He took little interest in me. He was totally amazed and shocked at what he saw that day.

When we got home, he reached out and grabbed my upper arm. On the one hand he said he was amazed how good I was. And on the other hand, he remarked with fear in his eyes how strong my arms looked, how big I was getting. He went over to the kitchen door and opened it. He said, "Watch this!"

He slammed his fist into the center panel.

BAM!!!

The wood door shuddered violently and crashed closed.

BAM!

Mom looked on in fear.

"Just remember, the old man can still deliver a punch," he said.

Mom mumbled something I didn't understand to Pop.

One morning, several months later, Pop smashed the back of his hand across my face. It caught me completely by surprise. I forgot which color tupperware mom kept the Fleischman's in. I inadvertently used Pop's spread instead of the oleomargarine.

It didn't hurt that much physically, but the emotional pain was excruciating. I went outside and broke every window in the garage door. Then I came in and announced that he would never touch me again like that.

Mom apologized later and told me that from now on I had to eat all my meals in my room alone and that the windows would come out of my allowance.

New rules: mom would ring the dinner bell once and I was to come down to get my tray and bring it up to my room. Then she would wait a few minutes until my presence was not evident downstairs and she would ring it twice and the rest of the family would come down for meals.

Christmas, Thanksgiving, Birthdays, I was told to pack my bags for an overnight stay at a friend's house.

I hardly ever saw Pop again. He constantly complained through mom that he could hear my steps on the stairs coming down from my room in the attic. So I had to tip toe like a thief all the time.

The final step of isolation leading to banishment from the family began shortly after I turned seventeen.

Getting a new faith

Doug and I were friends. I spent lots of time over his house with his family. Once they even took me on a vacation in Peconic Bay, Long Island.

Life at home in solitary confinement was the pits. So I jumped at any invitation to spend time with them. Doug's family were all church goers. They went to the same church I did, all by myself. They invited me one time to a Billy Graham Crusade at the old Madison Square Garden in NYC. I said yes because I enjoyed being with Doug's family. I had no idea what it was going to be like. Images of milk and graham crackers floated in my mind.

Our seats were in the highest section. The podium looked tiny from there. It actually wasn't very interesting either. After we did some singing along with George Beverly Shay, a preacher named Billy Graham got up and started telling us about being sinners. We had to make a decision that night to repent of such a lifestyle and make a commitment to follow Jesus. I was shocked at what that meant. I was going to hell unless I lived better and did something about all my wrong doing in the past. I hadn't seen myself as all that bad a person who needed to be straightened out. This outing turned ugly.

I told Doug that I wasn't going to go down to the arena floor to make a decision to repent. I had no confidence that I was capable of following through all my life.

Over the next five minutes, my section was completely vacated except for me in the middle. Everybody I knew was out of sight. So I quickly stood up out of my seat to go with the crowd so I wouldn't look conspicuously unholy. I followed hundreds of people down the narrow steps all the way to the arena floor. We sang a few hymns and prayed. My mind wasn't on any of this. I was worried that I'd never be able to find my seat again, 'cause I didn't have my ticket stub. So I was virtually lost with no money in my pocket, unable to get home.

The crowd started to move. I wasn't paying attention to what was going on. I moved with it like a cow moves with the herd. There were more ramps to walk down below the arena floor.

I put a name tag on my shirt I got from a table on the left and moved forward with the rest of the crowd.

Then everyone spread out in a huge underground area with building columns all over the place. A subway appeared at the far end and rumbled on.

I looked for familiar faces amongst thousands of people. It was overwhelming. I was lost forever!

"Robert?", someone said to my right.

"Yes."

I don't recall the man's name, but he said he was a school teacher.

"How am I going to get home," I said. "I can't find the people I came with?"

He tried to calm me down assuring me that I would be taken care of. Then he quietly explained how Jesus Christ died for my sins and if I trusted in Him I would have everlasting life.

All of my concerns left me. I was made to realize that I certainly did have a problem with God and could not reconcile it any other way but to trust alone in Christ to handle it for me.

That's why I didn't want to come down in the first place. I knew there was no way I could sufficiently repent of my sins for the rest of my life and make such a commitment to live every day for God in order to stay saved.

The teacher explained,

"God so loved the world, Robert, that includes you and me; that He gave His one and only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins; so that if you believe in Him you will never perish in hell but instead have everlasting life with God in heaven."

He told me from that moment on I would go to heaven. And he showed me several verses that verified this.

I forgot all about being lost in NYC.

The teacher prayed with me, thanking God for saving me and as we finished, Doug's entire family appeared and we went home a happy group.

From there it was just a matter of time before I was out on my own.

I was elated about what happened and told everyone in my family - even Pop. That just served to put another nail in my coffin that represented my being dead to my family. I went away to boarding school then college and then was finally told to stay completely away.

Mom visited me to give me birthday and Christmas presents behind Pop's back. And it was nice having her there. Sometimes I came over to do the son thing: use her laundry machines before Pop came home. Other than that, family life, what little there was of it, was over.

Mom died shortly thereafter and Pop moved to Florida to marry another caretaker.

I went through the basic bible study of the gospel of John that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association gave me and then there was nothing. So after a brief, frantic and futile search for a place to learn how to grow in my faith, I rejoined the world for 27 years. There was simply no place to go that taught anything but churchianity and sermonettes for Christianettes.

LIVING IN CUNNINGHAM HEIGHTS

On my own

My first apartment in Cunningham Heights. The neighborhood sounded impressive. I was sandwiched between Jamaica and Bayside, Queens. Ten minute walk, one bus and two subways to work. I never saw so many cock roaches - some of them were two legged neighbors. One step above public housing, but the rent was affordable. Making ends meet compelled me to get a roommate. And that's where Bobby came in. He was in a brother squadron at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn.

The mystery of the shifting corvair.

I interviewed with Republic Steel and got the job. Bobby said, "Robert, you're too naive. You're never gonna make it big"

I also couldn't figure out why my car's gas gauge kept going down so fast. I left my car home all week. I took the bus & subway to work. One day, I came home early and found it in a different spot with the engine warm. Bobby had been using it for months. He was right, I was naive. I discovered I could pay the rent all by myself. Had to let Bobby and the car go. You really learn a lot about people when you become roommates.

CHAPTER TWO - REPUBLIC STEEL

The World's first cell phone

Some may claim to have the world's first cell phone. Not before Robbie! In 1966, on August 5th, he was allowed one phone call from his cell in Bayside lockup.

On the road to CEO

I paid my dues at the order desk for 1 year. It was time to be put on the road. Charlie added a few rules: Get married and pay for my own sales car - 'til he could find a used one. The Manhattan salesman had just quit on him, after getting him a brand new sales car. He wasn't married either.

I was really angry about the way I was being treated. Clarence said to me, "You ain't seen nothing yet. Just hang around a couple more years."

So I got married and bought my friend Bill's Rambler Station Wagon for $400 when he went into the Army. It ran well but noisy - had a cracked muffler. Smoked a bit. It got the job done. I traveled the highways of New York City and Long Island as an official Manufacturer's Rep for Republic Steel Corporation. It was exhilarating. I got in the habit of parking far away wherever I visited.

Rosemary and I attended our first formal dinner held by the Corporation in Manhattan. We drove the official Republic Steel Sales Car for Long Island and NYC into the hotel parking garage. It was sandwiched in between two cadillacs arriving for the banquet. The attendant's face dropped several feet when the car in front of us moved away. There was the smokin' monster. He remained professional, gave us our ticket and got in the driver's seat. We quickly moved away so no one would identify us.

We could hear it circling like an old buzzard as the attendant drove it up the spiral ramp to a parking space. The smoke from the cracked muffler settled down around us and wisped out of the garage into the night air.

We were quite impressed with the elegance of the dinner and the people we rubbed shoulders with. So this was the corporate life. I had forgotten all about my social flaw in the parking garage.

It was the only car that announced it's arrival 2 minutes before you could see it. In a cloud of smoke and a hearty "varroommph" the green monster reared it's ugly front bumper down the spiral ramp. We were amongst a group of well dressed corporate executives and their wives waiting for their chariots. I wanted to turn and run. But Rosemary was with me. At least she was pretty. So I lived through the moment. We stayed way back and looked away. At the last moment, ticket and tip in hand, I let my wife in, moved quickly to the driver's side, handed off the tip and ticket like a quarterback. In 18 seconds we were heading back to Auburndale, Queens. It took the whole ride to feel the corporate shame disappear.

Several months later, relief came: second hand, Plymouth Belevedere, all white, loaded with four black walls, spare, steering wheel and AM radio.

Now that I look back, the Rambler symbolized me more than anything.

Naive moves on

I was doing pretty well at Republic. Once I donned that man from manufacturing identity I got job offers every week. My sales went through the roof simply because I did what my distributors asked - work with them, get them leads, be there when you needed them. Jerry told me that every Friday was order day in Brooklyn. So I sat all morning at Equipt-All and wrote up a truckload for Republic Steel. Brooklyn sales went geometric. I was too naive to out think them, so I got orders and more orders. I made top ten in the country twice.

Lee and Jimmie were the automotive reps for Republic. They decided to strike out on their own. Lee came over to me one day and made me an offer I shoulda refused. He was a smooth talker and made promises he wouldn't keep. So I moved with them right down the toilet. My successor, Frank thanked me. He inherited everything I built up and I was the one who flushed my own career down the toilet.

We got bills to pay, toilet paper to buy

My sales continued with Lee. I brought several of my customers over with me. Come time for my commissions, Lee said he had bills to pay, toilet paper to buy and no one else did very well. "What's that gotta do with me," I said.

"On the road again"

CHAPTER THREE - SPIRAL STEEL

Musical chairs

Spiral Steel was one of my dealers at Republic. He'd offered me a job several times. I liked Herbie. Who didn't. Herb said his Brooklyn sales rep was moving on, so the territory was open. I jumped at the offer but the music stopped and I was left standing while Hy changed his mind and sat down in my chair. "OK, how about New Jersey", Herb said.

They didn't advertise there, no NJ phone number, no catalogs, nor did they stock anything, I pay all my sales expenses. And it cost too much to deliver across the river. The main thing was no incoming sales calls from there. It was 100% cold calls. Lone Ranger stuff.

I chose life insurance, at least I got a draw...... Ironically, it was all cold calls and canned sales pitches..... not my thing. A year of "killing people off" for commissions and I was ready for New Jersey with a twist.

The twist was to focus exclusively on general contract and bid work. Forget the cold calls. I spent a lot of time in the Dodge Plan Room in Clifton, NJ doing "take-offs" - bidding on anything I could get my hands on. Bidding was real tight, but Herbie had competitive installers to do the work. I learned more with Spiral than with any other company.

Perth Amboy High School

Herbie had landed the Medart supplier contract - they were hungry for business on the East Coast. I landed a big one in Perth Amboy High School using Medart lockers. Herbie tried to squeeze more profit out of the job by sneaking in non-union labor. No dice. He sent our Puerto Rican crew to an Italian jobsite. Stood out like sore thumbs. Fortunately we didn't get penalized. We got Louie and Carmine from Long Island and they did a good job. I made a few bucks on the job but a lot fewer than I should have.

Herbie had accounting charge my Perth Amboy job with all kinds of fees for his roving installer to cover down time. I found out about this years later. The commission system was so backed up by the time I got a chance to verify costs on this job, it was too late.

Nevertheless GC sub work and municipal contracts came in. Volume shot through the ceiling. Profits were not as high as industrial sales. More volume made up the difference.

As I gained confidence and experience I broadened out to bid on new products like chalk and tackboards. Volume went through the ceiling and my income gradually increased. The chalk and tackboard work promised to double my income. The key was having a good installer.

Bill The Carpenter Man

Bill had done a few carpenter jobs for us. He was always looking for work. I went to visit him at his home in Whitestone. They were nice people. Bill and his wife and family were very glad to see me. Now with all this chalk and tackboard work they really had something to look forward to. So we sent Bill and his crew all over New Jersey. I negotiated one contract after another. I liked the idea of doing this work. It was more pleasing to the eye than some of the other products I sold. More work available too. The key was to have a good foreman/installer.

Everything went well at first but prosperity had a negative side for Bill. I got my first hint at the John Jay School for Criminal Justice in NYC. The holes he punched in the walls went through to the other side - hundreds of them. The jobsite manager reported that he had been drinking heavily on the site. I confirmed this when I visited him. He was using a huge screw driver and I looked in horror as he punched hole after hole into the outside walls of the classroom.

Shortly thereafter Bill a heart attack. I visited him in the hospital, feeling bad that I had been the cause of this man's condition. Sometimes too much of a good thing.... well, you know the rest.

And so we were left with no labor crew to do the work. Without Bill the rest of the crew fell by the wayside. Experience was the key. I farmed the rest of the work out to competitors for next to no profit - thousands and thousands of dollars. They made money and fortunately, we didn't lose a dime. I had to use my learned skills of negotiation to do this. We retired from the chalkboard business. One more dream shattered. Just throw it on the pile over there.

Sterno in the cafeteria

Well, there was always the locker work to do. I got the job at Ocean County College in South Jersey. Herbie bargained a no win deal with his Puerto Rican crew. They had no idea how far away the job was from the Bronx and the money he promised them was despicably low. Got to give them credit. They got there by bus with all their tools. Took the whole day. The walk from the bus stop was miles. No place to sleep on campus for them - that wasn't part of the deal. So they slept in the cafeteria. They used sterno stoves to heat up their food. They looked a little out of place the next morning when students started to arrive for breakfast. None of them spoke English. They did a good job assembling the lockers but the bench and filler work was atrocious. Needless to say I got a phone call about all of this. We sent our regular installers down by car with some new fillers and the job was completed. But the money Herbie tried to squeeze out of these poor installers was spent double in fixing the work they messed up. Net loss to me in commissions. I think it says somewhere in the Good Book to pay a man decent wages.

One job at a time

There was no one to handle Westchester County. So I got a chance to negotiate this one: New Gouverneur Hospital. Big contract with huge profit. All kinds of special work to do. It was fun finding all the suppliers to do the specialty work. Two problems on the job:

1) Al needed gas money for his cadillac.

He was the job super. I couldn't get my equipment to the upper floors on the job without using the elevator. Guess who had his hand out all the time at the elevator door. I learned to write in "Free use of the elevator" on all future contracts. Saved me big bucks. Everybody's got his hand in the till. The very next week Caristo Construction made the headlines for taking elevator money - there were indictments and jail time involved. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to go to jail just as things were starting to pick up.

2) Get paid for one job before you take on the next.

I had submitted a bid on Rikers Island to the same general contractor. Contracts were sent over to sign. Something told me this was too easy. The contract dwarfed New Gouverneur Hospital. I did a second take-off and found several pages were missing in the first set of plans the GC gave me. That was tricky. We were $100,000 short on our bid. Herb kept pushing me to OK the contracts - he was anxious to get paid for the last job. I told him it didn't look good. The next week he signed them in order to get prompt payment for New Gouverneur. The week after that he sent them $20,000 to get out of the Riker's Island deal. Guess who paid for that one in lost commissions?

Joe loved the races

Herbie had trouble finding good union labor. He tried short cuts that backfired and cost thousands. The company was in financial trouble once again. So Herbie took on a partner. Joe was the new foreman for union jobs. The partners would advance him money to do a job and he would man the project with a crew 'til it was finished.

One time Joe disappeared when he was advanced a large sum. We found out two things at the same time: Joe bought a race horse and he was in the hospital with two broken legs.

Another offer

I returned a phone call from one of Herbie's partners in Brooklyn.

"Where 'r u?" He asked, "We gotta talk."

"I'm in the Dodge Plan room."

He said, "We gotta talk, ah come ova dere."

"They won't let you in here unless you're a member," I said, "It's over in Jersey."

"Ah know where it is. They let me in. Wait fur me.... Click."

A shiver went down my spine?

They let Lou in the private office and asked me to join him.

"Hey, Robert, I hear good thins' 'bout u. You're good salesman. Clean cut. We could use guy like youse... ta sell windows."

"Thanks, Lou. Ya know ya gotta meet city specs. They won't 'prove the windows 'less you meet specs. The city wants iron, no sheet metal"

"Don' worry 'bout it. Jes le' me know when ya haf problems. Give me couple days 'n u go back. You get 'proved."

".......................OK..................... Can I thin' bout it and get back to u, Lou? Gotta talk dis ova with da wife."

"OK, kid. Don' take too long."

He got up out of the chair. All 250 lbs of him disappeared quickly through the doorway. I heard the manager say, "Goodby, Mr......." as he left.

I dragged my decision out. Lou called me several times. He always seemed to know where I was. For some reason he lost interest and I started taking full breaths.

Handwriting on the wall

The company's credit was so bad it slowed down deliveries. Herbie tried too many shortcuts and it cost time, money and reputation. New Jersey was shot for me. With the slowing economy and our reputation, business tailed off to virtually nothing. Westchester County was given to Lucien who didn't know a thing about selling or bidding. He offered me 25% to do it all for him, since New Jersey was a bust for me. He always aggravated me so I declined.

Two jobs were better than one

I took a second full time job selling office furniture for a local dealer. Herbie still owed me thousands in commissions because the system was so far behind, so I "kept" working for Herbie so I could continue my draw against commission. Rosemary did her best to bid on jobs from our house. She surprised me and secured a few small ones. But I'm not good spy material. Herbie got wind of my two lives. I lost all the back commissions and was....

On the road again

OFFICE FURNITURE

Mean spirited bosses are tops on my list for reasons to quit. The new boss at the office furniture dealership had issues. I started to look around so I could make a quiet exit. The town was small - everyone knew everyone else's business. So I was fired for looking around - without recourse for unemployment. Back in those non-single days, this was reason for panic. I had a wife and three children to take care of. So I went further on down the elevator to one of the world's worst jobs.

PENS AND PENCILS

This time I was selling pens, pencils, paper clips and legal forms - 12 hours a day. I really needed a knight in shining armor.

Enter one phone call from Chicago. Mike C renewed his offer.

CHAPTER FOUR - MEDART

Offer accepted

Mike C had approached me earlier to work for him. So I took him up on it this time.

Training in Chicago

It lasted four days 'til my trainer was killed in a knife fight. No one else to train me. I hung around for the rest of the week and then picked up my brown cutlass and drove it to Newburgh, New York. Nice car. I had a big challenge: cover the 9 northeastern states. I already knew most of the product line pretty well.

I had a lingering feeling in the back of my mind. Mike seemed distant since our last meeting. Shortly thereafter he left the company. So everyone was a stranger to me there. My new salesmanager traveled to my home where I had set up a regional sales office in my newly refinished basement. It was an ideal set-up and he made a lot of wonderful promises. I would do all of my bidding out of that office with 2 staff people to help me and the Dodge Scan program which sent me plans and specs on microfilm. I could bid on jobs all over the northeast without leaving my basement - right there on the scan viewer. One time I sat at a bid opening in south Jersey incognito. One of my competitors came in and complained about how he bumped into my bids everywhere he went. "What's this guy got a helicopter???" I took the lion's share of business everywhere I bid. Medart was hungry.

Tony the Credenza

Tony was my second manager - they came and went like revolving doors. He wasn't into the job. Contracts weren't getting processed, paperwork got lost all the time. I could have lost a lot of business except I had learned to stay on top of things. Several years later, I found all the missing paper work neatly stacked in credenzas in Tony's old office. Whatever Tony didn't get done that day, he locked it up in a credenza. That was his favorite piece of furniture. He just kept buying them. But he didn't micro manage me. My sales were number one. Of course the territory warranted it. I just had to make sure I followed up on everything and stayed within the rules:

Rule #1: Don't mess with iron workers

Rules said you could use whatever union made the product to install it. Those rules count for nothing in NYC. Top dog gets the bone.

Lesson learned at Park Central High School:

1) 100 barrels of hardware spread in chex party mix all over the floor.

2) Larry, Mo and Curley did the job in slow motion.

Estimated cost overrun: $40,000+. Commision = 0.

Rule #2: Don't mess with iron workers

From unbridled elation to terror - that's the roller coaster you get on when you outbid Top Dog. I bid on the NYC contract for lockers and came out low bidder - qualified to sign the contract and jump tenfold in income.

I had visions of six figure income blasted with one call. They knew all about my wife and three boys, what my house looked like, my latest landscaping project, door to door directions. Tom, my friend from Spiral, said, "It was either you or me." He spilled his guts. Couldn't blame him. The boys came to visit me in a big, black, Lincoln Towne Car. Looked like two linemen from the Chicago Bears. They dominated the doorway to the restaurant where I waited for them. The NY State Trooper patrol car circled Howard Johnson's parking lot with the bubble light flashing. We discussed how one hand washes the other. Lou wondered about the circling trooper. I choked on my BLT on toast. Swallowing was hard. "It's on me," Lou said. I shook hands on his philosophy and went home, glad to walk upright through the door and not feet first. The big boss in Chicago told me that his people spoke to the NY people and got them to back off - so long as I backed off the bid. Miraculous that the city never penalized me one dime for reneging. It's not what you know, but whose blocking the door that counts.

Don't degrease - let the paint slide off

The company moved to Mississippi to see if it could stay afloat with lower operating costs. Bank loans were tied to production. So my Sto Rox High job was pushed out the door. Manager said he bypassed the degrease line to save time. Ever paint over grease????

The installer told me the paint was sliding off the locker doors in one piece - slow motion, like in a cartoon. The doors were bare steel. The corridor floor had hundreds of locker paintings all lined up in a row. Minus $20,000, $0 commission.

Surrounded by fools

Medart's lifeline was the Federal Locker contract. Every year the company suits went to DC to bid on the contract. Medart had won this contract for years. The cost of tooling and the value of experience was huge. Medart had the inside track. They took off for DC with bid in hand. Trouble was the new sales manager didn't understand the difference between due date and opening time. The bid was to be received at 9 AM then opened at 11. His mind was not on business. He had partied all night with a few "ladies". He missed the deadline. The company's lifeline was severed.

Let's make a deal

Medart was so far behind in sales car lease payments that we were told we had to pay them full price for our sales cars to keep our jobs. Mine already had thousands of miles on it. I called their bluff. That did not bode well with the next sales manager. I picked up a real nice Chevy Caprice loaded like a cadillac.

More trouble

Rosemary decided to end our marriage right in the middle of all of this. So two things were winding down at the same time. Regional salesmanager Lew took me in like a son. He and his wife Joanne moved me into their two bedroom apartment in New Jersey - like it was second nature to do such a kind thing. Never met a couple like them. The pain of the wounds from the double barreled shotgun was lessened by their care.

The hard part at work was to continue bidding on what I knew was a lost cause. Contractors were shying away from Medart now, with their history of late deliveries and low quality. Nevertheless, routine in these times is good medicine.

Lew hired Huguette Corker from Canada to be my estimator/assistant. Her abilities were overestimated, her good looks distracting. She was overwhelmed by the idea of learning to read Architect's plans. So I put that on the back burner. I soon discovered that she couldn't do phone work or typing either.

When I gave her bids to read over the phone she started sobbing. "Dey meek fun off me name," she said. I empathized, "Contractors can be rude."

I listened while she made a call.

"Allo, dis isse u-get cork-air...."

"Hello, who is this???"

"Allo, dis u-get cork-air."

"Look, I'm busy. Is this a crank call?"

"Me name isss u-get cork-air."

"You get what????

"Sob, sob, sob..............."

She kept pronouncing her name "u-get cork-air" with a heavy French Canadian accent.

I told her, "Say 'This is Mrs. C' that should solve the problem. We have a lot of calls to make and we don't need to create a problem with your name".

She insisted on saying, "u-get cork-air".

"Peepul shoot not meek fun off me name", she said.

I tried to console her and explained that contractors were going to have a problem understanding her name. Some might make fun of it. "So take my advice and say, 'This is Mrs. C.' "

Huguette was stubborn. Every day she would start making calls, get up from her desk, walk over to a bare corner in the office, and sit in a chair and sob for long periods.

I came in the office one day and asked Barbara where Huguette was. Barbara said she was over in her corner as usual. I'd never seen a grown woman act this way. And over something that was so easily resolved. Needless to say, I made all of the calls. After two weeks of trying to find something she could do without sobbing, I finally asked her to take two weeks off to find another job, with pay. She refused???? I had to let her go that day. She insisted I keep her on as tears fell to the floor. She finally left. Sometimes people can look so good on the outside, but they have cracks in their foundation.

Bad timing. The home office refused to hire a replacement. The Hatchetman had just entered the scene.

Bob the Hatchett

Yet another national salesmanager on board. The ship was beginning to take on water. Bob came over from Republic with a reputation for firing everything that moved. Every week someone had to go so they could meet payroll. Commissions due were used to keep the ship afloat. The rule of thumb was to provoke and terminate for incompetence, then let them come sue the company in Mississippi for back pay.

Hatchettman had reduced the staff in my regional office to zero. Even Barbara was gone. So how could I answer the phone and be out on the road at the same time?

Bob asked me, "Are you telling me you can't do both?"

Lew signaled me to back off on my answer.

I got the message. I said I would manage.

The next morning I found the door to work was locked. Lew looked apologetic as he spoke through the door. His breath appeared on the glass betraying his pain. I couldn't blame Lew. I didn't want to drag him in this too. So in effect I was locked out and laid off - their number one salesman. Lew would get the same treatment several months later.

.."I hear you knocking. But you can't come in"

Next stop, the bank with self-paying vouchers to pay for severance, unpaid commissions, salary and vacation. Now they had to come to New Jersey to sue me. "Unfair", they cried, "You're looking at jail time."

I saddled up and went .."On the road again." Never heard from the Hatchet man. He kept chopping 'til there was no company left.

CHAPTER FIVE - LAST GASP IN THE EAST

HALLOWELL

Bad karma

I interviewed with the national sales manager. He seemed impressed enough to hire me. Bud, my regional manager, met me for lunch after I was hired. He had all kinds of strange questions. When he found out we were born on the same day, the pea soup he was sipping spewed all over me. I thought he was crazy. He immediately fired me, then remembered he couldn't because I'd been hired by his boss. "It's not gonna work out," he said, "we got bad karma." He got up and left. I figured it out when I had a "reconciliation" dinner at his home in Baltimore. I kept bumping into Buddhas. Bad karma - two people working together born on the same day.

It all went down hill from there. He kept insisting on going with me all the time. Whatever I did, he undid. He stood me up not a few times, hours late most of the time. I missed some key appointments but went back without Bud and made the sale anyway.

One time I got an appointment with the CEO of Pheonix Clothing on a big project. Bud insisted on going with me as usual. He came dressed in a carnival outfit: straw hat, seersucker coat and a big wad of gum in his mouth. Bud kept telling the man we had nothing to sell him. I could see holes in his shoes as he sat lotus style in the customer's $2000 leather chair. "Please take your feet off my chair," the customer said. Bud apologized, chewed his gum and put his feet on the floor in one motion. I kept telling him to lose the gum. Needless to say, we didn't get the order. He kept chewin'.

Another time, I got a sale at a convent and Bud donated my commission to charity. At the end of the year, Bud gave his entire staff a Christmas present: termination. I was a little tougher than the rest to get rid of because my sales were 20% over quota. Everyone else in the company was below quota, Bud included. They were gentlemanly about it. I got all the commissions due me except the convent job - more than any other company did when I left. It was actually a good thing because their product was not competitive and I thrived on competition. The job was absolutely boring. Bud got the axe shortly thereafter.

BERNARD FRANKLIN COMPANY

Kathy had been contacting me for months to come on board BFC. I was always a sucker for flirty eyes. But Hallowell looked more stable until I saw what a gum chewing seer sucker looked like in a leather Eames chair.

Flirting changed to micromanagement very soon after I came on board. It was a chess game. Kathy was the queen, Bob H, a bishop and I was a checker on a checker board. Although I worked for Bob, the President, Kathy worked for Bernie, the CEO. She was national sales coordinator, I was national salesmanager. I couldn't figure out what the difference was. Kathy turned into junk yard dog from the moment I sidestepped her personal attention. She came back to my desk one time, stared me straight in the eyes and swept everything off the desk onto the floor, turned and walked away. I made lots of sales calls all over Pennsylvania and the midwest. Kathy did lots of discoordinating so no one got any literature. So no one bought anything.

I had fun though. The Mid-West and Boston were my favorite places to go.

Bernie was quite frugal on expenses - $20/night motel, $20/day meals. I spent a lot of time in Redroof Inns and MacDonalds. My feet stuck to the icy bathroom floor at the W. Toledo Motel all the time. No heat in the bathroom - only one space heater per room.

One time I brought my laundry with me when time was short. The cleaners didn't have it ready so I had them send it to the factory. When I got back, the CEO asked me what my underwear was doing on his desk. The whole company got a laugh out of that one - even Bernie.

Bob tried his best to get the company geared up to national sales, but the owners were penny wise and pound foolish. They compromised on quality when an extra buck could be squeezed out of nothing. Deals were made for unusable scrap steel and useless second hand equipment. The money they spent on the antique reducer that never worked should have been targeted to a semi-auto welder. They were still in the dark ages of welding every rack joint by hand. Lack of foresight caused them to be out of stock and behind in shipments all the time. This was no way to beat the competition already entrenched in the areas I was going into.

Twenty-four hour security

I drove my brand new T-Topped Z28 into the factory parking lot for the first time. No way I was going to park my baby on the streets outside. A short plump, raggedy old man came out of the factory bay door like a junk yard door after fresh meat. I thought he was going to duke it out with me.

"Get that .... car outta heah!!!!"

Mitchell overheard the ruckus and yelled, "It's ok, Bob, he's one of us," just as we got nose to nose. Another Bob.

So I met BFC's 24 hour security force that cold winter morning in Philadelphia. They paid him $90 a week and didn't charge him rent to live in their tiny factory elevator. There was no heat or power, so Bob rigged up a hanging light and an ancient space heater with a long heavy duty extension cord to one of the factory outlets. The heater ran all the time. A beat up old upholstered chair, draped with numerous old blankets and a wobbly table served as all of his furniture. Although I think I saw some kind of shelving in the back that held miscellaneous essentials. Some old carpets and various artifacts that looked like they were salvaged from the garbage hung on the elevator walls. If Bob were just a little bit larger, he would not have fit inside his "home". He said he was quite comfortable there compared to the streets that he lived in for years and needed very little money. I thought of blowing the whistle on how poorly the owners treated this man, but I never had a chance to. Act one ended and Act two was about to begin.

Act 2, Scene 1

Sales area, lunchtime, Bernie, Frank and Tony out to lunch, general conversation narrowing in on the Three Stooges that ran the company.

I did my famous invitation of Bernie's penny pinching penchant. There was outright hilarity as I walked in circles in Bernie's office overlooking the general office area, one foot in a trash can, lampshade on my head, cigar like pen in my mouth, telling everyone to stop spending so much money on electricity as I flicked the lights on and off.

I was just about to go stage right. Everyone in the audience was rolling in the aisles. I bumped into Bernie in the doorway to his office, coming back from lunch. He let out a nervous laugh, said he really thought I was funny.

He got the last laugh Friday afternoon after everyone had left. I packed my things and put them in my new Honda. I rented out my house, and went west... California bound. Gave my furniture away for a song and a dance.

Good bye sweet house

I enjoyed fixing up the house in Cherry Hill. She was an old tub when I bought her. The couple that owned her was trying to cheat one another on it. The ex husband tried to sell it to his girl friend for a song so he wouldn't have to pay his ex wife so much. Then he figured he would keep the house anyway through a back door deal with his new love. I bid a few hundred dollars more in cash and the judge in the inevitable court case gave me the house deal of my life.

I transformed her into a little red, colonial doll house, cherry tree on the right, five birch trees on the left.

I used a paint chart to do the house in graduated shades of red. Doors and shutters were barn red. Frames and trim light red. The rest of the house and columns in pastel. The driveway and side walks matched the house. The new roof had reddish black tiles.

It was a show stopper. Passers by would slow down to look - especially when the cherry tree was in full bloom. Inside was sculptured carpeting and a fancy wrought iron railing up the entrance stairway to the elevated living room. A large, pink, silk screen dogwood tree reflected in the multiple square mirrors as you came in.

When I walked into the house, I was always looking for the guy who belonged there. I still had the kitchen and bedrooms to do. But I was enjoying every minute fixing her up. The Navy captain and his wife who bought it: that's whom I did all this for. It was time to move on to California.

CHAPTER SIX - W W CANNON COMPANY

A little short of the west coast.

The little red Honda was not a good long distance road car. Clothing leaked out of every window and the sun roof. When I made it to Texas, I decided to plant myself for a while. The economy was reported doing well.

A Yankee down south

I interviewed for a sales job at a personal agency. Cannon company had put in a request for someone at the same agency with my qualifications. It took them two months to match us up. They told me the requests were in the same letter tray. Fortunately, no one else was hired in the meantime.

My first month's commission was charity: Nearly $7,000 for a job that Bob Chauncy engineered and sold. I hooped and hollared in my little red Honda like a native born Texan - all the way home to my new apartment in a huge yuppie complex called the Village, on Lovers Lane. I might have said the word, 'Y'all" a couple of times. Boy that was generous of them. I never made that much money in a month. I figured I'd be living in the Taj Mahal in six months.

Ed, my sales manager, kept harping on my yankee ways. I found out later he was from Michigan! But he had mastered all that nautical talk, like Yawl and stuff.

Everyday, I was asked about being a Yankee. Every day I thanked people for thinking I was a professional baseball player.

The good ol' boys had ways to straighten out yankees. One trick was to tell me the time for sales meetings was 1/2 hour after they were to begin. Then everyone would scold me for being late.

I started getting there real early Monday mornings to be sure to be on time. Then they'd all gradually sneak back into the meeting room until I'd notice I was the only one there in the office. Then they'd wait to see how long it'd take me to realize I was late again and scold me all over again. It really got old.

Join the crowd

It just wasn't in me to say 'Y'all' and stuff.

Ed tried to get me to join the good ol' boys at the local watering hole at Bachman Lake every night. I liked to work out, so drinking right after work was not my thing. I'd come over once in a while and have an OJ on the rocks with everyone. But the cigarette smoke got to me. I would stay a short time, then it was off to Presidents' Health Spa. I never really fit in. I just had a different lifestyle.

Wow - Europe for two

I worked like a dog 9 to 5 everyday - no early days like the good 'ol boys. Borroughs had a contest that year: 1 week in Marbella, Spain. So we all tried to sell as much as we could. I sold just enough bench parts to make the wild card. It was hardly enough to pay for the cost of the trip but I wasn't going to say anything. I couldn't believe it - naive little me going to Europe!!!

I called the ex to see if I couldn't take my oldest, Timmy. He was 9 - a good companion to share our first time abroad. The two of us would be wide-eyed over there. They even had one day in North Africa. She refused to let me take him. "Take all three boys or none", she said. I didn't have the money to take the other two. My heart sank. I didn't want to go alone - should have asked one of my tennis buddies. Instead this fool asked an old girlfriend I dated in Dallas. I quickly discovered the reason why I broke up with her.

Everyone from Cannon stopped off in NYC a couple of days before the flight to Madrid to take in a few sights. The group from Houston was a spectacle - shiny grapefruit sized belt buckles, boots and one gallon hats lookin' up at all them thar skyscrapers. New Yorkers were disappointingly friendly to them. The boys sauntered down into the depths of terror: the subway. They found out that every whar they went, people smiled at them. People would ask, "Hey, who shot JR". They'd give good directions.

One time on the way to the Statue of Liberty, two guys got off the subway and walked with us, so we wouldn't get lost. It gave them all a different point of view about yankees.

That evening the boys and me were gonna take in "Annie" on broadway. I told them it was formal. So they put on their corduroy jackets.

Donna micromanaged me from the minute I picked her up in Dallas. She sensed my distancing. She demanded I hand over her plane ticket to Madrid, right on the sidewalk in front of everyone, so I wouldn't send her home. I was thinking of it.

The 747 over there was long and tiring. I couldn't sleep. When we arrived in Madrid they counted heads and couldn't fit all of us on the connecting flight to Marbella. There was a holiday going on. All the restaurants were closed. So after staying up all night on the plane, the stragglers were given a tour of the Palace and an imitation hamburger at Burger King. Someone said it was cheaper than putting us in hotel rooms. So we couldn't rest up for the connecting flight.

Security was tight everywhere. Uzzi toting, funny hats were on top of every building. I was so tired, I almost got arrested for trying to sit in a chair in the palace. The muzzle of the uzzi pointed its message: "Out of the chair, Senor!" I was reminded that the furniture had a history with royalty, not commoners. We ended the tour standing in the palace courtyard waiting for a bus. We were still not allowed to sit - not even on the ground - out of respect for the monarchy. Donna was so tired that she stopped bugging me. Finally, on the flight to Marbella, we got a chance to sit down.

Then our luggage was lost. Another three hours shot. Donna stayed in her room and waited for me to bring the luggage from another flight into Marbella. She was already fretting because she left her formal dress back in Dallas and wouldn't have anything to wear at the final dinner.

I was so exhausted that I couldn't even take a nap. So I went down to the beach and plopped down on one of the beach chairs. I saw the Mediterranean Sea for the first time! Just then, a huge boxer with a slobbering mouth came right to me. He took one look, went to the foot of my chaise lounge and deposited the biggest pile of steaming waste I'd ever seen. Welcome to Europe!!

I felt a strange isolation. Every couple had their place with certain other couples. And then there was Donna and Bob. Donna was a looker. Dinner and sleep.

We took our first bus tour the next day. Donna was all camera. She took pictures of everything - even a rose at the break station. She insisted on the window seat the whole time. If she saw something on the other side of the bus, she screamed, "Out of my way!". If I didn't jump into the aisle, she would actually step across my legs. Her heals dug into my thighs more than once.

The next day, Donna flirted continuously with the tour guide. Pepe had curly hair and a mustache that surrounded his face. He was a likable guy - 'cept he stole my girl. So I gradually faded to the back of the group as we toured here and there. They looked like a nice couple, her arm in his all the time. I became so embarrassed that I waited to see which tour bus she and Pepe would take each day, and took the other one. Donna was incensed with this. She said it looked bad. I avoided her at dinner too. She became the nagging wife the more I retreated.

Every day ended with a tour of the stores so we could have our wallets emptied. I noticed that the store owners were putting higher price tags up just before the group came by. The guide kept telling us to stay with him 'cause he held our passports. If we got lost he threatened, "We'd be in a foreign country without ID."

There was only one ferry, so I accompanied Donna to North Africa. The native Tunesians all had bad teeth, fast hands and bad breath. The water was bad so everyone drank Coca Cola. They'd come up to you and put their hands everywhere on your body, in your pockets, on your hair. They were begging for money, obviously poor. Donna panicked and moved back to where I was walking. I shielded her from everyone. I'd never seen her this vulnerable before.

After touring a couple of "interesting spots" we went to a store front restaurant. The cush cush was topped with a half cooked chicken that I wouldn't give to the boxer.

The atmosphere was exotic. An ugly belly dancer with rolls of fat bouncing around every which way entertained us. The waiter kept telling me to eat the raw chicken. I threw my dinner, piece by piece, under the table to avoid insulting him. Time to leave. The dancer seemed angry that no one put money in her outfit.

Just outside the door, "Clyde the Camel" grunted in my face as he planted a kiss on my lips before I had a chance to duck. "One dollar," his owner demanded. "For luck."

Donna went hysterical again when the natives surrounded our group. They all reached out to touch her. She was indeed beautiful, but an untouchable beauty, fragile. Our group became her shield. She walked in the middle of our circle. Tears poured down her face.

She remained hysterical all the way back to the ferry. When we boarded, she slipped through the crowd and disappeared. I looked all over for her. There were all kinds of people on that large ship. When I came to the rear I saw our group sitting together on the benches that were attached to the rounded stern of the ship. Jerry spoke over the din of the engines, "Where's Donna." I sat down next to him and yelled, "I don't know, I've looked all over."

I was about to panic, thinking she'd jumped overboard. Just then she appeared in the doorway and walked right to me. Her face was marked with fresh tears and sunburn. She was even more beautiful in her vulnerability than I'd ever seen her before. Jerry moved over to make room. She sat down and put her weary head in my lap. "I'm so sorry about everything," She said, "I have nothing to give. I feel so empty." I looked down on her beautiful face resting in my lap. My tears dropped down one by one, planting kisses on her cheek. I said, "I could really love you, if you'd only let me." Someone had really done a number on her.

That night we were scheduled to go gambling. All the good 'ol boys were a goin'. Donna had recovered and was up and ready for a night of chance. I was glad she was her usual cheer leader self again. She asked me to go with her. Perhaps I missed my last chance. I really wanted time with Donna apart from the crowds.

Jerry joined Donna and really tried hard to get me to go with them. He was already drunk. He'd been abusing Sheila the whole trip and it was getting more physical by the day. So Sheila wasn't going to come along that night either. I wasn't into gambling or dealing with Jerry's drunkeness.

Jerry went back to his room angry and beat up his wife one more time. He accused her of trying to hook up with me after everyone left. She called security on him, but he was off gambling by then.

I went to dinner next to the boxer's hangout. The waiter was arrogant when I couldn't speak Spanish. I ordered in French and he purposely brought the wrong food. I overheard him mocking my French. He spoke his ridicule in English! I wolfed the food down and left no tip. He cursed me in Spanish. I saw how long his middle finger was. I thought about going back for dessert. Naw. Let's call it a night. No point in picking a fight with the natives. I hoped Donna would come back early and we could spend our last night watching the moon over the Mediterranean together.

I reluctantly dressed up for the final formal dinner the next night. After all it wasn't Borrough's fault for my misery. I purposely arrived late. Everyone was there except Donna. I wondered if she was going to show up at all. Her formal dress was in Dallas. Ed came up to me and told me that Jerry was looking to kill me for "hooking up with his wife". He was insane and out of control. Jerry arrived and I decided to duke it out right there. His eyes widened and he became his usual charmin' self. He apologized profusely in the face of a man who had nothing to lose. Everything was cool once more. What more could happen!

Just then a vision entered the room, dressed in something wonderful. I don't know where she got the dress, but Donna looked absolutely stunning. The whole room stopped to look at this beauty. She no longer looked so vulnerable as she had on Africa day. The dinner went well and that was that. We all went back to Dallas, everyone was cordial - perhaps too tired to be otherwise. I dropped Donna off and we never saw one another again. She got her dress back. Jerry and Sheila got a messy divorce.

A new chariot

"It was about time you dump that piddly car, it's an embarrassment to everyone.", Jimbo said. He was the goodest of the good 'ol boys. I was doing pretty well now, so it was time to get an impressive car. I leased a Buick Rivera - cream colored body with gold vinyl roof and them thar spoke wheels that people like to take for souvernirs. And they did.

Trying to stay out of the cellar

We had a surprise announcement one Monday morning sales meeting. There was a contest for salesman of the year with monthly prizes, banquet dinner, formal awards ceremony with newspaper coverage. It was actually a city wide contest. Grand prize was a trip for two to Cozumel, Mexico

"Oh, no," I said to myself. I didn't want to give the good ol' boys further reason to ridicule me. I was sure they would post the scores every week and I would be holding up the cellar as usual. Most of the guys were consistently in six figures with all kinds of huge accounts like Texas Instruments, Boeing, LTV, Radio Shack, Motorola, etc. All I had in my territory was a lot of medium to small accounts that I had to work hard to land and keep.

So I kept my nose to the grind stone so I would be at least one up from the bottom.

First month's figures were in. I stacked my freezer with corn fed Iowa beef. I hadn't the slightest idea how to cook, so I gave it all away. Not being in the cellar was the reward . Being in first place after one month made me a target.

I landed a few more nice sized jobs and stayed in first place the next month. It was nice getting prizes.

Scott squeaked by me the third and fourth month. But Jerry E, the winner for the last two years came up with a couple of big months with his Texas Instruments account. When he started landing big ones, there was no stopping him, and this contest was accumulative. Then Jimbo came in with some heavy orders. So his numbers started climbing.

I went into the last month of the contest with a slim lead. I never had a bad month and kept in the top three the whole time. The good 'ol boys started talking Cozumel all the time to me, trying to rattle my confidence. I didn't want to start making plans to go to Mexico and be disappointed when I lost.

Actually, all it would take is for anyone of the top four to hit a big one the last month and it was winner take all. I had nothing big going myself. Scott said he was working on a million dollar bid for a huge warehouse in Fort Worth and it looked good. It was the largest dollar contract we'd ever gotten. That would leave everyone else in the dust. It was a matter of time if he could get the job and sneak it in under the wire. Scott was an aggressive and underhanded competitor. He always played dirty tricks on me for laughs, but what he said and did was always so funny that I actually enjoyed being fooled and made fun of all the time. He was so quick that I didn't have a chance to make good come backs. All I could do was laugh my face off.

So Scott was up to his usual tricks. He tried to shake me up so I would lose my confidence. And it worked.

I got him back in spades later on, though. I went to a novelty store and picked up an exhaust bomb whistle. I placed it in his exhaust pipe and waited in the office, pretending to do paper work, 'til he got up to leave. I walked over to the window facing the parking lot and waited and watched.

Varrommph!!! The car started up. He had a dark blue Buick Regal - nice looking car.

All of a sudden I heard what sounded like a huge bomb dropping from an overhead bomber.

Scott ran from the parking lot to the next county. The car door was left wide open and the engine running - so the "bomb" in his exhaust kept on whistling louder and louder. I couldn't stand I was laughing so hard. It took him 20 minutes to walk back into the office. I had gained my composure and pretended to be doing paper work. That's the first time I saw him at a loss for words. I think I heard him mumble, "ya got me."

Anyhow, the bad news was that Scott did get that huge order in time.

The good news was that it wasn't a genuine Cannon order. So it didn't strictly meet the contest rules. The bid was so competitive that Scott had to take a minimal finders fee to land the job and let the manufacturer take the contract instead of us. He knew this all the time but tried to get the dollar volume counted as a full Cannon order. He tried everything but the owner held firm. I was surprised because Scott was the salesmanager's son.

No one else landed a big order, but I landed a number of very profitable medium sized orders that added up to Cozumel for the yankee. Scott was really bitter about his loss, but that didn't make me enjoy Cozumel any the less. He won the next year anyway.

A gorilla mask makes a fine sales tool

I can't remember when I started buying things in novelty stores. Several of my regular customers really appreciated my humor so I started to loosen up a bit. My best prop was a gorilla mask. And my best audience was GAF off Mockingbird Lane in Irving.

Wanda had a laugh that made you fall in love with her. It matched her good looks. Shame she was married - to a really nice guy. One time I snuck into her reception area and slipped on the mask and sat down facing the window. I heard her startled laugh but then she got her composure and slid open the reception window and said, "Sir, you can come in now, who are you here to see."

I grunted.

She called my bluff and came around to the door, opened it and before I could take off the mask, she grabbed me by the hand and gave me the tour of the entire office. She left no corner unvisited and demanded I drag my knuckles and act like a monkey.

I visited people in that company that were way up on the executive level. I was deathly afraid of taking the mask off and no one asked me to.

I got one order after another from GAF. A lucrative cost plus inventory contract from them was what gave me the final push to Cozumel.

To wear or not to wear the mask

There's a time and place for everything. I think the Good Book says somewhere.

So it wasn't the time sitting on the dais, in a tuxedo, in front of Dallas' key corporate executives, with news reporters and my picture projected on the wall, with the MC giving my bio for Salesman of the year - to don my gorilla mask.

Scott came up to me just before and placed something under the table in my lap, winked and quickly went back to his seat next to his father, Ed, my salesmanager.

Ed was looking at me straight in the eye - with daggers and was motioning the guillotine sign. I pulled out what Scott put in my lap: my old friend the gorilla mask. My date Eleanor said, "Don't you dare."

Scott had egged me on before and he always got the last laugh. Guess he still remembered the car bomb and me on the dais instead of him.

I kept my sanity and Eleanor put the mask in her purse.

Cozumel for two

Tickets for two. I wasn't dating anyone seriously. The trip was only for a 3 day package via Mexicana Airlines. You left Love Field at 9 AM and were in the water at Cozumel at 12. I took a friend and that was that.

The new vice president

Jack hired old friend Lynn to be vice president, in charge of operations. Lynn didn't have a clue about the business. He came from a computer programming background. He didn't have a clue about that either. His first order of the day was to redo the restrooms. This was the last thing he did that I liked. The next thing he did was to convert everything over to legal size except the filing cabinets. The third thing he did was to convert everything back to letter size.

He spoke openly that the salesmen were making too much money. He didn't like the commission arrangement. He said that we should be on a fixed income with limited bonuses. He also said our territories were too large.

Over the next few years, Lynn succeeded in running the company into the ground. Every salesman had to give up 1/3 of his territory to provide for three new salesman. None of them lasted more than 6 months. Gary was constantly rifling through my desk to see if he could find sales he thought should be his. I guess he was desperate - his sales never supported him. He sat right next to me and was constantly asking me to help him. His questions belied the fact that he was not qualified to handle the job. There was no way I was going to spend time training him when the economy showed signs of dropping and I needed to take care of business. I had made many cold calls in the area he was given. It was just starting to grow when I had to hand all those accounts over to him. That was a bitter pill to swallow.

One time the automotive shelving salesman called Lynn to tell him that a mezzanine installation was being built backwards by the installer. Lynn said it didn't make any difference.......... until the floor collapsed! Fortunately, no one was injured.

Another time I got a cost plus contract from Irving Schools. Lynn refused to accept it because there was no dollar amount on the contract. I tried to explain that whatever our costs were we simply added the agreed upon profit percentage. We couldn't lose. He refused to honor the order. He thought it was too strange. So I put down an imaginary cost and he signed it.

I received a release order every week - mostly locker repair work. It was a win-win situation. We had no idea what each locker needed until we went on the job; and the school district had a limited budget. We could do a good job of repairing the lockers without taking shortcuts because of limited profit. The school got excellent service within their budget. The only one that wasn't happy was Lynn. He thought I was up to something. There was no convincing him. We made out very well on the contract, but Lynn was not convinced. He was glad when the contract ran out and refused to get it renewed.

Another customer bites the dust.

When the three new salesmen quit, they were never replaced and the territories were never given to anyone to cover. The salesmen were talking of breaking out on their own. Lynn never did get his fixed income program going.

Last year at Cannon

By the time I finished my fifth year in Texas, I owned 7 rent houses and ate out 21 times a week. Cooking was a mystery. I thought my stove was for decoration. I knew where every restaurant was in town. And they knew me by name, where my table was and what I would order.

In August I cleared $50,000 in commission.

Ed said, "What 're you gonna do for me next month!"

Lynn didn't want to hand me the full $50,000.

He said, "Suppose the customer doesn't pay the bill."

I said, "Don't you remember, Lynn? The company paid in advance for the job with a certified check."

He denied this.

I said, "I was the one who brought in the check."

Lynn said, "Well, we're going to have to put you in a 50% bracket and cut the amount in half."

I said, "Lynn, that's between me and the government. If there are any further problems, you can contact my attorney."

He backed down.

Life on commissions was a tread mill - largely dependent upon the economy. If the economy slid, opportunities would cease and my income would drop off a cliff. In leaner months, I made efforts to increase my customer base by knocking on doors. But the company discouraged that.

Lynn was totally against doing any marketing. But our market changed with the advent of nationwide catalog houses. Either we competed with them or lose the business. We were local and could have met them toe to toe.

But Lynn was adamant. "We are a service company. We don't need to market for new business. We have all the customers we need. Besides new customers will come to us," He said.

Cannon purchased thousands of catalogs and let them rot on the shelf. They had no mailing program. I often snuck in to the warehouse and took boxes of these valuable tools and handed them out. It started to work but as soon as I got busy answering the sales calls, I had no time to continue the cold calls.

So I hired some good ol' boy to hand them out on a regular basis. The calls came in like gang busters - but not for products. My helper enlisted a blonde in tight shorts to assist him. The company took a dim view of advertising anything else but storage equipment. Just as well, I found out that a lot of the catalogs were dumped in the trash instead of being delivered.

The down economy hit before I knew it. Lynn had already done his damage. Fortunately, it hit during the year I had the $50,000 month.

The next quarter purported to be a pretty good one too. I landed several large contracts. It still would have been a banner year. But Lynn refused to accept the validity of a letter of intent and delayed processing the biggest order. He joked about how I was trying to pull another one over on him. That caused the order to be cancelled. I lost $29,000 in commissions - the company lost a seven figure customer.

After that the next year held little promise. This Y'all went to California. Jack was surprised at my leaving. Lynn was glad. My last commission check was short. Lynn paid my replacement what Cannon owed me to get the new man started. Well, can't complain too much. Look what I got my first month.

Several years later, Cannon company went through an internal split up - five of the salesmen when out on their own. Lynn stayed on "to help the company recoup". What was left when he finished with it was sold to a competitor. Jack, the former owner, stayed on. Now they do a little more marketing for new customers.

CHAPTER SEVEN - GETTING BACK ON THE PATH 27 YEARS LATER

Thirteen months in California to come to and end of myself

I spent thirteen months living in several places south of Los Angeles and one in Santa Anna. I started working for Davis Material Handling then Engineered Storage Products. Same problem with all three, a down economy, unwillingness to provide business cards, catalogs, mailings, no hot leads nor any kind of marketing help. The territories were stone cold. The money I brought with me was running out quickly with the high cost of living. Nevertheless I paid for my draw with both companies via sales.

Getting to LA

Bill helped me pack a small U-Haul trailer. Anything I couldn't sell, give away or take I left in the dumpster. I could tell Bill was devastated at my leaving. We'd been close friends the whole time I'd been in Texas. Hard to believe a red neck from Wills Point could get along so well with a yankee from NYC. Shows you what Texas A&M can do with farm boys.

I met another guy from A & M on the job. Frank always complained about the boss sitting under the tree while we all worked so hard.

One time he went over to him and asked, "What does it take to get a job like yours?"

The boss got up and put his hand on the tree about eye level. He said, "OK, let's see if you can figure this one out. Hit my hand as hard as you can."

As Frank reared back and threw his punch, the boss pulled his hand away at the last second.

"Yeow!"

The boss said, "That's why I'm the boss and y'all's the bossee. Now get back to work, break's over."

When he came back over to our work area, I asked him what happened.

Frank said, "The boss showed me why he's the boss."

"What'd he do?" I asked.

Frank smiled kinda like he was up to something and put his hand right on the front of his face and said, "Hit my hand as hard as you can."

Bill not only helped me pack and hitch up the trailer but he decided to come along at the last minute. I hadn't realized what a good friend he was to me.

It certainly was a good thing too. We shared the driving all the way. The back seat and floor were filled with clothes and blankets laid out lengthwise so it served as a pretty good bed.

I thought we'd never get out of Texas. Far off to the north we could see one thunderstorm after another moving along with us, each threatening to cut us off. There was nothing but flat 'til we got to the Red River Valley with Mexico on the other side - all the way to El Paso.

It was night time before we got to the desert. The landscape looked eerie in the desert night with all those "men" standing there with their hands held high.

When we got into the mountainous country, the car started acting up. She barely made it up some of those hills pulling the trailer with the V-6 engine.

CLANK!!!

"What was that?", Bill asked

"I don't know."

We just made it to the top of a long hill. Red lights went on everywhere. The exit ramp to some non descript town lay right before me as the engine quit.

We coasted down that ramp like it was made to rescue as the momentum led us to the entrance of an auto repair shop, with just enough speed to park it at the front door.

I spent $800 to have the Riveria readied for the trip. They forgot to tighten the nuts on the fan. It flew off into the radiator. No damage, except a bent fan blade. We ate lunch in the best diner in town while they fixed the fan - the only diner in town.

The potential of being stranded for days in the California desert got to me. The providence of God seeing to it that that didn't happen crossed my mind.

From three it was gentle rolling hills and flats lined with palm trees. The smell of the Pacific Ocean and seagulls overhead increased our excitement as we followed all of those blue and yellow license plates to the sea. From being the only car on a two lane highway to one of thousands in eight lanes was dramatic.

Destination Manhattan Beach because it sounded like New York. My sister'd been there and liked it.

There it was!! The Pacific Ocean - as far as you could see!! Waves, surfers, everybody on some kind of wheels, nobody walking, minimal clothing.

Bill got down to business. "Let's find a place to rent."

The tiniest place went for big bucks. The closer you got to the beach the more outrageous the rent. Two blocks from the beach next to a refinery was a two BR & garage for $1000/month. Four blocks, a store front closet with stove for $750.

Bill decided to go halves with me on the two BR. He said he wanted a place to come to for quick getaways. We planned all kinds of outings, bringing old friends out here from Texas and such.

You could see the ocean from the corner of one window in the living room. It was a small patch of gray that appeared next to the telephone pole, just above the garbage cans outside of the barbed wire fence that bordered the refinery. The refinery made it's presence known in the air too. The oder mixed with the fresh ocean air to let you know why the rent was more reasonable. But the beach was only a two block walk.

Bill stayed on for several days to visit Mickey in Anaheim. We were kids again. I didn't expect his departure to be such a sad moment. It was hard to look him in the eye as we shared a manly hug and he walked down the ramp to fly back to Dallas.

The Bruce and Judy show

I picked up the yellow pages and went down the list for a job.

Bruce and Judy were two of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. They hired me and I immediately became their number two salesman. They only had two.

They had a good catalog to work with and my territory was adequate but cold. Phone leads were rare, so I spent my time on cold calls, handing out catalogs. Calls and sales starting coming in immediately. I was on a roll. Nothing like getting a good start.

Bruce and Judy were ecstatic that I was doing so well.

I came into the office to get a new supply of catalogs, anticipating even more success in the next month.

"That's all I can give you this year", Judy said. Everyone gets two cartons every year.

I tried to see if she couldn't provide more or a good substitute. She had nothing to give me to leave behind when I came calling.

My commissions covered my draw and then some.

They were two of my favorite bosses but

ya gotta eat, who do you think you are.

I led two lives

I tried taking on two full time jobs once before.

I interviewed at Engineered Storage Systems. The sales manager and I were fellow salesmen at Republic Steel. So a few minutes of reminiscing and I was on board covering parts of Orange county. Leads again were rare and the territory cold and there was nothing to hand out.

I convinced Garth, one of the owners, to make up a two page, alphabetized detailed product and line card to mail out to prospects. I had 5,000 made up for all the salesmen. It came out pretty good and the ones I hand delivered to really appreciated the piece. So I was confident it would bring in a lot of phone inquiries once it was mailed out. I got a few leads to follow up in other territories and so I covered my draw from the beginning.

By this time, Bruce had discovered my double life. He took it well.

"You are the first salesman who left without owing us a nickel. You are always welcome to come back."

I said, "I'd come back in a second if you had more catalogs or something to hand out."

Garth decided to hold up on the mailing because of the cost. It was small potatoes but he said things were tight. So I had nothing but cold calls with only a line card to hand out - a poor substitute for a catalog, so sales dropped off.

I bid on a municipal contract for equipping a fire station and got the order which would cover me for the next month. But things look bleak down the road.

So I took 11 practice California Real Estate License tests and one for real. I joined John and Maggie at the nearby Century 21. They gave me a tiny farm with no draw. It was supposed to be part time. I got a listing after several weeks but it didn't pan out, they decided not to move. As the weeks rolled by, John demanded more and more of my time, so I had less and less time for ESS.

Finally, John insisted I answer incoming phone calls each week. I messed up and ESS discovered my double life.

So I departed the real estate business because I still needed to eat and draw was better than nothing. After completing the fire station job I faced nothing. I asked Dave for more leads, he said, "Go shake the trees."

Back to Graham

I was sitting in my apartment on MacArthur boulevard with no where to go.

The Murphy bed was my desk chair as I sat at the bookcase with a pull out desk surface. The TV was going. I contemplated another dismal failure in my life. Leads had run out, cold calls were worthless without leaving something with the customer. My heart completely sank as I realized I had reached rock bottom.

I turned on the TV and flipped it around. A Billy Graham crusade in Anaheim was just beginning. I went back in time to the platform under Madison Square Garden 27 years ago when I began my walk with God with the high school teacher.

It was time to get back on that path. Tears were rare with me. The few that I shed then were sufficient to redirect my focus. I found a church in Newport Beach by random and began my attempt to find out what God wanted me to do with my life. I knew the main focus was not selling lockers and shelving. The services were the same as always, sermonettes for Christianettes. But the Wednesday night home bible study was pointing me in the right direction. The teacher was a seminary student. We were taught verse by verse to build an understanding of Revelation. That was an eye opener. You gleaned an understanding of the books of the bible by reading them... in the order they were written. I never experienced that before. There were a lot of differing opinions being thrown around but the teacher always pointed us back to the actual words on the page. Some were unhappy that they were being refuted, but the words were the words.

Back to Texas

CHAPTER EIGHT EAGLE STORAGE - NAME IT AND CLAIM IT

I interviewed with Mike and Ed of Eagle Storage Systems. Ed was a salesman. Mike the owner. They were concerned about my Christian faith.

I had to be a Christian to work with them, they said.

Mike wanted me to find a church. I visited his church and Ed's and chose Ed's. Mike seemed a bit disturbed by that. But I was no less disturbed by the uncontrolled shouting and running around by the congregation in his church during the service. Much of the shouting was nonsensical. I preferred being able to understand what was going on.

I started working for Mike. I made up my own flyers and went door to door. I collected names and addresses for a growing mailing list. We got calls every week, and from this I supported myself. I did all the work, bring in the sales, Mike would did the billing, we split the profits, Mike got 60%, I got 40%.

I managed to secure an automobile for $400 which was barely wired together. Every time it stopped, I had to open up the hood, put a spoon in the carburetor, start it up and move on. I made 60 sales calls a day and wore out my arms and several spoons. My list of contacts grew day by day.

Mike considered himself my spiritual advisor as well as my boss. He told me to stop before each company and pray out loud, "I claim this account in the name of Jesus!!!". When I didn't get certain accounts right away, he questioned my faith.

He asked, "Did you claim it out loud?"

"I don't feel comfortable doing that," I said.

That bothered Mike. He said I lacked faith.

The list of companies grew to thousands. My secret was to find out the key man who would actually do the buying and then put him on the mailing list. I kept at it, rain, cold, or heat. It didn't matter. Then Mike became afraid I was working some of his accounts. I was barely making it - so this surprised me. He admitted that no sales had come from these companies for years. But Mike claimed some sales were his because he had visited them in the past and had claimed them in the name of Jesus. He only had a few accounts and was not making any effort to expand his business. I felt bad that he took credit for some of the sales and I received nothing - especially when I barely had enough to survive on.

I did all the work for the mailings except for keying in the addresses. I added all kinds of lines to sell that Mike was not aware of. Each mailing brought in enough business to reimburse Mike for the mailing cost plus a profit. Mike had no problem with collections either. So there was no excuse for not paying me.

Soon Mike said mailing was too costly. I was flabbergasted. "We got enough money out of each mailing to do another one - plus a profit." Then he'd say my account list was getting too big. It went round and round.

He split my mailing list between himself and Ed and left me with a small portion. If I wanted to participate I would have to pay for it out of my own commissions. With the reduced mailing list, I wouldn't be able to survive.

My last sale was a big one. But Mike had planned a vacation and was short spending money. He decided not to pay me my commission right then. I tried to get in touch with him. I had no money to pay rent and it was the end of the month. I called my church for help and a member promised to put me up in his living room for a while. I could only bring a minimal amount of things. Ed spoke strongly to Mike about this. So Mike came by just as I was moving out. I had already lost my deposit and given away everything I couldn't take.

Mike kept asking why I moved out. "You took over my mailing list, and went on vacation with my rent money." He offered to pay me something, but he said he needed money to go on vacation. I said to keep his money. He left shaking his head like I was beyond hope. I didn't have enough faith.

I learned from Ed that he kept on using my mailing list and prospered from it. He no longer had to give me 40%. His name it and claim it scheme worked. When I interviewed with another company, Mike told the man I didn't have enough faith. I never did get my commission.

CHAPTER EIGHT - BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A MOWER

Euless, Texas

They said that some guy's sheep were all killed in a hail storm. That's why they named the town, Euless.

I put two large boxes of the stuff I had left in Carl's shed out back. I stuffed my sleeping bag behind his sofa. When night time came, I had a place to sleep on the living room floor. In the mornings, I sauntered out to the shed in my jammies to put on daytime clothes. It was extra cold that winter in Texas.

I remembered driving through this neighborhood in my Riviera. I considered living here beneath me. Now I was behind a couch on Collins Street, working for food.

I found the people there to be genuine and generous. Mike & Joan Bowmer lived across the street. They were kind hearted and possessed the genuine Christian gift of giving - although Mike had turned away from church. They offered me a ready friendship and meals. They were special people. They had taken in several children and cared for them over the years - like they were their own. I guess I was their next child.

Flyers and entrepreneur hopefuls

I started making up flyers and putting them on doors to secure odd jobs. All I knew how to do was mow lawns - and maybe a little edging.

Gary and David from my Church care group offered to help. At first, they simply offered to let me use their extra vehicle and yard equipment for a limited time to get me started. They said it it was their Christian duty. I was grateful - accepting Christian charity was difficult. Gary and David were very generous.

It was also to be a ministry to help people out of work in my church. Prayers were constantly being requested to secure work. So I decided to be an answer to that. I was able to secure all kinds of painting, fix-it, bathroom tile work, install ceiling fans, etc., etc. - beyond my skills. I tried to give a lot of this work to others in the church but many refused it. Apparently it was beneath them. So a lot of work went by the wayside. Many times the person would quote me a price and do the work and then be angry because I also made something for securing the work. Others did not want to pay me the minimal finders fee so I could survive. I even secured auto repair work. I had to call the pastor in to negotiate payment for me because the mechanic told me what I was doing was immoral. I began to become disillusioned with church people.

Later on, Gary and David became interested in starting a business with me. They were constantly complaining about working for someone else. In return I was to advertise and secure jobs which we would split the work and the profits in accordance to what each of us actually did on the jobsite. But reality sunk in. Although Gary's wife worked with me on a couple of jobs - she was really skilled, neither Gary nor David actually wanted to do the work themselves. Gary became paranoid that I was running away with all the profits. He started demanding that I pay him 50% because of the Ford Ranger and tools I was using. The income at this stage was still barely enough for me to survive - unless they helped out in doing the work themselves. We could then have scheduled more work in a week and made more money with more people doing the work. They didn't consider that I needed to pay rent first and eat and only could take on so much work all by myself.

So we agreed to disagree and I was back to square one. I turned in the Ford Ranger and tools and went on my merry way. I explained all this to Mike and Joan at dinner over their house that night. It seemed that even genuine Christian charity had it's limits. It often had strings attached and the terms could be modified unilateraly at any time.

Mike & Joan offered to supply the yard equipment, help do the work and we would split the profits. Since Mike had an overnight shift job he was more available to work with me. It was a given that I'd eat meals with them. The food was wonderful, but moreso was their friendship. We agreed that Mike would keep the new tools we bought along the way.

We spent hours putting brochures on door knobs. It was a trick not to get lost going round and round those residential streets. Mike got lost one time for several hours. I drove around in Mike's car but couldn't find him. He walked home in frustration. I finally taught him the theory of always going to the right. Some how it helped you get back to where you began, or at least no more than a block away.

There were times when people would call the police to harass us. They took offense at strangers putting flyers on their doorknobs. I had my share of dog attacks and sprinklers turned on me. Sprinklers were fun in the summer time. I scared a few old ladies too - 'cause you cut through yards and walked a mean pace to get the job done.

The Bedford police tried to arrest me one cold winter morning. We debated whether I broke the anti-soliciting law. Since placing flyers was not technically soliciting business, they tried to detain me for not having my wallet with me. They called Mike's house and Joan couldn't remember the color of my hair or eyes, so I was detained for 90 minutes more 'til Mike got home.

They needed to verify that I wasn't some kind of cereal killer. Secretly I was: I ate corn flakes cereal every morning.

Mike's description was close enough so they let me go. Sitting on the curb all that time chilled me to the bone. I wondered why they didn't let me come into the patrol car - the temperature was below freezing.

It blossomed that spring into all kinds of work. As we secured the work, we paid for the tools to do the task. We got jobs for painting, home repair and landscaping - our forte. Joan was a big help with wall papering and garden work.

I bought a landscaping book and cut out the pictures. I memorized the names of plants, bushes and trees as I walked around putting flyers on door knobs. I noticed all the landscape designs and that helped me present successful landscape bids. That was fun, to see a good landscape job completed. Plants have always fascinated me - lot prettier than lockers. We became experts at putting down weed cloth and installing soak hoses.

Landscaping is safer

At first, most of the jobs were outside. Safer for the inexperienced. You make a mistake when you dig a hole, you fill it up and start over again. I did mow over a few things. No telling what was under all that high grass. Some of the jobs were sucker punches: one lawn was 5 feet tall.

Mike's mower just kept on grinding through all that grass. He was good at trimming, so I stuck to gorilla mowing. Trimming trees was a little trickier. Joan had to show me how the first time. After you got the hang of it, it was all upper body endurance and the right tool. I got myself a fiberglass extension pole and rigged a big tooth saw blade to it. It could cut down branches & small trees with one swipe. It did a lot of damage from the ground. I wasn't too happy on ladders.

A little confidence led to more dangerous activity: Mike and I decided to tackle a French drainage system in Trophy Club. We had some guidance from the guru at Home Depot.

French drain

I dug the ditch with my favorite tool - the blunt edged pick axe. Sometimes I got a little carried away with my enthusiasm. I clipped the water sprinkler system and set off a geyser. Mike's eyes bugged out seeing all that water in the air. He began running around in circles. "What're we gonna do, What're we gonna do!" I couldn't stop laughing at his panic. I was the professional here. I calmly walked to the valve located at the street in the front. I turned off the valve on the left. The water stopped. Mike admired my calm.

The next door neighbor came out of her house yelling something nasty. She had soap all over her. The water department truck arrived out front. The men told me I had turned off the water for the whole block!!! Everyone was calling. They gave me some unpleasant instructions. Once my dignity was restored, I went to Home Depot to get further instruction and materials to fix the damaged sprinkler. I couldn't believe that the drain worked so well once we finished it - so did the sprinkler system.

Next stop, a higher degree of difficulty: sprinkler systems!!!

Sprinkler helper

I put in a bid and we got the job!!! It included a lot of landscaping work topped off with a front yard sprinkler system. Wow! We took the better side of judgment: discretion. We farmed this one out. Lucky thing. Laying the system out, the timer, what size pvc to use and where - not a good thing to tackle without experience. He used a ditch witch and a little knowledge that I didn't have. I worked with the guy and he paid me $100 to finish digging the ditches. Couldn't do much harm there.

Trimming

We got pretty good at tree trimming. Good thing too. Good money - not much else to do. When late summer came, the gardening work tailed off. We bought a chain saw to tackle bigger jobs. The noise scared me a bit. You had to get used to it. I never got used to the moving chain. I wasn't that steady on the ladder either. When I was cutting, I had to really stay focused so I didn't cut my leg off. Mike asked me one time, "Hey, you gonna get off that branch before you cut all the way through?" We were good at watchin' each others' backs.

After doing a number of trimming jobs, we pondered one job that had large limbs reaching over a roof. Our equipment was primitive. I cut off one small section at a time as I stood on the roof. Only one huge branch section remained. It was the width of my waist. I tied the branch to the tree trunk above it and started cutting with the chain saw. On the ground, directly below, Mike stood looking up and hopeful. His reflection was clearly viewed in the big picture window below and next to the tree's huge trunk. With a crack, the huge branch swung directly down, missing the roof and the gutter by 1/4". The rope held, she bounced violently off the tree trunk, shook a bit and headed toward the picture window. Behind the window inside the house was a beautiful white sofa. Mike's reflection was overshadowed by the oncoming log. He stared in terror - that's all he could do. The branch was too big for him to tangle with. It kissed the window and swung back the other way. Mike's reflection was kept intact. The next swing was 1" away. Several minutes later, we were cutting it down and pulling it away from the house. I looked at Mike's relieved face and said with a big grin, "Just the way I planned it."

Too big for my britches

We took on one job where the tree trunk was nearly eight feet wide. The money was good. I couldn't put my arms around the tree enough to climb to the first limb. Even the branches were too large. No place to tie the ladder, everything was huge. I climbed up the ladder to the first branch. The ladder slid off the tree and fell to the ground. I was alone up there bear hugging the trunk with all fours. Too late to pick up the ladder and put it up. Joan and Mike couldn't help but laugh as I yelped, sliding all the way down in a full body bear hug. The bark tore my shirt completely off, shredded my jeans a bit. Not too many scratches, but a lot of lost pride. I enjoyed their laughter though. It must have looked funny. We hired Jose to do the job. He had experience, a younger body and a fearless but not foolish attitude. He looked real professional up there tackling those huge branches over the roof like a monkey. Glad we didn't lose money on the job. No more big trees for a while.

Oh my big toe

Mow and trim work became popular for us. One job I became popular myself, with the customer. Or was she nearsighted. Everywhere I went, she was 2" behind me. Mike started laughing and I was giving him serious glares. When ever I turned around the lady and I bumped noses and Mike broke out laughing.

"Mam, you need to move back a little, I didn't see you there," I said. She acted concerned about every leaf I cut off her tree.

She distracted me so much that I jammed the step ladder right on my big toe. I started hopping all around the yard 'til the pain went away. The woman actually hopped right along behind me. Mike went hysterical. We got all the lemonade and cookies we could handle.

Can you fix this and this

A very attractive young single mom called for lawn work every week. Then she started calling me regularly for fixing rusty locks, sticking doors, loose screws and all sorts of trivial things I didn't have the heart to charge her for. She even came to my church and was impressed with the music. But she wasn't impressed with the message. I was just growing in my faith and I had learned one lesson that if a potential mate was not interested in your faith then perhaps it's better to keep a distance until she is.

What's a best friend for

I was part of Mike's family. We confided in one another. Mike was interested in all of my goings on at church. We quickly figured out who the theologian was.

On the other hand, my enthusiasm attracted him. He had burned out on church a few years ago. So we discussed theological stuff and I got an education from someone who had done his homework. I realized I came up short on a lot of what Mike said, so I began to study on my own. My girlfriend gave me a genuine Scofield, NIV study bible, so I had a good resource. Ironically, that very bible was the source of our breaking up because a careful study of the bible with those study helps made me realize that Patty's theology was not biblical and it created a serious rift in our relationship. Our discussions led to Mike rejuvenating his faith and becoming a teacher and a leader at Bedford Baptist Temple where he was awarded a doctorate degree. Joan couldn't be happier too. She has the heart of a teacher, so her job teaching the young children at BBT completed her soul - especially since it is in a Christian setting.

On the other hand, Mike led me to a very good bible teaching church in Irving where I started to build my faith on the doctrines of the bible not on emotional preaching, imaginary miracles, speaking in tongues and claiming things that weren't yours.

Chevy Caprice dump truck

I saved up enough to get a deluxe, sun faded, light blue, 4 door Chevy caprice sedan with cruise control and five tires. The back seat was removed to make room for plants and branches. We now had a smooth riding dump truck. On large trim jobs we tied branches every where - on the trunk, hood, sides, top, inside, passenger seats. Sometimes I'd forget to make a place for Mike and myself and tie the doors shut. So it was climb into the windows and hack your way into the seat. More than once I shifted a branch instead of the gears. She looked like a huge moving bush going down the road to the city dump. What's the traffic cop gonna do, give a bush a speeding ticket? I got pretty good at tying only one knot. So when we got to the dump it didn't take long to release everything standing on top of a mound of stinky garbage. One time a squall of rain came right overhead and blew a cloud of garbage over me like a blanket. I had to hose down a couple of times before coming in to dinner at Mike's.

The dump truck worked beautifully for a while, 'til I turned on the cloaking device at a red light. The guy behind me drove right through the light like I wasn't there. I saw him coming in my rear view mirror. I stomped on the accelerator. We connected in the middle of the intersection. I had no personal injury, but the car was totaled. I was covered all over with dirt. It looked like I flew through the windshield and rolled over and over on the ground. The ambulance crew sure gave me personal attention. They insisted I get in the stretcher and put on a neck brace. The truth of the matter was that I had just finished a landscaping job on a windy day. Lots of peat moss was used and the dust and dirt coated my body. I was given immediate treatment in the emergency room but didn't have a scratch on me. I learned something. Rub dirt all over your body if you want good treatment in the emergency room.

The insurance settlement afforded me an ancient beat up truck with a defective shifter and camper top. I donated the camper top to the church - it was well received. The truck served it's purpose and matched the decor of the city dump. Mike, Joan and I donated lots of plants and time to landscape the grounds around the church. We were especially proud of the job we did in the pastor's backyard. Joan had a flair for landscape design.

Leaves in the Fall

Late September in Texas and the work dropped off a cliff. We took leaf raking jobs for pennies. We had all day to do one job in Arlington, so Mike and I decided not to let one leaf be found on the man's property. First things first: make a huge pile of leaves to dive into with his two boys. Then we got down to business of removing every leaf in sight. The man was astounded when he couldn't find a single leaf anywhere on his extensive yard. Ooops, one floated down and I raced over to get it before it hit the ground. We got a generous tip that day. Leaf raking is good therapy.

Man the dental mirror, clean those spots

Jerry took an instant liking to me. He was nevertheless a high maintenance customer. He wanted us to do a lot of work on his house while his elderly mom was still alive. He promised to let us landscape the yard after we finished the work on his house. So we were contracted to paint the house inside and out; wallpaper the bathrooms; install new carpeting, kitchen flooring and outdoor patio bricks. I lacked all the skills, so I farmed most of it out. Joan did the wall papering. I became a helper wherever I was needed.

Jerry frequently shared his Catholic faith with me. I responded to him with what I was learning from my study of the source of faith we both had in common, the bible. He quickly discovered that some of his views contradicted what I could show him the bible actually said. This seemed to unsettle him a bit.

He seemed to cool down toward me. And he began to nitpick the work being done. He took a dental mirror inside the closets to see if the top of the molding was painted. I cleaned up the dining room paneling of paint spots with Liquid Gold. But the spots were old and not even the color we painted - from a past job, not our work. He insisted on perfect corners on the kitchen floor molding, despite imperfect walls. "No plastic wood, He said, that was for amateurs." I cheated on this and painted the moulding before he got home.. "Purrfect", he said, "You truly are a professional!" I was fully convinced I was an amateur. He discovered a subtle pattern change in the patio bricks. At one time, I thought his complaints would never cease. His mom and I had many discussions. I felt an affinity for her, especially since I knew that her time was short. Jerry became very disturbed about my relationship with his mom and banned me from visiting the house. When the job was completed I had some difficulty getting paid. After offering a credit for the pattern variance in the patio, Jerry put up his dental mirror and sent me a check. Needless to say, he did not call me back to do the landscaping work. Shortly thereafter his mom passed away, I hope to heaven's shores. I told her about Jesus.

The Mormans

Mike and I were approached by two Morman disciples one day. I wasn't as well prepared to discuss theology with them, but Mike was. I learned something that day that is so basic yet so often missed by people who profess to follow their religious precepts:

If you want to find out what the Bible or any book says, then let the words say what they mean. These Mormans were not prepared for a simple passage that Mike so clearly repeated that was directly in contradiction to everything they held to, yet it was right there in the Bible they professed to go by along side their Book of Morman:

Mike said, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast."

Mike says, "You see that you are not saved by anything you do, but by faith alone - that's what this is saying." He focused on the plain meaning of the words contained in this great passage, defining each clearly from a dictionary. Ever since then I knew that the truth was right there available to everyone if you simply followed the normal rules of language, context and logic that we learned in school.

Mike stunned the two of them and they never recovered from this plain and simple passage in subsequent meetings. The key is to pay close attention to the words themselves and not override them with your own thoughts and agenda, i.e., let the words say what they mean. Mike constantly reminded our two Mormans of this principle and this very passage and they stopped coming by for they obviously had run out of answers. So getting to the truth of the matter was not all that difficult.

CHAPTER TEN - TEMPORARY LIFE BEGINS AT HUBBELL

A large part of America's workforce is now temporary. Is it a 21st century phenomenon or the same ol' thing under another name? The concept of a company drawing on a pool of workers trained in various office tasks as it needed them sounds like a brilliant solution to age old problems in the workplace. Should save money to boot - no benefits to pay out.

Ask the average philosopher on the street about this and you get, "people will be people" and "water seeks its own level".

So here we go. This "people" found his own level at assignment number one.

HUBBELL LIGHTING

Norrel gave me this assignment: Hubbell Lighting - as a packer sitting at a table - that's what they told me.

Order pickin' man

But I found myself standing on a high rise fork lift, shoulder to shoulder with a tobacco chewing, order pickin' man.

I didn't think I'd last the day with the roller coaster ride, trying not to fall out or throw up. And that styrofoam cup Kevin spat tobacco juice in was right under my nose. Hard to believe someone would take all that raw tobacco and roll it up with bubble gum in a huge wad and shove it into his mouth. Every morning first thing!!!

I didn't fall off the truck, I didn't throw up and I got my license. So I was pulling orders by myself in no time. And I didn't have to chew tobacco!

When Norrell found out I was driving a fork lift, they told me they already had qualified drivers. They tried to remove me from the assignment. But it was too late, I'd already received my forklift license and was on my way down the aisles as a full fledged' high rise, order pickin' man. So they gave me a 75c raise instead of letting me go!

That first week, I made a few mistakes. The left side of every aisle had the alphabet going backwards. Some idiot couldn't figure out that both sides would be viewed forward going in the same direction. And Cecil left it that way!! That man wouldn't change his underwear unless he had to.

Everytime I made a mistake, the packer would yell at me so everyone in the world could hear. His words were echoed by everyone else. I had my own personal drill Sargeant: "Stop everything, take your truck out of the aisle, face public ridicule, put the wrong part back, go get the right part, move it, move it!!"

I watched Billy, the best picker. I noticed that he used a pad to organize his orders by location. I took the hint and made up a form for 10 orders. Cecil insisted I was wasting my time. So I did my thing hidden inside aisle B-C. Cut down the ridicule a whole lot. Everyone became impressed with my production and Cecil had less to find fault with. No one did 10 orders but the new guy - with speed! Pete came out one day to pat me on the back.

Traps

But there were all those hidden traps:

Put the forks in those rectangular holes, not under the shelving unit... no one told me that!! Billy didn't do it that way!

Otherwise, you turned the corner, the shelving unit falls with a huge crash and parts go streaming everywhere. This was spectator sport for the crew.

One more inch and the shelving unit would have made it into the parking lot - right through the window wall. Just another lesson in public ridicule. No way I could crawl under a rock with all that noise and mess.

Trap two is poetic:

Don't use large trucks in aisle A 'cause building columns are in the way.

The guys set me up on this one.

"Use truck #2", they said. I hit the building column full speed when I backed out. That launched a fire extinguisher from the column, toward the boss' office, like a cruise missile. Pete came out of his office like he was shot from a cannon, calling my name before he figured out what happened. All the guys in the packing area couldn't stop laughing for days. The fire extinguisher barely had a scratch on it. Fortunately, it didn't go off, but the wall had memories in it.

Trap three:

Aisle R was built too wide so use the fork extenders or you're fit to be tied

The first time down that aisle I got an order for large outdoor light fixtures. I picked up the pallet, but the forks were short of the last runner underneath, so it tipped 20 degrees. It sounded like cymbals crashing on the floor, one after the other. It was a five minute concert. Kevin came by to help. It was hopeless. I looked down from my perch on the lift wondering if I should bother coming down - flinching as each "cymbal" hit the floor.

I thought my paycheck was gone and the job too; but Cecil owned up and told Pete he didn't tell me about the aisle.

All those broken light fixtures stayed on the return pallet for months to remind me of my concert debut.

After this there began a deep rift between Cecil and myself . He was like a drill sargeant bent on destroying a recruit deemed unworthy of combat.

Trap number four:

Don't stand on your head anymore

It always annoyed Pete's secretary when one of us entered her domain to get some change for the vending machines at break time. This was her assigned task but it didn't motivate her to do it willingly.

One day the boys in the back said it was my turn to get change for everyone. I collected all their bills and walked where I had never walked before: to the front office. I got a lecture seasoned with belittling remarks from the queen. So I did the worst thing I could have done: I tried to humor her: Should I stand on my head?" She looked at me with what I thought was a go ahead. I stood on my head. Everything fell out of my pockets. I got all the change I needed. Upside down, I spied my cohorts looking through the door - laughter on their faces.

I became an instant hero with the guys. But this turned south. Pete asked that I not get change anymore, leave it to others to come to the front office, and stay on my feet at all times.

But I was now one of the guys now. This was confirmed when they took my street clothes, stuffed them with peanuts and hung "me" from the ceiling. Cecil smiled at that one.

Pete said he liked me and offered to hire me as soon as he got unanimous approval from everyone in the front office. Like that was going to happen.

Trap five:

Aisle S has a beam on a line so you'll hit your head on it every time.

I don't know why the beam was so low. When you got a pick there, you konked your head. Scary 'cause you're 20 feet above the ground feelin' woozy. I pointed this out, but Cecil took perverse pleasure in refusing to fix it. I was told that if I changed it, I'd be fired. I put warning signs up, but Cecil came right behind me and took them down. So every week, he rejoiced when I rang my bell. I do things like that - can't remember random stuff that gets in the way. I even have warning signs in my own apartment to make it safe for dummies. I suppose if I hadn't made Cecil look so bad in aisle "R", he might have moved the beam.

I never did find out where his desk was - somewhere in the old warehouse. Strange - but he wasn't always walking a straight line when he came out of that corner.

Talking about my faith

I spent a little time talking about my faith. Billy spoke to me of going through an AA program and the twelve steps, and some of the guys had a flicker of interest. Most avoided me when I opened up one of my text books for my seminary course work. José told me I wasn't using a Holy Bible because it didn't have the word "Holy" on the front. I said, "It does, I just put a book cover on it to protect it." He said, 'Ya shouldna done that, "now it warn't no good no more".

The salesmanager came over once when I was reading on lunch break and ridiculed one of my books and challenged me to come up with one bible verse that mentioned a particular word I was studying called 'dispensation'. When I did show him, he got angry. Boy, the Bible seems to polarize people and cause some to think strangely.

With dim prospects of the front office voting me permanent, I took a job at Home Depot in the hopes of getting something steady.

Temp man for sale or rent, jobs to let low percent

CHAPTER ELEVEN - HOME DEPOT

Grandma

Retail is not for me - but I thought the Depot was different. They gave me a great PR talk about my future with the company. So I signed up for training and they put me right in the garden department - in the insecticide-suicide aisle.

Eight hours a day breathing orthene and diazinon. The rule was to rotate. I was never assigned anything outside of the poison aisle. I went home every day with a headache and a sore throat. Grandma stayed as a fixture outside in the nursery. Plants were in disarray, those that needed sun were put in shade and vice versa. Price tags were 99% wrong.

When a shipment for the nursery came in, Grandma was in charge. If it was heavy bags of bark chips, I was called. Grandma pointed where to put them. When a customer purchased marble chips or fence sections, who do you think Grandma called? My aisle was neglected. I had to help the queen all the time. That always put me in jeopardy when managers inspected my aisle. When plants arrived, Grandma directed it all. She was the manager's pet - even made salesman of the month. When the plant truck came, she would have me unload one pallet at a time. She took her sweet time spreading the plants all over the nursery, one pot here and one there. Shade plants were mixed with sun tolerant ones with no consideration as to plant needs. I stood idly by 'til her majesty ordered the next pallet to be unloaded. The driver thought we were all nuts.

No telling customers where anything was, it was just all over.

Tropical plants were put on shelves too low for them so the tops were cut-off. Plants died for lack of sun or water.

I had no idea what prices were or where anything was. I began to duck her requests. My assigned duty was the insecticide aisle. Customers were not being attended to. Stock piled up in my aisle. I started unloading the plant truck all at once so I could get back to my job breathing in diazinon. I tried to get Grandma to understand that if customers came in to look for marigolds they should be in one area. She got angry and broke down in tears. The manager came over to scold me for making her cry. He promised I would not last long unless I changed my attitude.

Was he saved?

I was assigned one day to help with the lawn mower aisle. My co-worker was all bubbly about being saved. I was all excited about meeting someone to share my faith in Christ with. So I asked him how he got saved. He became highly agitated. He told me he got delivered from drugs.

I said, "Wow, that's great. What verse in the bible did your pastor share with you when you got saved from, Jn 3:16?"

He came at me with his bulging muscles and told me to stop talking about the bible or he'd punch me out. Wonder what he got saved from? So I finished helping him in silence.

Can you stay all night and all day?

We were in chaos - managers competed with one another and the slaves paid the price. One time, I was ordered to line up all the mowers and garden appliances at an angle. It took hours to do this - every item at floor level had to be adjusted into perfectly parallel alignment. I got no help because the items were "too heavy" for the women.

When the next manager came on, he chastised me for putting everything at an angle. "Put them in straight lines", he said, and walked off. When it was time to clock out, a third manager asked me to stay 'til 4 AM to fix up the garden department. The store did not pass store manager's inspection - especially Grandma's nursery. He pleaded, but there was no way I was going to face 3 hours sleep, without overtime pay, clean up Grandma's mess and then open up next morning.

My decision to leave came right after a mandatory store wide meeting Sunday morning, on my day off. The store manager used four letter words and homosexually explicit terms to "encourage" us to do better.

The regional store manager beat me to it when he got wind of Grandma's heartache. Irreconcilable differences was their reason for my departure from the great Home Depot. My lungs and sore throat cleared up immediately and my headaches disappeared.

No phone, no food, no frets, I ain’t got no benefits

MOM AND DAD AND PASTOR D

As I attended Berean Memorial bible church in Irving, I met my new mother, Dorothy. She was everybody's mom. She listened with love. Oh, we had our arguments. It was always over money. I'd do all kinds of yardwork for her and Buddy - especially after I got terminated at Home Depot. And then the 'debate' would start. She was as stubborn as I was. I wanted to do the work for nothing and she insisted on paying double what it was worth plus dinner and TV afterwards!!! I had a whole bunch of fun redoing her gardens, experimenting with tropicals, soak hose systems and ground cover. And I got paid to boot - with double the money, dinner, friendship and motherly love.

After the inevitable dinners, I'd spend half of my time with her husband Buddy in the living room comparing the bible to what TV preachers said; and then the other half watching movies on Dorothy's TV in the kitchen.

Buddy was a serious student of bible doctrine. And I was a sponge. Dorothy would leave no stone unturned encouraging me to move on with my studies and faith. And Buddy would do a follow up with me.

Our Pastor John Danish from Berean Memorial Church taught the bible like it was a college text book. You could learn it and prove it out for yourself. His sermon tapes were stacked row by row in the tape room for anyone to review. I wore out several cassette players. So four people were my main reason for taking seminary courses and maturing in my faith: Mike who first led me to Berean Memorial Church and Dorothy, Buddy and Pastor D.

CHAPTER TWELVE - BACK TO TEMP

VIDEO TECHNICAL INSTITUTE - 2 MONTHS

A friend at church recommended me. They also sold me their Cougar for $800 - a bargain.

So I was "on the road again" ...at VTI.

My boss pushed the hot hot TV sales leads in our interview.

Day one: no hot leads today.

"Take these cold mail in leads and see what you can do with them?"

Anyone in sales will tell you there is a difference between hot TV call in leads and cold - once turned down mail leads. As it turned out, the TV leads were all given to in-house reps. I got the no shows if I was lucky.

The cougar carried me all over North Texas. Names like Clebourne, Waco, Fort Worth, ("Foht Wuff"), Waxahachie, Denton, Greenville come to mind.

Trailer parks, public housing, dirt floors were my territory. I interviewed prospective student and their families for acceptance into VTI.

I remember lifting up my feet not a few times to let the rats scramble through my feet. No one except me took particular notice of these "pets". I closed a few deals and fewer still showed up for school. I drove many miles to come up empty all too often. The manager kept promising me hot leads, but they never materialized. I was a bit too diligent with the cold leads and soon came to no leads at all. Time to move on. VTI went belly up 6 months later for playing games with Pell grants.

HERMAN MILLER

Making office furniture

I used to sell this stuff. Now I'm makin' it. I met Dena from my church. She was so happy to see a fellow Christian working there. "Everyone here is so unspiritual," she said. I wondered if she knew I wasn't all that perfect myself.

I put on the white paper suit, hat, shoes, gloves, face mask and ear plugs. What am I getting myself into? We followed the trainer single file to the back of the factory.

"Thud!!!!" A she-girl pulled up in a fork lift and set down a pile of thick metal sheets punched all over like Swiss cheese. She never blinked once, hardly stopped as she backed out and disappeared into the bowels of the factory. Made a mental note not to get in her way.

We were sandwiched in on all sides with equipment. I copied every move of my trainer. Behind me were shelves loaded with long rectangular sticks. The noise was deafening. I pushed my ear plugs in a bit more.

Turn around, pull 2 long sticks, slap down on table. Three short ones, make window frame. Pick up heavy tool, push air hose out of way. Slam staple nose down on joints. Be quick. Don't miss. Get the right angle. Man this thing's heavy. Flip it over - ptow, ptow, ptow, ptow, ptow. Stay with trainer - do your 50%.

The paper suit was constantly in the way - rustling and tugging with every move. The overshoes caught on everything. Dangerous if you fall. Stuff flying everywhere.

Holster the stapler. Reach to left, slide your fingers under top sheet. Man that thing's heavy. Nearly broke off my finger nail. What's with the Swiss cheese effect? Slide it up and over the window frame, line up the edges.

I was really getting into this. I'm actually making something useful with my own hands - with macho tools!

Draw that nail gun from it's holster. Man that thing looked deadly. It was!

"Draw, Pardner!". Oh my aching wrist. Wonder if I could switch hands after a while. BAM!!! Scared me out of my paper suit. I looked up. My trainer shot the first nail into the swiss cheese....

BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!....

Deafening. I shot my first nail. BAM!!! I grinned.

BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!.... My line was wobbly, but I didn't miss.

Man, you could kill someone with this tool. Gotta be careful. It went right through the metal and the wood frame.

I went 1/3 the speed of my trainer 'til I picked up on the accuracy and straightened out my lines. One nail every 2". Don't miss the wood underneath. Couple of days later, we were finishing at the same time. Missed a few times trying to keep up with him. Gotta stop and pull out the nail - check to see if the frame is ok. Don't leave any loose nails if you miss the wood - ruins the panel fabric.

Flip it over, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!, BAM!!!..... Heehaa!!!

Shove that panel down the line, turn around, get some wood, draw the stapler, ptow, ptow, ptow......

I got tired and sore real quick. Fingers and wrists were numb. Beeeeeeeep!!!!! Break time. Unzip the white suit - no time to take it off. Sip your Dr. Pepper. Beeeeep!!!!

Single file to the rear..... gloves, face mask, ear plugs back on. Rotate positions.

Now I know what the white suit was for - fiberglass. Ever get prickly face and arms? You sweated inside the face mask. Keep it on! Keep gloves over the wrists.

OK. Pull the glue nozzle down. Spray the metal cheese, corner to corner. Turn behind you. Pull out the fiberglass panel. Float it down on the metal. Pad it down. Flip it over - wait! Work with your partner. Panel's too heavy for one. Backbreakin' work. Do the other side. Spray/Float/Pad/Put it on the pallet.

Next panel.

Sometimes we had a fifth wheel. He spritzed the glue and kept the pallet moving down the line. Otherwise, rookie did double work. When the pallet was 6 feet high, you rolled it down the line, picked up another 40 lb board and slammed it on the conveyor. 40 pounds got heavier every hour.

As the weeks rolled by, I noticed that the women bypassed this line.

Next............

Beeeep!!! Quittin' time.

Couldn't wait to get that monkey suit off. I was still prickly here and there - my wrist and cheeks weren't well covered. Got to keep the mask and gloves covering all of me.

An introduction to Calvin and the devil

I encountered a Calvinist and a satanist on the job. Both loved to debate and tear down others' faith. Now came the time to put what I had learned to practice.

I'd never met a real life Calvinist before and a satanist to boot. We had animated dialogues - a test of whether or not I was on target.

To debate what you believe in is not so easy - to back it up with facts - be honest about it. These debates caused me to consider everything I was learning from the beginning.

Conclusion: I was building a solid foundation.

How come? Because I could defend what I believed from a normative sense of language, context and logic.

My "opponents" had to resort to personal attack, emotion and irrelevant smoke screens. Whenever I was challenged my emotions ran high and I had to check them at the door of logic, order and normative rules of language and context. When I settled down and took one point at a time, I was elated to realize that what I was being taught really proved itself out! I was going to the right church for the first time in my life!!! Mr. Calvinist refused to read any of my rebuttals but he constantly gave me things to read. He thanked me for stirring up his motivation to go back to studying the bible. Sad to say, he studied it in a dishonest way: trying to pull passages out of context in order to refute what I was learning. When he refused to read what I had carefully prepared for him on the subject of unlimited vs limited atonement, I looked him in the eye and saw a little flicker of fear that his beliefs were really being challenged by a close examination of the Bible. He couldn't even reach out and touch what I offered him. He turned away and never spoke to me again. It was interesting to note that we had an agnostic Jew listening to our conversations all the time. He seemed to long to trust in Jesus for his salvation and I tried to lean in that direction. But my Calvinist adversary had little interest in tending to his friend's salvation, only beating down my theology with ever increasing emotion and personal attacks. That's what happens when you adopt such a theology that does not stand up to what the Bible says - and it disregards the needs of the personal soul to be saved.

Frames and framing

After weeks in the fiberglass dungeon, I was moved to learn two new positions. Dena helped train me. I thought we'd get a chance to talk about spiritual things. But all I got from her was constant bickering with she-girl on the fork lift. One time it got physical. In between I got a little training. The positions were simple, but you had to keep on your toes. The assembly line switched panel types all the time. I had to keep up with the supply of side panel frame components at one position and run over to another station and put top caps on incoming panels before they got to to the main production line.

Position #1

Put the end piece in place on the right end of the frame piece,

Insert the stick into the machine

Push the button.

Repeat.

Stack the batch in the shelf at the assembly line

Go make another batch - which ever size is low.

Watch the supply line for changes in incoming panels on the line.

Position #2 - you needed sneakers

Go to top frame table when panels are low on the main line.

It was a balance because both positions fed the line.

The lead on the line would let you know when you were running out in such a way that you didn't want to mess up again.

The top frame position was a two man job.

So you had to call someone over for help.

Select the right sized top

Put in in the slot.

Both men pick up a panel off the stack.

Slide it into the top frame.

Push the button.

Watch your fingers, you only got ten.

Next.

Look over your shoulder - make sure you don't run out of side frames.

It was like playing full court basket ball. Kinda fun.

I had a little trouble getting she-girl to drop materials in the proper spot so I wouldn't have to do so much walking. That woman was a throw back to evolution if that were possible.

I tried to get she-girl to put the pallet of boards on my side of the railroad tracks near the Top Cap position where I needed them. I had tripped and fallen twice and nearly split my head open on the rails, carrying the boards over the tracks every time I needed one. No go on this. So I brought the whole pallet over in the morning with a pallet truck. She-girl was very territorial. She became incensed at this change. I promised to put the pallet back at the end of the day if there were any left.

The plant manager came over with a group of people touring the factory one afternoon. She was the first female plant manager in the company. She noticed the new location of the pallet of boards. She told me to move them back because it didn't look aesthetic.

I thought about telling her about tripping all the time when I hand carried the boards over the railroad tracks. But I kept silent. I brought half of them over at a time with a pallet truck so the aesthetics of the factory was not disturbed and I wouldn't bread my neck.

Temp man's ready to go permanent

By this time, I was trained in most of the positions.

Dena was training me to staple the fabric on the panels. This was a highly skilled position that required good hand eye coordination and balance. I noticed that she never rotated positions like everyone else. The fabrics were expensive. If I learned this, I'd be a shoe-in for permanent.

I began training permanent employees in various positions.

Management had me pegged for the next bonus baby - especially since I made improvements in a number of the stations. I fixed up the storage bins for parts on the main line so everything stacked neatly and nothing got scratched - that was a big problem solved by corrugated and glue. I also made labels for all the bins.

Bonus time

Every quarter the permanent employees received their profit sharing. Their share amounted to four times what I earned plus her hourly was double. Yet we were doing the same job. And I even trained full time employees. Being hired on as permanent was a big deal to me.

Training the bad guys

I was now a trainer in the dungeon too. One time I was training a guy who made everything a problem. He was big and dangerous. He wouldn't even put the white suit on 'til I insisted. When we got to the nail guns he kept missing the frame.

I told him, "Take your time, accuracy is important, speed will come with time."

He lost it. He turned at me, lifted the gun and pushed it between my eyes. I instinctively jerked my head back when I saw the nail gun come at me. I missed being impaled by inches. He realized he had lost control and walked out of the building with the white suit on and drove off forever in his car. He really had issues. Add attempted murder to whatever else he had on his record.

The exploding car

Hourly wages were too low to take care of my car. On the way home north on highway 360, she sputtered, choked and then exploded. Cars were buzzing by at 70 m.p.h.. Flames came out from everywhere. I made a quick exit and watched her burn from underneath. It took about an hour to walk home from there. I called a tow truck and donated her to the junk yard.

Fortunately, Dena and her husband lived in Euless. So she kindly offered to give me a ride to work. For several weeks I had hopes to be hired on soon and then the raise would provide reliable transportation. The third week, Dena told me it didn't look good for us to arrive together at the factory. She didn't want to ruin her Christian reputation. I couldn't remember where in the bible it said this. Christian charity apparently had its time limit.

Management was disappointed that I left work and didn't come back. I met Dena several months later at the supermarket. She asked how I was doing. I told her I was cleaning toilets at Skychefs on overnight shift. She was astounded at my fall from grace.

"Why are you doing that job," she asked, "God has better things for you."

"I had no choice without a car, Dena. I had to take whatever I could."

"I won't believe that God would do this to you," she said. "You must have done something wrong."

We also differed on salvation. She had insisted that you can lose it if you do something wrong. When I pulled out my bible and showed her several passages like the end of Romans chapter 8, she said, "I don't believe it."

I said, "I didn't write it."

I got the picture: I saw fear in her eyes that she thought the devil was in mine.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN - SKY CHEFS

Night shift life

Without transportation, I had to take what I could get. Mike's brother in law, Michael, offered me a ride to work at Sky Chefs where he worked night shift. So I interviewed and qualified to clean toilets on night shift.

Michael was what Dena was not: reliable over a long period of time. He was not worried about his reputation with me riding to work with him every day. He faithfully gave me a ride to work for months 'til I could get my own transportation. For this I am grateful.

Day sleep was a bear. I lived near rowdy kids. Had to sleep 13 hours to get enough rest.

But there were advantages. We got a free meal on the night shift and no one robbed my apartment. I got a face to face with one thief when he knocked on my door "by mistake" and woke me up. I kept all my jewelry.

Shopping was at 1 AM Tuesday. Cops frequently stopped me as I walked to the supermarket. I got tired of being followed by the patrol car, so I just assumed the position on the hood 'til they cleared me to move on.

Night shift people are quite different from day people. Some are zombies, some drunks and the rest of us are down right nuts. You may not start out that way, but it creeps up on you. Day friends distance themselves. You wonder if you'll ever return to normal.

The janitor

My first task was janitor 'til 1 AM.

Ever clean the ladies room while they're trying to get in to do their business? I couldn't convince anyone to go to the second floor 'til I finished cleaning. Nothing would stop the herd. No point in impeding progress - just get out of the way. More than once I tried talking to a woman while she was disrobing - ignoring me like I was an insignificant fly. The women always won the battle. I had no stomach to see what was going to happen if I didn't leave.

I solved the problem by pouring full strength bleach on the entrance way floor and barricading the second door with equipment.

There were some who were used to standing over a hole in the floor. I had a tough time cleaning the footprints off the seats.

Gourmet dinner

The food for breaktime was cooked during the previous shift and sat there 'til 1 AM collecting germs. You had to be careful what you ate or you'd bring home something extra. I ate less and less as the weeks rolled by. Stayed healthier that way. But I still got hungry. So you found yourself pocketing fresh food and munching on it hiding in the freezer, shivering as you chewed. Make sure you wipe your face, the supervisors were sneaky! Hunger has a way of crossing the line of rules that people concoct. Many on the washing crew ate right out of the carts coming back from flights. They stooped down behind the moving carts and ate like animals on the run, looking out for predator supervisors - one uneaten sandwich for the trash, one for the stomach. Funny, they never bothered to wipe their faces and were in full view of the supervisor from his platform. Huge amounts of food, liquor and dishware were wasted every night. It was an alcoholics paradise.

Sprinkle in a little safety and some religion

I had been talking with Jessie, the shop steward, ever since she said I had to join the union or bust after 30 days. Thems were da rules.

So there goes another downsized pay check. But it was all for a good cause. Helped keep me out of trouble on the floor, settled disputes, provided a safe work environment, kept my job secure and well paid, uniforms and nutritious meals....

And it paid the mortgage on the union building.

Lewis told me Sky Chefs was the number two most dangerous place to work in the Metroplex behind Frito Lay. I believed him... Jessie asked me to be on the safety committee one time to be the employee rep. My first meeting I suggested posting signs to warn of boiling hot water pipes and broken glass. I'd already been burned and injured several times. I offered to submit safe operation procedures for dangerous equipment on the floor. I found myself a minority of one and back on the floor. Wonder why they called it the Safety Committee.

Jessie didn't mind tellin' me she was a genuine Southern Baptist, born and raised. Halleluah!!! She appointed herself my nightshift preacher woman 'til she found out I was taking courses at Tyndale Seminary. Then she became the devil in disguise. She had me destined for hell in no time. She carried her preachin' into the dining room. One night she mustered another Baptist and a 7th Day Adventist to her side and marched into the dining room to settle things once and for all with me as I sat with some friends eating what I could from the free meal.

Each one took turns preachin' damnation to me. One louder than the next 'til the whole dining room sat quiet. It looked like I was going to spend three eternities in Hell or just be annihilated. Virginia, the 7th Day Adventist, was packin' her six-shootin' bible. So I pointed to it in the midst of her foghorn preachin' and asked to see it.

By this time, we had the attention of the entire dining room - hundreds of people. The quiet was huge. No one seemed to be chewing. Virginia stopped her tirade to see what I was gonna do with her genuine King James Bible.

I opened it up and read, "And He [Jesus Christ] is the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

and

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

I asked, while they pondered the words from the bible, "Which sin do you condemn me for which Jesus, my Savior, has not already paid the penalty?"

There was a pregnant pause, the three accusers turned to go away in silence. Jessie had second thoughts. She offered over her shoulder, "suicide". (Maybe she knew something about the food???).

I responded, "Jessie, I'm still alive????" The whole kitchen laughed. Break time was over. I went back to finish the shift. An Hispanic man stopped me on the staircase and wanted to know if I was a priest. I said, "No, I just read my bible."

Jessie stopped her preaching. But Virginia kept at it 'til she was fired for attacking a Chinese co-worker with a kitchen knife. Guess her bible wasn't sharp enough. Wonder if she even bothered to read it carefully. It's always good to read something before you talk about it.

The machines

At 1:30 AM we switched to cleaning the dishwashing machines and waste separator. My trainer was a kind old man from Cambodia who hardly spoke English. He spent 13 years as a POW in Viet Nam. His attitude humbled me - especially when I learned how he cared for his handicapped little boy. He used sign language and demonstration to teach me. The water going through the pipes in these machines was boiling hot. There were places where you could get injured with burns or broken glass cuts. But we connected and I began to clean the machines on my own. I discovered a secret: run pink soap through the machines before you started cleaning.

One time I put too many soap blocks in #2 machine. Half the kitchen filled with a moving wave of 36" high suds. Buddy was looking out his office window and called "Yo, Yo!" on the kitchen wide speaker. That was my name at Sky Chefs because the foreigners couldn't say "Bob".

I ducked down under the suds to escape discovery. But Goudy already knew who the guilty party was - who else! He waded through the pink ocean and found me by #2. I came up with a sheepish grin on my freckled face, suds sticking all over. When he asked me the question of the night, I came up with a grande excuse: "I was cleaning the floors.", I said. The floors were pink - cleaner then they'd been in years. Buddy looked around and mumbled, "That's the only thing that saved you," and walked back into his office. He later got fired for hanging out in his office too much and making too many long distance calls.

Man the waste separator

The most disgusting job on the planet was to clean the waste separator. It was a 7 foot high, L-shaped, stainless steel tank. They located it outside the building in the cold air where all the waste from the kitchen goes. The conveyor going into the middle of it made the job a bit dangerous. First you climbed inside the tank and pushed the waste through the drainage hole into the outside sewer system. Then you had to clean it from top to bottom - inside and out.

It was hopeless and nauseating, wading in all that waste. I couldn't finish and I had to ask Charlie to help me. Charlie was my trainer - a Viet Nam vet who had the secret to stress: in combat just hold down the trigger, at Sky Chefs, keep on laughin'. I just didn't have the knack of getting all that awful smelling stuff through the drain hole fast enough. The more I hated this job, the more I got assigned to it. Eventually, I got the routine down and started to clean the tank walls. But to finish the entire task in one shift: impossible!!!

Enter miracle pink soap

I noticed the day shift shut everything down when they quit. This let everything pile up in the separator. So every night, I turned # 2 and the waste separator back on and let soap suds flow through the system while I took my lunch break. By the time I got to the waste separator, I only had minor draining to do. In 3 weeks it all looked brand new. I had time to clean the tank and the whole area with a pressure washer - even the driveway. Several managers came back there to congratulate me. "Haven't seen the machine this clean since it was new". In the winter time, I wore a scuba diving wet suit and played Clark Gable in Run Silent, Run Deep inside the tank as I scrubbed it down from stem to stern. Some people wondered about my sanity, others figured I had a great sense of humor, still others paid no attention to my "acting" but came out there to finish off their little bottles. I had to carry one man back to the break room several times. Everyone knew he was an alcoholic and yet his job was in the liquor cage putting all those bottles in the trays for tomorrow's flights. Most nights he never made it through the shift. Wonder why he never got fired. He had a lot of seniority.

The separator was now my personal project every night.

It wasn't for long. They hired 5 temps from Mexico to replace me and I was reassigned to mop the floor.

I tried to give them pointers, but they paid no attention to me - couldn't speak English anyway. So once more the system went back to filthy and stunk up the kitchen.

Overcoming the zoo

The place was a zoo. People from all ethnic groups with no tolerance for one another - everyone was territorial. Many just got to America from Africa, Russia, Czech Republic, South America, Mexico, Cambodia... and spoke no English.

When I was told to bring empty carts across the kitchen, people would block the aisle so I couldn't get through. They waved, "go around". All the supervisors stayed in hiding.

The Cambodian cart washer pushed empty carts into me, causing teeth jarring crashes. He got more aggressive the more I tried to avoid him. Complaining to management did no good. One night I got nose to nose, raised a 60 lb cart over my head and sent it crashing to the floor without taking my eyes off him. I said, "Your next". He said, "Your crazy". He left me alone from then on. The supervisor got wind of this and approached me. I said, "I got bruised ribs. Where were you when I put in all those complaints?" He disappeared behind #4.

The floor

His answer: Clean the entire kitchen floor with a mop and bucket. The 'Wet Floor' signs were magnets for traffic. People went out of their way to walk right through the wet area. When I tried to block anyone from going through they would shove me out of the way. To make matters worse, people complained when I used extra bleach. The floor was a disaster - filthy black with footprints.

Relief in a cage

I noticed a floor machine locked up in a wire cage by maintenance. I asked Lewis about it and he said it worked ok; but it needed soap and a charge. We hunted down the green soap that was used in it and charged her batteries. Off I went to clean the kitchen floors the next night. The floors immediately went from filthy black to pinkish red. I became an instant hero. The women in the kitchen prep area competed for my attention to clean their areas first. But here and there people would stand in the way as I came down their aisle. I went around them and come back when they weren't looking. Several women complained that the machine was dangerous. Some moved into my path. One night a large black man moved so close to the machine that I had to back up and turn around. As I turned, I felt a sharp sting on my face. I turned back in surprise and walked into another punch to the side of my head.

I pinned his hands to his sides and picked him up off the floor in a bearhug. I was deciding to take him out or talk to him. A supervisor walked out of the restroom and asked, "Is there a problem?". I said, "No", and went on my way. The union rep spoke with us later and warned me of dismissal if this occurred again.

I continued to clean the floors with the machine everywhere until the green soap ran out. Purchasing refused to order more green soap. Lewis said, "Well, you had your fun." I tried the liquid pink soap It did the job even better - more suds. And perfume. The head manager came over to pat me on the back.

Several weeks later, I arrived at work to discover the top of the vacuum chamber on the floor machine was missing. But Lewis made another top out of aluminum plate. We were good to go the next day. The machine worked better than ever! Finally, I was told that I had to go back to the mop and bucket. It was a union thing. They said I was taking away someone's job. As it turned out, it was mine.

I transferred to another department as a porter. I relegated the hopeless cause of the mop and bucket to someone else. The floors deteriorated to filthy black with foot prints. I shook my head that night when I saw the rookie get shoved out of the way by people bent on tracking through the wet area.

Porter to the amazons

There were several dozen men and women from Tonga Island working in the kitchen - mostly on first class tray assembly. All of them were closely related, mostly Morman. Everyone was over 6 feet and outweighed me by 50 pounds. They were a race of superhumans. The men were mild mannered. They had muscular bodies and ready smiles. But the women were the opposite - temperamental, pugalistic - large all over. Not sculptured, rounded. They threw trash everywhere but in the hopper. I had to pick it up all the time. When I got back from emptying the hopper, a mountain of trash and laughter awaited me. I think they were saving it up. I borrowed another hopper and alternated. That only made their aim worse. Empty boxes and trash flew everywhere, slamming into me as the 'ladies' tittered with joy at my displeasure. Where were the supervisors? I apparently had no recourse but to put up with these overgrown, temperamental children.

But one day, out of frustration, I took my mop, pretended I was Elvis and danced all around the kitchen...

...."a-mop-bop-a-lul-bop-a-wom-bam-boom... I'm gonna mop around the place tonight, tootie fruitie all-a-rootie, tootie fruiteeeee all-a-rootie, a-mop-bop-a-lul-bop-a-wom-bam-boom."

I got a hearty round of applause throughout the kitchen and became an instant hero again. Everyone started putting their trash in the hoppers so long as I began each shift as Elvis. I started the shift each night with my dance partner: a brand new mop head.

In the midst of all those Mormans

One night a young Tonga woman came over to me and announced that she was a Christian and enjoyed listening to me talk about Jesus. She said she turned from her Morman faith to simply trust in Jesus as her Savior. Knowing that the Morman faith has a habit of redefining what words are supposed to mean in order to adapt them to their way of thinking, I questioned what she meant about being saved through faith in Jesus. I marveled at her answers. In the midst of all that cultic thinking lived a child of God destined for heaven. We spoke many nights of the doctrines of the faith. I prayed that she would move on with her faith inspite of the restrictions she was under, living with family members who were all Morman.

With a little seniority, promotion was around the corner....

Supp meal handler?

Handlers and drivers wore fancy white instead of plain blue work shirts. Everyone looked up to the "white shirts". I applied for this job because it was day shift. It was only 6 hours a day. With the pay raise it came out less than cleaning toilets - but it was days!!!!!!!!!

I got an impatient Hungarian woman to teach me in broken English. It was tricky. I had to learn her version of English. I paid the price several times when she mispronounced something and I put the wrong food on the plane. The lead called you up on the Supp room phone and assigned a group of flights. They all would be leaving within five minutes of one another. You quickly grabbed your paperwork from the ticket counter and came back to slam some food in your blue cart - and some in your mouth. Then you had to check the gate moniter to determine who needs food on which flight just before it left. Each flight had different meals. Every second counted. You better keep your flights straight - gate number and time of departure. If you caused a delay, it would mean thousands of dollars in penalties for Skychefs. So it took the Hungarian a bit to teach this Kossak how to do the job. We argued more over the pronunciation of words than procedures. Her accent and grammar were impossible. It was important to observe what the successful ones were doing 'cause none of them seemed to be in a rush. Also key was getting to know the gate agents. They often helped out by telling me what I needed to put on the plane. They sometimes carried meals down the ramp for me, when every second counted. I picked up a few tricks, got out of the training limelight and settled in to life in the Supp Room.

Almost a farewell to Cozumel

One "untrick" was to get caught in the plane when it took off. I got there at the last possible second, nearly falling on my face, scrambling down the slanted ramp. I saw the whites of the pilot's eyes. The gate person was in her seat ready to pull the ramp away. I handed the meals to the attendant. She backed up like I had a disease, put her hands up and wouldn't take them. She insisted that I put them inside the cabinet at her station. Not my job, but I had no time to debate this. I just did it. The 30 seconds it took were nearly "fatal". I turned and saw the door closing and felt the plane moving backward. One panicked view through the porthole told me to prepare to go to Mexico - Cozumel, the Hawaii of the Gulf. My breath fogged up the tiny porthole as I screamed and beat on the door to let me out. The gate lady's eyes bugged out - she hadn't seen me board the plane. She got the pilot to stop the plane. The ramp moved forward again and just reached the plane's backed up position by inches. A more astute flight attendant opened up the door and I was relieved of the position of being instantly terminated for stowaway violation. Couldn't have picked a nicer destination, but I was assured I would have remained under custody at the Cozumel airport until a return flight brought me back to justice in America. I had no money with me anyway. I developed a new perspective to "beauty is only skin deep" as I turned to the flight attendant who would not do her job and said, "Thanks for doing your job". Wonder if she got the message.

I remember my Hungarian's instructions: "Don' esk where do poot dey mealsss, juss set dem done annie wear, unt go. Don looke bake".

She was right!

Strange happenings at the terminal

I encountered all kinds of people and situations there. Sometimes you bumped into celebrities. I didn't want to invade the privacy of Tony Dorsett who was having a private moment with his little boy; nor for an autograph from Hulk Hogan or Andre the Giant. Those guys scared me. Wonder if they were from Tonga Island. Some skier celebrity rushed by to board with an 18" high fan hairdo waving in the breeze.

But one time I did get involved. I was just closing the gate doors to an overbooked flight to LaGuardia when I felt my shirt tighten up around my neck. This "suit" grabbed me and demanded I let him on the plane. Dozens of passengers were watching and any incident meant immediate dismissal. So I dropped to one knee and imitated Al Jolsen, offering him a sandwich from right out of my cart.

"Mammy, My little Mammy, I'd walk a million miles For one of your smiles, My Mammy!"

I heard some applause, there was a pregnant moment, the "suit" grunted in disgust and went away.

A few poor souls, a man and a woman, spent their last moments having heart attacks. Still others I observed were hotly pursued by police. The terminal was longer than the straight-a-way track at high school. It was amazing to see those guys deftly dart around people with the police in pursuit - just like in the movies.

Every religious group was represented, except mine. There was always some group trying to save the planet. I had not a few theological debates with the Ellen G White people from the Seventh Day Adventist Church. They kept accosting me with their diatribe until it became clear to them that I had studied the bible too diligently to suit them. One guy would retreat into incoherent mumbling whenever I would greet him on the way to the supp room. Everyone has an agenda, most do not investigate the validity of their own beliefs.

One time I attached a phone receiver to my cart. I took it to gate three and joined a group of people in front of the gate. I spoke into the receiver and then looked up and said, "It's for Jennifer at gate 3???". (I memorized her name tag). She bit and said, "Oh, that's me.... hello." When she got no answer and looked up, I said in fake Italian, "Hey... what you talkin' to, sandwiches??" We all had a big laugh as I ducked her gentle punch.

So what's a group of flight attendants standin' in a freezer called?....

Frosted flakes. I learned that from a blonde attendant.

My favorite trick was to walk by with the 48" high blue cart rolling by my side, telling people, "I'm going down to the wine cellar, see ya later". As the cart moved forward, I crouched down step by step 'til my head disappeared below the top to people on the other side. It really looked like I was going downstairs. It was a strain on my old knees at the time, but all the laughs I got made it worthwhile. I did it a couple of times with a bottle in my hand when I came up.

That was nothing compared to my Morman friend:

Working with the Morman kid

I had a tall, young Morman man to work with for a while. He was working to save up for his two year missionary tour. He and I had some very interesting discussions while we waited in the Supp Room for our next group of flights. He was energetic and fun loving - not as disciplined as Morman's go, but not afraid of hard work. He was also open to discuss theology, my favorite topic, since I was taking courses at seminary... and competitive. When he finished his flights, you could see him rolling down an incline literally flying on top of his blue cart: chest balanced on top, arms spread out like 4 foot wings. I wondered how he was going to make it as a missionary. Bet he'll do lots of tricks on his bicycle. We had fun riding the train to work together. It must have been interesting to see four upright legs passing by in the airport tram like a mobile panty hose display. It was hard to stay upside down and laugh at the same time. I didn't dare match his airplane trick. It got back to management. But he was such a nice kid that they let him go with a warning. I felt like a kid again myself. I left him a lot to think about as I shared my studies with him.

Ironically, I was presenting the gospel to him as we hurried to take care of several flights together. As I got to the key point about believing in Jesus and then you immediately receive eternal life, a woman came by who was from a baptist church jumped into our conversation and said, "Don't believe anything he says!" Ironic, how the devil works even through believers to distroy your testimony.

No meat

The Hari Krishnas gathered in front of the Supp Room. They were all dressed in street clothes and normal hair cuts. They kept trying to block me from getting to my flights.

When I came back, I slipped through their blockade and put my cart back into the freezer. Then I came out to see who these people were. I spoke at length to a young woman a number of times. She said they were doing all this because I served meat to passengers. That was considered an offense.

She said they took her off the streets, clothed and fed her and chose a husband for her. She approached passengers coming off flights, mostly in uniform. She gave them her spiel about helping abandoned children get off the streets. She was very sensual and close to them as she pinned an artificial flower on their lapels. When they pulled out their wallet, she'd pull out large bills herself, maintaining eye contact all the time. She collected money not unlike another profession, and gave it all to the Temple Leader. She said she was better provided for than when she was on the street. She had reservations about consenting to the husband they had chosen, sight unseen. Marital relations were by their arrangement, she explained. All men and women slept separately - even married ones. She kept convincing herself that this was better than street life. It was as if this was her only alternative. If you didn't keep up with the rest - especially learning their dogma, she said, you found yourself deprived of food and company.

I bumped into the Temple Leader. I recognized him among his followers by the expensive, accessorized three piece suit. We talked a bit especially about the blasphemy of meat eating. He said even Jesus did not do that. I asked about the Passover Lamb that Jesus ate every year. He digressed into science and stated that everything was made of earth, wind, fire and water. "What about the Periodic Table of over 100 elements, and modern science that sent a space ship to the moon?", I asked. "Can you manage that with earth, wind, fire and water?" He asked me to leave.

Matt had been listening all the time

All those times I had been sharing my faith at the gates with others, Matt was listening quietly. One time I walked along with him as we both had ended our shifts and were on our way home. He opened up and told me he was a Jehovah's Witness. He immediately attacked the Trinity as a false doctrine. I quoted a passage from Isaiah: "For unto us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called 'Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace' "

Matt noticed that it said "Mighty God" not Almighty God.

"Yes, and what is the difference? Certainly since there is only one God and since He is Almighty, could He not be described as Mighty???? And you missed the rest of the passage. It says Jesus is "Everlasting Father".

He mumbled something I couldn't quite understand that didn't fit the context and walked off, not wanting to continue the debate any longer.

You never know whose listening when you speak of Jesus.

Carlos can't concentrate on the job

Carlos was constantly flirting and on the verge of causing a delay. Panic rang the phone in the Supp Room. Carlos was no where to be found to do his Paris flight and it was already docked. You had to get the cart down on the ramp and leave it before the flight arrived at the gate. None of us had a pass to enter an international ramp if the plane was already there.

I looked all over but couldn't find Carlos. So I rushed the meals down the ramp just as the plane was ready to take off. The Senior Flight Attendant wouldn't take the meals from me and the AAL manager insisted I board the plane and place the meals all the way in the back of the 747.

I was not permitted to do any of this legally. The plane was ready to depart any second. I explained my situation, put the trays on the floor in front of her and took off. The manager asked my name as I raced up the ramp. I mumbled over my shoulder. I had less than 4 minutes to handle my five flights.

I was put on report for not taking the meals back, but not terminated because I saved a delay. All my flights got attended to, plus Paris. Carlos never even got "dishonorable" mention for his lapse. I found him afterwards, romancing a pretty flight attendant at one of the restaurants. He had the curse of good looks, puppy dog eyes and no control.

Join hands and visualize

The managers all came back from a management seminar.

That first day back, our manager demanded all of us gather in a circle, hold hands, close our eyes and visualize doing our jobs better. We were given a chant to say in unison.

I suggested that I get dry ice instead. It was left off the supply truck as usual. We needed the ice to prevent the meals from going bad while they were stored in the carts.

Chant or be dismissed was the order of the day. So we did without dry ice. This was the last time I did the circle chant thing. Since it was voluntary, I opted to go right to work every day. The new corporate mysticsm died a quick death. The only visualizing anyone did was the same old thing.

Visualize this: loose the back pack

I took a back pack with me to work, like so many others. I brought study materials for my courses at Seminary. Jose, the assistant manager, told me I could keep the pack in his office. But he kept locking up his office before I got off shift.

So I began bringing the pack with me. They suggested that I might be piling food in the pack and taking it home. When Miss Visualize made an issue of it, I got terminated. The union had a hearing, I got exonerated and reinstated to night shift in the kitchen.... mopping the floor. I lost my seniority.

I got revenge though. I found the floor machine in her cage, charged her up and loaded her with the magic pink soap. I cleaned those floors with a vengeance... even the loading dock where most of the dirt was tracked into the kitchen. I just didn't care anymore. To my surprise the head manager and the head chef came over to pat me on the back. But that no longer mattered. Psycho therapy was complete. Time to move on.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN - LAST CHANCE FOR PERMANENT

Ah, but 8 hours of punchin’ keys rents a 1st floor, 6 month lease

CIGNA INTRACORP ACCUMED

Thought I'd try insurance for a change. The committee of three voted 2 to 1 to hire me. Nancy, who recommended me, was terminated for unknown reasons. I was at the mercy of Pat, the one who voted me down. She was a master of mean spirited micromanagement.

Sign in and out, even on breaks.

Questionable things were recorded by the girl next to me on a legal pad.

"Change your 6's, they need to look like 'C's' " she said.

"You must greet everyone you pass in the hallway."

"65 bills per hour, everyone else, 55."

"Stop acting like a yankee, this is Texas."

Work was frequently thrown on the floor for me to pick up.

When my average bills/hour exceeded 100, I got a congratulatory coffee cup and accused of cheating.

I was required to bring each stack of bills I keyed to Pat. "Hold them out and do not put them down until I tell you to, she said." I had this done to me in boot camp with an M-1 rifle, so I understood the tactic was to force me to give her an excuse to fire me.

Pat set up a formal meeting. She gathered all her ammunition and had the new manager that took Nancy's place join her. We met in a closed office and my trial began. I was told that I violated company confidentiality by speaking to a Temp worker in the elevator. I empathized with her because she was let go that week. I also continued to rebel by not changing the style of my 6's. I lifted up my arms in a stretch one morning seated in my cube. And lastly, I put papers on the floor.....

My defense inflamed Pat to no end. She was visibly shaken at the end of the hearing. She could not produce evidence of unsatisfactory 6's, nor specific regulations against private conversations in the elevator, nor rebut the point that others including herself put papers on the floor. I noted that she even kicked my work onto the floor herself. Other issues were also brought up from the notes that my neighbor made on her legal pad. Stretching was not allowed.

With each defense I made, the manager objected that I had anything to say at all. Finally, she said, "What are you, a lawyer?"

"I thought I was on trial here, aren't I?", I answered?

I was put on on final notice. One more infraction and immediate dismissal. After this I was told to go to lunch. I was not to divulge anything about the meeting.

I didn't have much of an appetite, but I went to lunch anyway because I was told to. I joined some people from my group. They seemed to know what was going on and empathized with me. Everyone was concerned about me and asked what happened. I forgot and began to comment on what happened - a mental lapse. I stopped in mid-sentence as two things occurred to me:

I wasn't supposed to say anything.

Pat and the new manager were peering out from behind a nearby building column.

They had followed me into the cafeteria and were trying to catch me divulging the secrets of our meeting. They saw that I had spotted them. So they came over to the table and asked everyone if I had divulged anything. Everyone said, no. They went away, unable to get me terminated.

The rest of the week, Kathy, Pat's chief spy kept sneaking up behind me as I worked. She looked over my shoulder to see how I got so many bills done in an hour. When I stamped the bills in, I sorted them into categories so that they would be much easier to key in. I thought nothing of this. Others were doing it this way. This was classified as cheating. I was ordered to cease and desist.

I wrote a letter of protest, signed it. Security was called in to accompany me as I cleaned out my desk. They escorted me into the elevator and out of the building. I was instructed never to trespass on the property again. They forced me to walk off the property to a distant bus stop because my usual stop, they said was on Cigna property.

I was refused unemployment. I kept notes of the daily harassment and abuse, at the suggestion of a co-worker. She noticed what Pat was doing. I submitted this evidence on an appeal to the Texas State Unemployment Commission. It was compelling enough to get a no fault verdict. EEOC recognized the abuse but could not proceed because they said it was not race, gender or religion based. I noticed in my initial employment hearing that Pat took a dim view that I was a seminary student. Upper management at Cigna reviewed the notes and determined that I was paranoid.

The Texas State Board of Workman's Compensation finally discovered hundreds of unpaid claims hidden in Pat's cabinets which she stated were processed. She was so involved in micromanagement, she didn't take care of getting the real job done. Her 20 year career was put to an end - at least at Cigna.

TITHING AND A SECOND BAPTISM

About this time, a friend from my church, Richard and I were visiting Grauwyler Baptist Church before going to Berean Memorial Church every Sunday. Our participation in the SS class so impressed the staff there that we were both offered teaching assignments there. There were two requirements:

Get water baptized again the Southern Baptist way???

and

don't teach about tithing from the Bible.

They knew what the Bible said about tithing and didn't want me to teach against their way of collecting money. Needless to say, I declined the offer because I wasn't willing to go against what God said in His Word to please the leaders at that church. So they became a bit cold about my attendance at their church and I soon got the message and stopped coming.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN - PERMANENTLY TEMPORARY

I’m a man of means by no means, king of the temps

MASTER GRIP

This was a telemarketing job. We received calls from people ordering golf equipment after viewing a TV commercial. There was insane pressure to get multiple sales out of each customer. The manager would periodically listen in on your calls, rudely interrupt you in mid sentence and take over the conversation. Then you'd get a mean spirited, foul mouthed lecture on what you did wrong.

One day a group of men, with guns drawn, broke through the door of the office. I heard "freeze", so that's what I did. They had bullet proof vests with "ATF" on them. I pulled out my social security card and showed the man, feeling the cold presence of his firearm near my face. They left and went downstairs. I could see them moving around a circle of warehouse workers seated on the floor. They handcuffed them and took them out of the building.

I called the temp agency and told them to reassign me. I had already had my fill of customer complaints about golf gloves leaking dye, shirts with 2 different collar sizes, and clubs breaking off and flying down the fairway; and now guns pointed at me. Instead the agency terminated me without possibility of future assignments.

Just as well. I get nervous on the phone when a gun is pointed at me.

That's why it's good to have more than one agency work for you.

Old worn out suit and shoes, don’t pay no ‘surance dues

FIRST AMERICAN REAL ESTATE TAX SERVICE

Pod work

I started in a work group called a pod with six others, some temps, some permanent. You couldn't tell the difference - at first. But wait a few minutes and the permanent ones will let you know who they are.

We were in competition with other pods, so every move we made was monitored by "coach Kathy".

We sorted tubs of property tax notices. Whole sections were usually in order so I put those aside. I renumbered the sorting machine to coincide with my batch. So I found the task was fairly easy. I didn't realize I was working too smart, too fast.

The guy next to me had the right idea, he was a real sleeper. Several times an hour I'd nudge him to wake him up so his head wouldn't hit the desk. It was amazing to watch this man sleeping on the job like that and still appear to be at work. But his production was what the pod was looking for.

Retrieval with Mary

I got transferred to Mary's department several weeks later. The statistician said my production figures were off the chart. It threw off the competition.

My punishment was to retrieve bills for Mary. It was frustrating work. They could be anywhere. Instructions were deliberately poor, Karen admitted, because she wanted to work alone. Mary set up her area backwards: right to left, in reverse alphabet order. I wondered if she knew anyone at Hubbell Lighting. I used common sense to observe patterns where the bills most likely would be found. The job was not really that hard.

Karen was forever angry with me. I was just acting like the temp I was trained to be - trying to do the best I could. I learned to avoid Karen when her medicine didn't keep her calm. Mary reassigned Karen to the pods after one particularly outrageous tirade. We sort of traded jobs.

Perception rules

I had a number of opportunities to share my faith with others in Mary's area. Several of my coworkers had a lot of interest in spiritual things, so we talked a lot about the doctrines of the faith while we worked. But there were a few who listened in to our conversations and were offended by what we were talking to one another about.

Mrs. Smith, Mary's manager, called me into her office one day. She shared with me that she was a fellow Christian, a Baptist. She told me that my conversation with others on the job was perceived as offensive to them. I asked why they had to listen to our conversations. We were all allowed to talk with one another as we worked. She said that the rule of perception had to be followed, that if someone found your conversation, no matter what the subject, was offensive to them even though it was not directed to them, you had to stop talking about whatever you were talking about. I responded that it was against recent Supreme Court rulings to restrict the topic of conversation like that. I said, "Suppose I was offended that they were offended? The offensive rule works both ways. I quietly got up and went back to work. Nothing more was made of my offensive talk about Jesus, although I lowered my voice and made sure that I wasn't overheard.

I noted that the ones who complained had been constantly bringing up the subject of special miraculous spiritual gifts with me. But they did not like my point of view from the Bible on what they spoke to me about. The complaining parties transferred out of Mary's department so the coast was clear to be 'normal' once again.

Mary seemed to like me a lot. She was a non practicing Roman Catholic and listened to my conversations now and again. Her husband had cancer and it didn't look good, so she seemed to be interested in spiritual things for the moment. Sad to say, her interest did not quite bring her or her husband to simply trust in Jesus to save them. But she heard the gospel and I pray that she and her husband will do that.

Promises

Then came an annual project. If I did it well, Mary's manager, Mrs. Smith, promised me a full time job. Last year this project took months to do. It was nearly impossible to keep track of the tubs. Answer: large colored stickers - one color for each stage of the project. Hence, one need only look for tubs with a particular color sticker and not have to keep track of tubs individually, throughout the building.

Sucker

Mary saw what I did for Mrs. Smith, and asked me to propose a new layout for her area. So I did some drawings proposing mobile shelving carts to replace her static shelving. The carts would be used to move entire groups of tubs around instead of carrying them one tub at a time. Everyone was excited about it. So I was "promoted" to planner, purchasing agent, project coordinator and installer with a promise and no pay raise.

Mary's husband helped me to dismantle the shelving. Other than that, I was on my own. I did detailed drawings, bargained with suppliers, recommended purchases, unloaded and installed all the equipment all by myself for $6.75/hour and another broken promise.

Grand success, a new coffee cup and a letter of commendation as the Kelly Services Nationwide Temp of the Month. I was personally handed this letter by a Kelly executive along with a brand new key chain. No money, no promotion, no full time job.

The kudos were many, the promises kept - none. The key chain was too bulky, I don't drink coffee. Mrs. Smith was let go so was her promise. So I was traded back to Mary.

Mary said, "You little s__t!", when I told her I took another assignment elsewhere. It felt good to be a master of my own destiny, even if it was out the door.

I’ve done er' temp job in every town

Whatever the job needs without a frown

'N every kind of work I’m renown

'N every one day ‘signment I am found

VANSTAR - 2 MONTHS

Every morning it was a mile and a half walk from the bus stop - rain, cold and heat. Never missed a day, nor late one time. Revamped the files - they extended the time because of my filing skill. No full time offer.

THE ASSOCIATES - FILING - 1 MONTH

My co-worker announced that she was royalty and the wife of the ambassador to some country in Africa. So it was beneath her dignity to do manual labor. She refused to get her own work. So I brought her work to her because we were supposed to work together on the same project. I had to redo her work all the time. She filed everything backwards. One time she put an entire file drawer backwards. It took me nearly an hour to redo the damage. She caught me doing this and became incensed. She quit and said it was because of me. It was investigated and I was not dismissed.

After she left my production zoomed. When we ran out of space, I set up a user friendly archive file room using banker boxes. When they discovered I was computer literate, they also had me do some work at the keyboard. The assignment ended on good terms.

ADT - 1 MO

Another assignment where I had to walk several miles. I brought an extra change of clothes and shoes on rainy days. Sometimes I arrived completely soaked to the bone. The change of clothes was quite welcomed. I set up a grid on the floor and a diagram on the wall so it made the job of receiving clerk a piece of cake. Everyone appreciated my ingenuity. Doing the work beyond expectations earned me a second assignment with them.

IBM - 1 WEEK

Something about me really turned my supervisor off the moment I opened my mouth. I suspect it was my NY accent because she kept calling me a yankee. She was so miserable to me that a man who worked with her kept apologizing for the way I was treated.

SHARP 3 DAYS

THE BAR ASSOCIATION 1 DAY

BARTON ASCHMAN 1/2 DAY

KMPG PEAT MARWICK - 7 DAYS AND LIGHTS OUT

Lights out

No one payed much attention to me. I worked way in the back of the file room, all by myself. Everyone in the file room was pretty cold. Anytime I had a question I got reluctant answers. One woman ignored me completely when I asked a question - like I was invisible. I had to figure out everything for myself. The last day of the assignment, there was a company picnic. Everyone left the office at 11 AM without telling me. Later I learned everyone was invited to a company picnic. They locked the doors and turned out the lights. I was left in total darkness - locked in the office. I felt my way around the desk to gather my belongings. I had to feel my way out of the file room and then out of the building. There were no windows to give me some light to see.

I fought panic as every door I tried was locked. I bumped my way into several dead ends, but kept my composure. I finally felt a doorway on what seemed to be an exterior wall. I located the door knob. It led to the outside stairway and a sigh of relief.

I called the temp agency to tell them the assignment was over. She asked why. I said, "Because they turned the lights out, locked me in the building." There was silence on the other end of the phone.

It's amazing how little people care for one another - especially strangers.

I called another temp agency for work, not confident that Kelly would try to find another assignment for me.

ADT - RETURN ENGAGEMENT - 1 MONTH

I had some experience with soldering and electronic schematics. So I enjoyed doing this work. But when it's over it's over.

KODAK, THE IMAGE BANK - 6 MONTHS FILING

Keep it to yourself

I found a friend in tech support. Martin was very interested in discussing the bible and the Christian faith. We kept it in his office. But once in a while a Morman kid would come in and butt into the conversation. He made emotional and unsupported rebuttals to whatever we were discussing - often way off topic. He was quick to get upset. I'd done my homework on these issues and responded objectively with normative rules of language, context and logic from specific passages in the bible. This only served to inflame him. So my conversations with Martin sadly ceased. These conversations did not go as unnoticed as I thought. I found myself surrounded with all kinds of emotional agenda after this from others, especially Millie who went to a Church of Christ. She was on the attack every morning. But every time I tried to focus on the actual words of whatever text she was throwing at me, she would go over the deep end and get emotional and condemn me for my faith.

I also met a woman who was a staunch Calvinist. She came over several times to my cube to initiate conversation about her theological point of view. I produced a study I had done earlier for the Calvinst gentlemen at Herman Miller and she took it. She never read it though, but instead gave it to her pastor. I heard nothing back from him either.

Interesting, when you dialogue about such matters it all boils down to who is going to do your thinking for you, someone else or yourself? God is not going to judge others for what you believe, He's going to judge you.

So the lady calvinist no longer came by because I kept bringing up the detailed study on Calvinism to her and she had no answer because she wouldn't investigate it further. She said she was satisfied with what her pastor told her to believe.

No one was actually willing to sit down after work and go over what they were talking about objectively.

Replaced by [Ctrl][Print Scrn]

On the other hand, everyone was impressed that I "loved" to file so much. (I hated it). So I did everyone's filing for them.... until I told the manager that the files were on the PC. So to get a hard copy all you had to do was to hit the [Ctrl][Print Scrn] keys simultaneously. The assignment ended quickly. I surmised that I had fulfilled my duty in sharing my faith and it was now time to move on.

THE ASSOCIATES - 1 DAY, HATLESS

I was put at a desk where the sun glared directly into my eyes. They would not permit me to adjust the blinds. But the supervisor did grant me permission to use a baseball cap so I could see the screen without being blinded. No one would help me with insruction on how to do the work, so I floundered all that morning. When a senior manager saw the cap, I was immediately dismissed and sent home.

CIGNA - 2 DAYS

Kathy, Pat's assistant saw me in the file room the second day and called the temp agency and said I had been terminated and forever banned from Cigna. So I was given notice to leaven the building once more, even though the work was for a different department.

EMC MORTGAGE - 2 WEEKS OF COPYING

SEARS - 1/2 DAY FOLDING UNDERWEAR

THE ASSSOCIATES - 2 TIME CLOCKS - 4 DAYS

I was required to punch in on one manager's time clock and punch out on another's. One was 15 minutes fast and the other 15 minutes slow. I lost 20 minutes pay every day. The managers would not allow me to put down real time worked. Norrel would not resolve the problem. I decided to terminate myself. Easier that way.

AVIALL - 1 MO

Whenever I got my work done, I did extra work by helping the sales manager set up a bid tabulation spreadsheet in Excel. It determined the best suppliers to go with and unit bid prices with freight allowed. That was fun - I learned a lot about using formulas in Excel. Another manager saw my expertise in Excel and gave me extra tasks to do also.

In spite of doing my work so efficiently and all the extra work for others, my immediate supervisor never really seemed to communicate with me very well and brought into the manager's office for not responding 'properly' to her instructions. She made sarcastic and personal comments about me all the time. A coworker told me that she had her moods and whatever you said at those times she would take offense. He worked with me in order to become a buffer between the two of us. But I was dismissed for being offensive to her nevertheless. That's the drawback when you are a temp.

MENTOR - TRASH DATA ENTRY - BUSINESS CASUAL - 2 DAYS

I was told to wear business casual clothes for a data entry assignment. Data entry turned into picking up trash in an overgrown back lot and cigarette butts from sidewalk cracks in business casual dress and 100 degree temperature. Take it or leave it. I had to find my own tools to work with. All I brought with me was Tacky Finger.

LIBERTY MUTUAL - SORT & FILE - 2 WEEKS

EQUIFAX - 1 MO - COPYING

GTE SUPPLY - GENERAL OFFICE - 5 DAYS

My trainer was a very young, impatient American girl. Her English was imperceptible - she spoke much too fast. I did the best I could, but neither logic, nor common sense prevailed. I noticed that she was much more coherent when she spoke with her friends. I called the temp agency and fired myself. The job was 'mailboy' but with poor impatient instructions no job can be done satisfactorily.

FOUNDATION HOUSE - 1/2 DAY

GINTELL - 1/2 DAY

OLSTEN CARE - 1 WEEK

There was no place for me to do my work. So they jammed an ancient wood desk with no drawer bottoms into the entrance to the linen closet. I had to climb over the desk into the closet and sit in an old broken wooden swivel. People came to the closet for linens which I handed out in between doing the clerical work.

GTE - 4 DAYS MOVING FILES

The supervisor couldn't make up her mind on anything. I did as much as I could and ended the assignment. I was called by another Temp Agency desperate to send someone to help this poor indecisive soul. No one would stay on the job. I preferred sanity.

IRON MOUNTAIN - 1 WEEK

Filing in a dark warehouse, using hospital filing system, on rickety ladders with a lefthanded layout. I was beginning to wonder if there was a sane job out there that showed some respect for my humanity.

MOTOROLA - 1 MO - REPAIRING BEEPERS

We received instant training. I had a hard time getting up to speed. I'd not done work like this before. Some of my coworkers were pretty adept at meeting their daily quota, especially a young East Indian girl. She was very nice and helped me here and there. The supervisors were kind to me and when I didn't make the cut, they kept me on 'til the light went on upstairs. It went on and my production increased dramatically. I became the leader in my group until that fatal day....

They brought in safety glasses to wear after 4 weeks of doing the work without them. We had to put them on that day, that moment, or be terminated. I did the best I could but they wouldn't fit over my eye glasses. I asked if they had standard safety goggles or if I could report tomorrow with them. They said no and I packed up my things to go on the road again.

GREENWICH - 1 DAY

ALLSTATE - 2 DAYS

I got there on time and waited for four hours for my supervisor to bring me into the office. She said she was real upset that her assistant broke her leg and deserted her with all the work she had to do. I wondered why she kept me waiting for four hours if the work load was so high. I took out a pad as she rattled off instructions like a machine gun. She said I wasn't allowed to take notes. I insisted anyway and she looked at me like a hungry Rotweiler. Once I started working, each question I had was a serious annoyance. But her instructions did not cover what I was asking her about. Her answers were mean spirited and put the blame on me for her assistant's broken leg. Several questions later I was dismissed and shown the door.

MOORE BUSINESS FORMS 2 MO

I replaced a woman on maternity leave. She was one of the few trainers who gave detailed step by step instructions and allowed me to take notes. She was very kind and looked over my notes and made corrections wherever she skipped steps when instructing me.

(Most people skip important steps when they tell you how to do a job and then get impatient when you get stuck because of their poor instructions.)

The job was facilitated by her sweet, patient personality so it went smoothly. She came back 2 months later after giving birth to a healthy baby girl. I learned more about importing files into Excel.

The difficulty was that there was no desk for me to occupy nearby, so they put me in a utility/computer/printer room all by myself with a lap top. There was no real desk space in there either, only some small room between two printers where I scrunched my chair and my knees up to the table. I had no one to share my faith with until several people came in and were quite congenial. God sends people to you, I discerned, even if you are placed in a closet.

I dressed up my reports that I sent out and everyone was really impressed. Ironically, they hired a black, female, retired flight attendant who didn't know much about computers to replace me as soon as my supervisor came back after giving birth. Apparently there was going to be a shift in duties. She became paranoid about everything I was doing because of the dressed up reports and efficiency I brought to my daily tasks. She tried several times to accuse me of errors that she had made. When I went back and printed out the evidence that it was her error she became visibly upset. One day she became enraged because she said I was trying to show her up. Fortunately, it was my last day and the assignment ended well. The pattern continues: Someone who can't do the work as well as I have is usually my replacement.

CARSON BROOKS - TRANSCRIPTION FROM A DICTATING MACHING - 1 DAY

KELLY PAYROLL - 2 MONTHS - PART TIME

Data entry upgrade. Had to find something with full time hours. Tough to eat on part time wages. The supervisor was nice enough to give me a pay raise, but it wasn't enough to survive on.

BANK ONE - GENERAL OFFICE - 2 MONTHS

The work was a piece of cake. Mostly simple data entry, some sorting and filing. I got the work done rapidly, so they gave me the time consuming task of printing out signature cards when I was done with the regular work. It took 4 to 5 minutes to print each card because the computer system was so slow. So I went over to a location with three unoccupied PC's and turned them all on and starting printing out a card every 30 seconds. That was fun but it really freaked out a few folks. The assignment ended but they transferred me over to another department.

A really young lady started to train me, but she spoke a form of English that was so incomprehensible that I couldn't do the job. I don't think I heard a single verb, nor a single complete word spoken. I noticed that she spoke a slower more comprehensible dialect with others. It's a young thing.

REPENT OR YOU WILL LIKEWISE PERISH!

The job at Bank One was in downtown Dallas. I took the express commuter bus home from a park in Dallas every day. Every evening there were preachers in the park yelling out their theology, telling everyone to repent or perish in hell. I hestitated to come up to any of them because they were so vociferous. They didn't invite conversation. There was no eye contact. I wondered what they thought they were doing. Everyone was going to hell, we were all filthy sinners.

One evening a man with a board strapped on front and back telling me to repent, came up to me and looked me in the eye as I waited for the bus. He told me to repent. I said, "Of what?" He told me I was going to hell.

I said, "How do you know that? You don't know me."

He got nose to nose with me and kept screaming his diatribe.

I told him that repent means to change your mind and believe in Jesus and I'd already done that when I was 17.

I felt a hand on my shoulder as the 'preacher's' breath blew on my face. I turned to see a huge Dallas City policeman. He told me to stop talking to the preacher. He explained that these preachers get a permit and do their thing in the park and that dialogue with them usually led to violence. So he was there to keep the peace. He said if I responded again I was going to jail.

I obeyed and went home a free man.

That night I did a study on the word repent showing that it meant to change your mind and believe in Jesus Christ to save you from your sins.

That next evening I attached it to the top of the nearby newspaper stand in the park. The policeman on duty was watching everyone.

It worked! The preacher got my study but it only served to enrage him further. His points were insane and illogical. I walked to the back of the area to get out of earshot of the policeman. The preacher followed me back and I stopped near his wife and son and turned to ask his wife a question. That seemed to defuse him for the moment:

"The disciples asked Jesus 'What must we do to do the works God requires for eternal life?' in John chapter 6. And do you know what Jesus' answer was???"

The pastor remained silent, permitting his wife to answer. She asked, "be baptized???"

'''No''', I said, '''Jesus said, "The work of God for eternal life is this: 'to believe in the One He has sent.'

That's it! That's all he said to them. It's simply a moment of faith alone in Christ alone.'''

There was a pause. It seemed I had taken the breath away from everyone around me. I walked back to the bus stop and the preacher followed. His nose touched mine as he yelled at the top of his lungs the same old condemnation to hell story - completely ignoring what I had said. He got so close I could feel his board touch my knees and his breath on my face. The bus came as the policeman started walking over to us.

Thereafter, I walked to another street and picked up the bus before the park. I decided I had made my point and did not need a night in jail to emphasize the message.

NATIONAL AUTO FUNDING - 2 MO

I was diligent and a 2 week assignment was s t r e t c h e d to 2 months so I could do some spreadsheet work for several of the salesmen. Then a young lady requested my assistance doing phone work. She micromanaged my every word and ran me off.

STEELCASE IS FOR THE BIRDS - 1 DAY

Three of us were sent to do warehouse work. We were a constant annoyance to our supervisor. We worked well together and too fast. We came over to him for more work. He told us to get lost in an unfriendly way. He came over and yelled, "What're you guys doin' hanging around back here. Get busy." I asked him for something else to do. He gave us something we would finish in ten minutes. This was the pattern 'til lunch time. One of our crew took a one way trip to lunch. "No point puttin' up with this," he said on the way out.

I asked the supervisor, "Where's the breakroom?" He said, "You won't be able to go to there. You gotta go somewhere else."

I went to a corner of the warehouse and found an old dusty table with three legs and an attack bird. A couple of boxes, quick dusting, a crate to sit on and I was good to go. The view overlooked the window looking into the breakroom. It was large, clean, uncrowded and had a soda machine - full of tables and chairs. A bird, swooped down at my head. It kept at it every 20 seconds, banging into the window above. I wondered why it never found it's way out the big bay doors.

Thought I'd test the edict to stay out of the break room. So I went through the breakroom door and headed to the soda machine. He was waiting for me like a gunslinger at high noon.

"I tol' ya, y'cain't come in heah!."

"I'm jus' gettin' a sodee pop, pardner", I said.

"Wahl, hurrin' it on up & git!", he said.

Soda in hand I departed the breakroom, walked through the warbird's territory and went outside. I ate my lunch on the back stairway. After lunch, I took my partner's cue and excused myself and joined the ranks of the unemployed.

SKYWAY FREIGHT - 2 DAYS

Several trucks had electronics gear jammed to the doors - all hand loaded. So it had to be unloaded by hand. One young temp kept throwing monitors in the air to me instead of handing them. If I dropped one it was my paycheck. Management solved that problem quickly.

CVC - COPYING - 2 DAYS

FIRST PLUS MORTGAGE - FILING - 2 MONTHS

There were dozens of boxes to open up and "millions" of papers to file. Sorting was an unknown commodity, everyone just filed one paper at a time. I started sorting like a good little temp. Everyone followed suit and production increased geometrically. The manager encouraged me, but the supervisor kicked the sorting piles onto the floor in a snow flurry of paper. I found some carts with compartments in them, and used them to sort. The work started to progress like we might even finish in this century. There were several on our crew who chose not to sort, and some chose not to work at all. One guy always seemed to disappear when he showed up and reappear when it was time to go home. I had some filing to do one day in the back row and found him under a pile of papers, checking his eyelids for holes. I figured the manager would discover this sooner or later, and he did. The paid nap ceased when he stumbled out the door and never came back. A woman had a better idea, she picked up a paper and brought it to the back row and stared at it all day so it looked like she was working. Her only problem was that she kept talking to the paper. She had a sad story about her son dying in jail while she read her bible and determined that reading the bible too much was the cause of the death. When she discovered I read my bible every day, she threatened to kill me. The work was approaching completion so I decided that discretion was the better part of valor, especially with the hostile tone the workplace was taking. I was beginning to enjoy firing myself.

THE ASSOCIATES - DATA ENTRY - 2 MONTHS

Last chance to make good at the Associates

Cindy was just about due for delivery. We worked well together in a tiny cramped office. I brought boxes of work in for the expectant mom so she didn't have to lift anything. She was a patient teacher. I discovered a shortcut macro that speeded up the entry process. My supervisor had me train all the others on the macro thing. Work went well with everyone. Cindy went on maternity leave and in came 'country girl'.

Country girl temp was brought in to replace Cindy. She took over everything in our little office. Things went south when I decided not to join her for lunch that first day. She had trouble getting around with her spike heels and petticoat/dresses, so she demanded I cease bringing in boxes of work to do. I could only bring in an armful of files at a time now. She insisted on playing continuous country music loud. When I turned down her radio when she wasn't working in the office, she went ballistic and complained I was touching her personal property. She was on medication for carpal tunnel syndrome in both arms. Her doctor said no keyboard, yet she took work off my desk and keyed it in, instead of doing the filing. She had periodic emotional flare ups associated with the pain in her arms because she kept on typing.

The supervisor declared me her best data entry person and that just egged Country Girl on to steal work off my desk all the more. I noticed that she refused to use the macro to speed up the work, so no matter how fast she typed I could run right past her. She called me a cheater. She complained to the supervisor about me.

The supervisor said, "Don't bring in boxes of work. Leave her personal property alone, get along with her or you will be dismissed."

My production slowed considerably because of my new office mate. The country music blared morning, noon and night. Country girl kept taking things off my desk so I never knew where I had left off when I got back from lunch.

The Temp agency was not sympathetic to my circumstances. I was offered a permanent position there. I took the one out the door.

SW BELL MOBILE - HALE BOP OR BUST - 10 DAYS

Data entry work. About the time the news hit about the Hale Bop comet going by, I started this assignment. Some guy noticed me doing my homework in the breakroom at lunch and asked what the subject was. The word bible came up in the conversation and the room became silent.

A couple of days later, a group of people in California poisoned themselves to death in the hopes of ascending up to eternal life in an imagined space ship in the tail of the comet. It made the front page. My coworker was aghast at the headlines and asked me, "How could someone convince so many people to do this?"

My answer had the word "bible" in it and "Jesus Christ" as the only Way and only through faith in Him was eternal life. I was called aside by my supervisor.

She said I was not permitted to have religious discussions. She reported what someone said I had said in the breakroom at lunch time.

I noted that general conversations were going on all the time about all kinds of subjects - some a bit crude and sexually explicit. I was summarily dismissed. The Rutherford Institute, a self-proclaimed Christian organization seriously considered my case but they declined to proceed because my next assignment was a pay raise. It's all about money.

LIVING WATERS CAN TURN MUDDY

During this time I visited the Living Stream Ministry Church on Northgate in Irving. I was thought to be ridiculous when I asked to attend the Sunday School. "Sunday School is only for little children," a member responded. "Would you still like to attend?," he said. I decided to wait for the service when he brought me into a room with little boys and girls. I asked who the pastor was. My 'body guard' told me they didn't believe in pastors or teachers. He said that was an aberration of the church, it was not biblical. I cited several passages that supported pastors and teachers. My words seemed to anger him - his face got all red, but he forced himself to remain calm because I suspected that was a part of his religiosity. He led me into a large room. I wanted to wander about but he said that at no time was I to be left by myself. There was always someone to be with me, watching and attending and responding to every move and gesture I make. The room was filled with a huge formation of chairs in concentric circles. I was led to a row in the back. People began coming in and we waited an interminably long time before something began. Someone stood up and began a deep emotional accounting of the lesson she had viewed in video tape from Watchman Nee or Witness Lee, I can't remember which. Something about the Tree of Life. She went on and on in an unconnected manner as everyone in the room seemed to emote with her. This appeared to be viewed as a deep spirituality by my personal guard. As she finished with a tirade of tears, another got up and virtually said the same thing, relating to her experience as prompted by the same video. Apparently all the instruction came from this one leader from far off in China. After a while I began to realize that this was the format of the entire 'service'. Not wanting to leave without making a statement of what God had to say about this, I stood up and quoted directly from Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding and in all your ways ackknowledge Him and He will direct your path."

I gave a quick explanation of this which was meant to focus everyone on what God had to say via a detailed study of the Bible, (and not a detailed study of someone's video), and not what people thought. Everyone thought what I had to say was wonderful which told me that no one paid attention to my words, but only responded with their emotions.

I was invited for lunch by one of the more important individuals in this congregation. I hesitated to call him a leader or pastor or teacher for fear of offending him. I sat in his library and talked with him while lunch was being prepared by his wife. He showed me his proud possession of Watchman Nee's entire set of commentaries. It comprised many volumes. He indeed was a prolific writer. I read several sections in several volumes and saw that the format did not do the Bible justice, but imposed upon God's Word this man's personal views and feelings. This was consistent to the way the people in the congregation responded earlier. I noticed that everyone parrotted one another and apparently what was taught in people's homes that previous week. So one man in China controlled the thoughts of millions around the world through these video and audio tapes.

I was visited later on that week by the leader of this congregation and we discussed bible doctrine at length. Several more times we ate meals together and dialogued about the bible. Each time the theme was presented that I was spiritually ignorant and needed to progress to a higher spiritual level where the words of the bible had another level of understanding to communicate. We discussed key passages that he maintained pictured his higher level of spirituality over mine. He tested me in many difficult passages. On each one, I remarked that his interpretation contradicted what the Bible plainly had to say and asked him how this could be that God would contradict Himself in His Word on this supposed higher plane of understanding of the Bible? One time he asked me in frustration at my answers, if I wanted to stay spiritually dull. The key point which he violated is that there was nothing to substantiate his higher level interpretation, no particular rules or pattern that one could then lock on to and get more spiritual. It was all subjective and dependant upon the feelings of the individual. It could change with the tide. So I concluded that the meaning of God's Word would no longer be dependent upon what God inspired the writers to write in accordance with the rules of language, context and logic but it would be dependent upon what one had inspired oneself to make up what it means. The words mean nothing, then, I said. He became perturbed and left and I never saw him again. His parting words were, "You've done your homework."

One of my key points to him was that the handouts on the gospel from the Living Stream contradicted one another. They all interjected some form of human doing, none reflected what Jn 3:16, the famous gospel verse, said.

ON THE BUS

Most of the sharing of my faith actually took place on the bus. Drivers called me "Preacher Man". You had a captive audience. I never preached at everyone in the bus. That wasn't a comfortable thing for me to do. Instead, I just was my old friendly self, and struck up a conversation about any old thing. Inevitably, all things lead to the gospel. It took some conversational practice, but if you thought about it, everyone interjects his or her philosophy in the conversation which gives you the green light to interject God's philosophy which begins with Calvary.

There was often a lot of hostility when you mentioned the name Jesus. But many on the bus heard the words of God like they wouldn't have heard it anywhere else. You had to prove out every point you made because there are so many points of view. So who was right had to be quickly addressed. The answer: what the bible said was right. Now you often had to defend the reliability of the bible. I had done my homework in anticipation of all of this.

One time a braided man came aboard with white robes on and announced that he was God. I asked him to if he was to tell me what Hebrews 26:15 said. He ruffled through a large bag as I asked him why he needed to do that if he was God. He said that while he was on earth he was limited in his power. So he pulled out a book that had many different religious books in parallel columns. After a minute or two, he looked up and said there wasn't any Hebrews 26:15, it didn't go that far.

I said, "If you were God, you would have known that." He got out of his seat and approached me aggressively. The bus stopped and the driver got out of his seat and positioned himself between the two of us. He told both of us to remain silent or he would have us removed. So god and I kept our peace and got off at our stops without further ado.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN - LONG TERM ASSIGNMENT COULD TURN PERMANENT

NEC

I learned a lot at NEC, but it was frustrating with so many inconsistencies and changes.

Employees called it the company of Never Ending Change. My duties rapidly expanded from simple data entry to managing the spec library. I found hundreds of specs missing in the data base index. With the training I received in writing simple routines in Data Base, I was able to reinstate them. When I started to learn DBase beyond simple commands, Denise became hesitant to teach me any more. Trial and error, code books and outside help and I was able to set up an entire DBase site to do the tasks I was assigned to do. But the more I succeeded the more distant Denise became.

Cube life there was interesting. Several of my neighbors never spoke a word to me for more than a year. We often brushed shoulders but never a kind word was offered - they never made eye contact either.

When our department was moved to another aisle the veil of silence was lifted. People are really strange. Try and get to know neighbors in your apartment complex or neighborhood: same problem.

Our new neighbors were engineers from the Audio/Visual group. I began helping them write specifications and do product drawings. One time I secured a digital camera and they took me to the factory that manufactured their new medical diagnostics systems cabinet. I took pictures of it empty, the equipment that was supposed to be placed in it and a few of the engineer in charge. I pixeled all of this together into a "finished product" with installation instructions. My first draft submitted for approval, however, had the engineer inside the cabinet. Engineers can laugh - I can prove it.

Working with pixels

Denise often asked me to do special favors. Homework for her kids, entertain her little boy when he spent the day at work. One time I put a picture of a dead uncle into a recent family reunion photo for her. I put him behind some guy sitting on a stool with his forearm resting on the man's shoulder. It got interesting reactions.

So long

The assignment ended just about the time we were to move into a new building and an engineer was brought in to take over my expanded duties. I thought he was going to do his own thing for a while. But he kept taking what I did and redoing it and putting his name on it. The rule was max 60 day temp rule. They kept me on for 2 1/2 years.

ONE METHODIST CHURCH LEADS TO ANOTHER

The Northgate United Methodist Church was just down the road. I finally visited the adult SS class and found myself in what reminded me of a college round table discussion. Everyone had an opinion. The book under discussion was not the bible but a philosophy book that included a few references to the Bible. It grossly misrepresented the Bible. My points reflected what I had studied in the Bible and many resented what I said. Everyone challenged me to stop being so narrow minded. I retorted that being narrow minded was not always bad. For example, I said that I was sure that everyone in the room was narrow minded about eating every day, and breathing and not going to hell. So being narrow minded about the truth cannot be a bad thing. Nevertheless, everyone kept on me for not permitting equal weight with everyone else's opinion. It struck me that everyone was narrow minded about my point of view though.

One lady admonished me to judge not that I would be judged. I responded that the Bible commanded one to be a good judge of many things. I asked her if she would judge someone killing a loved one in a drive by shooting as wrong. She said that was God's job. So I said, 'You mean you wouldn't even call 911 or help the police catch your loved one's murderers?' This confirmed to me that people will go to any extent to prove their philosophy right. She was so narrow minded about not being narrow minded that she had no idea that she violated her own point of view. A particularly angry individual followed me out of the class and insisted that his perception was true for him no matter what I thought. I said, "OK, suppose you believed that gravity doesn't work for you and you jumped off the top of the church building. You'd still hit the sidewalk no matter what you believed. So what is true or false does not depend upon on your believing in it."

He denied he would hit the sidewalk at all. He said he would jump off on the other side of the building where there was no sidewalk at all, as if that refuted my point. Then he ran off in a fit of anger, spewing insults as he left.

I was given a chance to prove out that my narrow point of view on how to interpret the bible was correct that next week. So I brought in a lesson that Sunday into the Pastor's office to make copies for the class. The Senior Pastor came in while I was making copies and asked me what I was copying. I told him and he immediately took offense. 'Who do you think you are,' he said. "How many doctorate degrees in theology do you have?', he asked. I didn't answer. He said he had two and asked me why I had the audacity to think that the bible was authoritative over any other book. I gave him a few points about its inerrancy, it's perfect harmony amongst all 66 books, and its perfect record of predicting the future in every detail without a single error. His face turned red as he approached me. I was just about finished making my copies and turned away from him to leave. But his hands came up around my throat as I moved toward the door. I could feel my body being shaken as his gripped tightened. I said, "I think I can make it out the door without any help.' My voice sounded like a cartoon because his grip was so tight around my voice box that I didn't have the opportunity to fully pronounce my words. He just kept tightening his grip. I kept my hands at my side because I didn't want to make this into a brawl. But I wasn't sure how long I could remain defenseless.

'Daddy!!! What are you doing to him?' came from the open door. He immediately let go of me and I left the room. His daughter came in and lectured him about this. He said he was sorry as I walked down the hallway toward the classroom. I didn't feel in the mood to go to class, so I dropped off my copies in the class and went home. The Pastor passed me in the hallway on the way out and asked me why I wasn't going to attend service that morning, as if nothing had happened. I mumbled something and left. Time to move on. The Methodist Church originated with John Wesley and a bible believing tradition. Now that tradition here was long gone and what was left was a hatred for what started it. So I moved downtown to the next Methodist Church.

IT DOESN'T PAY TO KNOW TOO MUCH BIBLE

I'd been attending SS at the Second Street United Methodist Church in Irving for a while. One day the SS teacher asked me not to participate any more because the class always waited to see what I had to say when comments were requested. He said he wanted everyone to offer their opinions as to what the bible said. He said my presence there inhibited everyone from participating. I said I always waited for anyone who wanted to respond before I spoke up. But he insisted on a gag order. It doesn't pay to know too much bible is some churches. On the road again.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN - LAST DAYS IN TEXAS

RAPP COLLINS - 1 DAY

You had to take the short ones with the longer assignments otherwise you got nothing. Taking one day or two day assignments often prevented you from being available for longer term work.

XEROX DATA ENTRY IN CONCERT - 2 MONTHS, 10 DAYS

One of my temp co-workers sang to "spiritual" music at the top of her lungs as she listened to it on her CD player - non-stop!! No amount of wax ear plugs could block out those shrill notes. She was offended when I asked her to tone it down. It wouldn't have been so bad if her singing wasn't so bad. No amount of complaining worked either. I wondered if the supervisors were deaf. She was on a spiritual journey. I couldn't concentrate on my work. So I joined in with my version of rap music, making it an ugly duet. The joint went silent. I was immediately dismissed. As I packed up my things, I said, "If you get her to stop singing, you won't hear a peep out of me." They reconsidered. Miss Spiritual worked one more day without singing and quit. She parted with a comment about me being spiritually dead. A few more days listening to her and it might have indeed become deadly.

I spoke every day to the security guard and we shared our faith with one another. I gave him one of my study bibles so he could move on in his faith. Sharing my faith was beginning to become like second nature to me now. But there were always those who took offense at anything I had to say about it, even when it wasn't directed to them. There was a lady in the office area I also shared my faith with and she parrotted the insanity of her pastor at every point I made instead of carefully listening to the words of God's Word as I quoted and explained them logically. I might have persisted with her too long for she was not responding with her own mind, and the conversation level became too emotional.

POINTING TOWARD FLORIDA MEANS DOORS HAVE TO CLOSE IN TEXAS

Over these last few years, I grew in knowledge of Bible Doctrine at Berean Memorial Church. Pastor Danish's skilled teaching and the availability of teaching tapes, and his unselfish sharing of resourses where I could advance even more were key to my rapid growth in spiritual matters. But the more I witnessed and learned how to defend the faith vs all the denominations, cults and pagan viewpoints the more people at Berean seemed to distance themselves from me. Perhaps it was because I became that person who defended the faith all the time. I am the type that doesn't turn one personality off here and then another on there. Doctrine became my first love because it was what God had to say and it was God to Whom I owed allegiance. So that's what came out of my mouth all the time - even today when I am not persuaded that the world has a better point of view.

It is interesting to note that Pastor Jim from Metroplex Chapel once condemned me on radio for leaving his church which he attributed to my being so involved with doctrine. He said, "We teach Jesus, not doctrine" If he only knew that doctrine is Jesus. The only thing reliable we have to go by today is what is written about Him and what He taught us - in the Bible. Where else are you going to learn about your Savior, but through what He said and inspired the writers of the bible to say?

As I developed my skill in communicating the doctrines of the faith, I ran into a number of 'Christians', even members at BMC that did not believe that the gospel of faith alone applied to everyone. A few did not hold to eternal security. These individuals pointed me to key passages that were difficult to interpret. God was giving me homework. I went home to study these passages in detail in accordance with the way I had been instructed. I prepared studies to answer what others had propsed to me. When I 'dialogued' with them about, I immediately became an offense and was shunned by them thereafter. This was my first experience under fire of learning to defend the faith, often right here in my own congregation.

I suspect that most Bereans are afraid to witness openly and all the time. I perhaps exemplified taking a risk that they weren't willing to take. Their only recourse was to condemn me for my actions or be convicted that they weren't doing enough. On the other hand, Dr. Danish, Charlie Newman, Leon Adkins and many others were always encouraging me. Berean Memorial Church provided me with the tools to become the best evangelist and defender of the faith I could become. So I remained there listening to tapes and sermons and doing studies on my own for years until it was time to go.

One time Leon Adkins invited me to teach a class on Mt 22 at Charlie Newman's suggestion [the outer darkness passage]:

Complete disaster at first. I prepared notes that were 80+ pages long so that people could see that I had verified every point and not be so hostile. But the class was hostile to me from the beginning. Some questioned me on personal matters like my qualifications to even teach the class. They didn't even allow me to get started before conflict began. I couldn't figure out why the class wouldn't give me a chance, even to this day. I'd never seen these people act this way- so openly hostile. I think Leon and others were hoping they could start a class in apologetics and I could be one of the teachers.

Most of the time I spent answering emotional outbursts and hot tempered attitudes. One person came up and gave me a piece of her mind and threw the notes down on the desk. She said she didn't care what I had to say, when she died she would experience nothing but bliss in heaven. There would be no consequences for her being unfaithful on earth. The bible clearly says differently.

During the second session I continued to be opposed by even the most knowledgeable in the congregation. They kept jumping ahead in preemptive strikes or bringing up old points that were already answered. Such was the danger of providing detailed notes for everyone to read as I proceeded with my instruction.

I persisted and proved out my points, one by one when the class let me continue. Most were finally convinced that what I was teaching was correct. It took a few phone calls after class in order to unruffle some feathers. One on one, I explained to some of them what they wouldn't allow me to fully explain in the class. So most came over to what I had so arduously studied and concluded for the lesson at the very end of the second session. Most later came up to me and apologized, some would never speak to me again.

Two weeks were hardly enough to get through 80+ pages. I suspect that Leon cut the class short because he did not want to create so much controversy. The class began to settle down and take instruction from me at the end. After several more sessions I think I we could have started something good at Berean. My teaching style is purposely highly challenging because I like to ask a lot of questions, not just lecture. That way I can pull the lesson out of the class and the learning curve is immensely improved. No one sleeps in my class. That was the risk I took and it backfired at first, but because I had done my homework, I turned the class around from total hostility and hatred of me to one of respect albeit dislike of me. At this point I wasn't interested in earning their affection, but certainly wanted their respect enough to at least give me a fair hearing and let me prove out my points. But I was never given another chance to teach, much less to finish the study on this all important doctrine of eternal rewards for faithful Christian service.

Ironically, Dr. Danish had come to the same conclusions I had in the class. There was a tape on it which I mentioned to the class but it was discounted. Coming from me seemed to be too much for some to bear, even though the Pastor and I were in 100% agreement on the subject.

That was a benchmark event in my life at BMC. I don't know if Dr. D ever got wind of the out of control class I tried to teach. He often spoke of my evangelism efforts from the pulpit in a very encouraging way. But no one opened up a friendship with me to become partners with me in defense of the faith in Texas.

A number of members of Berean openly criticized me for contending for the doctrines of the faith, so it seemed that that was the general pattern of thinking in the congregation, in spite of what Dr. Danish taught. The Sunday after one of those times I was openly criticized, Dr. Danish preached on that very subject and supported everything I said. I received a gracious apology, but thereafter there was distance between us, which saddened me.

All this time, I had been honing my skills of sharing and defending the doctrines of the bible. Sometimes with Mormans, sometimes with JW's, sometimes Church of Christers and even with members of Watchman Nee's church, the Living Stream Ministry - originated in mainland China, and many pagans - even a few disoriented Christians; and of course those from denominations steeped in legalism and Lordship Salvation - on the bus, off the bus, at work, in the store, wherever and whenever I could.

No longer could I attend BMC Sunday School because my participation led to so much hostility. The teachers were especially hostile and cut me off in mid sentence or ignored me in class when I raised my hand to participate. Charlie Newman told me several times that the SS teaching was very shallow and mostly read out of a weak commentary. He wanted me to attend to provide more depth. I would occasionally attend but the same old negative reaction would rear it's ugly head every time I participated. The new teacher and his family became openly hostile to me whenever I tried to dialogue with them. I used to email every one about this subject or that from the Bible that I was studying in order to receive input. The teacher's son told me to stop doing that - they only wanted to hear from Dr. Danish about Bible doctrine. Others in the congregation told me to stop emailing them too - in an unfriendly way, thus closing the door on fellowship with many in the congregation completely. I stopped going to Sunday School and Training Union completely. I was uncomfortable sitting in the congregation with so many hostile people around me. I attended Dr. D's sermons religiously, but sat by myself in the balcony to avoid contact with those who were offended by my existence. Perhaps it was better. At least they would not be hindered in absorbing what Dr. Danish taught. It was so ironic, because Dr. D and others were always so supportive of my studies and evanglism.

It's interesting that when I first started going there everyone made me feel like a second class Christian because of how little bible doctrine I knew. Everyone was telling me stuff that was in the bible and pointing to the tape room to study up before I spoke up. So I took their wise advice. But the more knowledgeable I became, the more standoffish many in that congregation became toward me. I also suspect that single men are naturally isolated anyway, plus my aggressive NY style personality had it effects in a Texas Church and in Texas in general.

But by and large, God was pushing me out the door to be a witness to the world - certainly not to participate with anything that the congregation had to do - which was for others God had so appointed. That was not what God had in store for me. Every time I made an attempt to participate I got the rude, cold shoulder. I longed for fellowship and even desired to help out at the summer camps, etc. But from the very beginning I was always left out in left field. John Danish Jr often approached me to help out at summer camp with the swimming lessons but I didn't dare go there and risk two weeks of hell on earth.

So much of my witnessing occurred in the workplace, on the bus, in stores and in various churches that I visited in the area instead of going to Berean SS. Interesting that the bible says what others meant for evil, God turns into good. Most of the time the visits were short lived - but I always got the gospel message out and even some other doctrines aired out. The rejection was high and often abusive. But it was my job. Spiritual combat is not supposed to be a tea party.

JIMMIE SHANKS

In one of my encounters on the bus, I met Jimmie Shanks. We dialogued and he quickly changed from challenging statements to penetrating questions to the questions a child might pose to his mother about so many things. Every answer amazed him. His eyes lit up as things began to make sense to him.

"The bible isn't a mass of confusion," I said, "If you approach it logically - in the order it was written". After all, I said, it is a book - written material. Most already have the reading skills to understand what it is saying. The trouble is, most pastors and churches don't teach it like this. They make it out to be a mystical book that only they have the answers to. Their appeal is emotional and for funds. Rarely is it properly instructive.

If you read each book in the order it was written in, following normal rules of language, context and logic, you won't find it all that difficult. You have to be honest and take the time to do this. Questions will come up and it's a good idea, I told him, to find someone you trust to dialogue with you, and perhaps a church that teaches it right. Sad to say, there are very few out there who can and are willing to do this.

I was able to impart Jimmie with large amounts of true bible doctrine over the next few years. A major hindrance in maturing in the faith, however, was his addiction to cocaine and times in prison. These had deleterious effect on his progress - the cocaine took its toll on his memory but he took profuse notes and read and reread studies I prepared for him. He plodded through his relapses and incarcerations. I sent him innumerable tapes and studies and spent hours on the phone with him, wherever he was - in constant review and new instruction. I learned patience.

Finally, he ended up in a halfway house in Treasure Island, Florida, near St. Petersburg. His new living conditions sounded like a vacation brochure - across the street from the Gulf. He was so enthusiastic and I was so glad he was on track. He started an autodetail business and was witnessing every day. At his halfway house he was teaching everyone bible doctrine.

So Jimmie was my point man. Doors at Berean had already been slammed shut. Texas offered dwindling opportunities to witness or teach. I had visited most congregations within my reach. There were 'unlimited' opportunities by comparison in the St. Petersburg area. The beaches weren't too bad either, Jimmie said.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

LET'S GO TO FLORIDA

So I packed up 12 boxes of essentials [clothes, PC, Theological Books, toothbrush] and sent them UPS to Florida. I put myself on a $39 Greyhound special that dribbled its way through the South to St. Petersburg.

I spent hours trying different sleeping positions that would relieve the agony of cramped legs and back. I stretched my legs across the aisle onto an empty seat out of desperation and claustrophobia. My backside would slam onto the floor every time I dozed off. At the end of the trip, the back of the bus emptied out and I was able to get some relief by stretching out on the last row. I discovered I really needed my sleep. Never again. Next time, I'll fly or walk.

GREATER GRACE CHURCH

Jimmie had joined the Greater Grace Church in St. Petersburg and made arrangements to have my belongings sent to one of their half-way houses on 62nd Avenue where I could stay for a while. Daniel met me at the bus stop and took me there. His welcome was warm until we started to talk theology. He was testing me out. He didn't like my focus on teaching the bible in the order that it was written. I said that the advantage to instruction verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book was that you didn't have to depend upon someone else to do your thinking for you. He favored emotional motivation and topicical teaching. I observed to myself that that kept the teacher in control of the student, which seemed to be an issue with him.

Daniel, it turned out was house mother of my residence. When I arrived I was greeted by a woman at the door who was also house mother. Trouble in paradise had already begun. She brought me over to a small storage room in the front of the tiny house. It was completely filled with junk and totally filthy. This room was my living quarters - for $75/week - for I don't know how long. It was hot and stuffy and had a pungent moldy oder. It took all day to clear out the room. House mother #2 did not enable me to help much. She threw out almost everything and jabbered nervously as I made repeated attempts to help her. I stacked my boxes everywhere and had to operate out of my suitcase with so little space to move around in this closet. The furniture was fragile and the day bed only supported half my body. The smell of dust and mold was something I never got used to. From the first day on, I had serious congestion until the day I moved out.

House mom #2 said she had some kind of mental disorder and was supposed to be on medication. She was largely a night person because she said she had difficulty dealing with people. She often had fits of temper and irrationality which took you by surprise. She hid the few dishes that I took out to use, insisting I use what she wanted me to use. She was constantly hiding my dishes and food so I couldn't find anything. I always had to ask her permission to use anything that wasn't mine, sometimes even what was mine. I had to fight for shelf space in the kitchen to store the food I ate. I wasn't allowed to use the dishwasher - that was her domain, nor the phone without special permission. My few dishes were never washed on time by her when it came time for my meals so I ignored her edicts about the dishwasher and ran it washer myself in order to get clean dishes to eat my meals in.

Daniel, house mom #1, threatened to kick me out if I used the dishwasher one more time.

There were several others living there also, Robert and a young lady who was recovering from some kind of emotional trauma and a young man who lived out back in the converted tool shed. He was a Greater Grace proselyte, aspiring to Greater Grace Bible College. He kept bringing up what he was being indoctrinated with - similar to Daniel, and habitually reared up like an angry stallion if he sniffed doctrine coming from my lips in response. Daniel advised me that unless you were an official GG ordained pastor you couldn't instruct anyone in bible doctrine.

Robert was a Jehovah Witness/hybrid fanatic that came from a physically abusive family. He would challenge me to theological debates all the time and end up screaming at me violently when I quietly tried to present my case from Scripture. He was sure I was going to hell because I believed as the bible said that you are saved by grace through faith in Jesus and that alone - not by doing any works. No matter how many times I presented bible passages to Robert that supported my points, he'd end up in irrational fits of anger and condemned me to hell with a string of profanity that would embarrass a sailor. Then several hours later he'd come up and apologize for his behavior. I wondered if he applied his own theology to himself. Nevertheless, we bonded rapidly when I took him to one of my swimming workouts at the Walter Fuller Pool. He was so impressed with the number of laps I swam and the speed that I became an instant hero. Sad he had no heros in his life, only abuse, mental and physical. So anyone who paid a little warm attention with this young man would receive a similar response in return. But hecould not accept the idea that he could go to heaven as a result of a free gift from God without having to do anything to earn it, just trust in His Son to make that free provision for him. Sad to say he seemed to be considering what I was showing him a bit more every day, but my stay in this house would be cut short.

House mom #2 was likewise convinced I would end up in hell because of my theological views. She was very charismatic and convinced she had special gifts from God that no one else had. Her idea of the gospel was way off: If you were a sinner you weren't saved. So you had to stop sinning if you wanted to go to heave. Anytime you sinned you proved you were going to hell. Whenever she approached me with her point of view, my responses from the bible would enrage her also. Her self-appointed special holiness would quickly turn to enraged outbursts of unbelievable profanity. She and Robert seemed to come from the same 'Seminary'.

Ironically, her husband believed just like I did; but he would sit quietly by and not participate in any discussions. I think her mental illness had a lot to do with it. He and his wife ran the street ministry for the Greater Grace Church. I was always curious as to how Daniel and this husband and wife team fit into the church organization. It advertised saved by grace through faith alone but no one I had met except Sr. Pastor Kelley actually clearly professed and defended this.

The only one in the house who seemed reflect some sanity was the young lady across from me in the house, who quietly listened to what I had to say, but would not respond very much. She was an emotionally wounded bird of paradise and needed to be treated gently but firmly with the truth before I moved on out of her life.

Daniel finally decided in anger to give me 30 days to leave because I was disturbing everyone in the house with my testimony from the Bible. It was ironic but the pastor of Greater Grace always sided with me when Daniel would bring up my theology and my behavior to him. Daniel often attacked me personally and then go to Pastor for confirmation of his actions. Then he'd have to come back to me to apologize for being wrong when Pastor Kelley would support my views from the bible. Nevertheless, I got my walking papers and in 30 days I was gone - moved out to Colonial Oaks Apartments in Kenneth City where I still reside today - 'til another Daniel comes along and evicts me again.

COLONIAL OAKS APARTMENTS

I moved into these apartments using the Victory Church Van. So I was immediately pegged as a dangerous fanatic, especially in light of a recent jail escape of some 'religious' inmates who held bible studies in order to steal from people. So complaints have already been filed here that some suspect, being a single white middle aged man, that I may be a serial rapist, child molester or even murderer escaped from the clutches of the law from some distant state. The Apt manager and I have a laugh about this once a month.

One time I was getting my mail at the same time as another man. He kept looking at me through the corner of his eye. We both finished at the same time and walked toward the stairway. He was several steps ahead and stopped in the middle of the fourth stair and put his back up against the wall and looked at me with bugged out eyes. He backed slowly down the stairs toward me, so I backed down the stairs also to give him room. I backed down the same, buggy eyed way, he did - kind of a message to lighten up. He got frightened at my comedy and ran back up the stairs saying some kind of profanity in his native language. I think he was from somewhere in eastern Europe.

Everytime I take a dip in the Apt pool, there is ususally a hush around the deck when I arrive, sometimes people even leave the pool.

So my days are always numbered where ever I go, except in heaven.

I attended Greater Grace several times and found the services out of control - emotionally bent - not dependent enough on what the bible said. Pastor Kelley's sermons are informative but not consistently verse by verse. So even a trained theologian would find them hard to follow week by week. There were all kinds of pastors running around there and they all confided in me that I would have to start bible training all over again in their school. They admonished me not to speak of doctrinal matters until I was declared a pastor at Greater Grace. I noticed that none of the pastors had a handle on the basic doctrines of the faith except for Sr. Pastor Kelley. Their theology ran every gamut and wind of doctrine outside of the bible.

Furthermore, Daniel volunteered that Pastor Stevens, his mentor and founder of the mother church in Baltimore declared that he had miraculously delivered a lengthy sermon in an unknown foreign language in a trip in Scandanavia. Pastor Stevens evidently used this event to authenticate himself and his ministry as a godly one. Thereupon Daniel had also experienced frequent sessions of speaking in tongues. Daniel kept bringing this up in order to emphasize how God was working in his life all the time. He admitted that the bible taught otherwise but overrided that information with his personal experiences. I asked him how he felt his personal experiences could supersede what God had said in the bible. He said he couldn't argue with what had happened to him so he wasn't going to deny the validity of his speaking in tongues. He said he had to ignore what the bible said in the light of what happened to him and Pastor Stevens.

I said, "I am not denying that you and Pastor Stevens had some experiences, but it is your interpretation of what happened which is the issue. There are several explanations that line up with the bible that you have not considered."

When he asked what they were, I said first of all if you are going to override revelation in the bible then your personal experiences must be viewed as revelation directly from God superior to the bible itself. So there can be no error or inconsistency in this.

I said that because Pastor Stevens was Daniel's mentor perhaps Daniel was influenced to have a similar experience. I also suggested that perhaps Daniel, like so many others I knew, wanted to have an experience directly with God like tongues that he was reading this into his experience as a legitimate tongues expression. And last but not least, there was the possibility that Daniel was being swayed by the devil, who often disguises himself as an angel of light.

He became angry and walked away.

Later on I did some further research into the Greater Grace Church in Baltimore and concluded that it was not the church for me to attend. So I began going next door to Victory Baptist Church.

My last few weeks in the half-way house were miserable. The days got cold in the winter months. There was no heat in the room except for a dangerous space heater that I had to plug into the dining room with an extension cord that ran under my door. One night, my pillow fell off the bed near the heater. I smelled burning foam and caught it just in time before it burst into flames. The mold in the room caused me to have chronic congestion - so the last few nights I moved everywhere with my blanket and pillow to find a place I could sleep.

TIME TO MOVE ON AND MOVE OUT

I had been attending the next door Victory Baptist church after my few experiences at Greater Grace. They took a liking to me and gave me a van to use so long as I was at their beck and call to taxi Seniors to and fro. It was a good arrangement until they started calling me later in the evening when I needed to be resting. I used the van the last few weeks to sleep in until my new apartment was ready to move into. I never had to sleep in a vehicle before and my tall frame made it very uncomfortable.

MORE TROUBLE IN PARADISE

My health started to decline because of the mold and the stress of sleeping in the van. So did my career with Jimmie in his detail business. The more time I spent with Jimmie the more flare ups and irrational moments he displayed. He did not provide a place for me to sit when I worked with him washing and detailing cars. He demanded I get my own chair and sit over in the garbage area away from him, where the dumpsters and flies were located. His treatment of me became more and more abusive. He did not want me to take a lunch hour for fear of losing business. So I had to eat on the run all the time, next to the dumpster and flies. Everytime I started washing one car he nitpicked and badgered me on how I did it and then had me start another before I finished the first one. When he put a gag order on me for talking to others about Jesus, it was time to walk.

The Service Station that he worked for closed him down after that. They told him that I was the best man he ever had working for him and told him if I left they would close him down.

Shortly thereafter he went back on cocaine and we broke fellowship. I haven't heard anything from him since. I pray he is all right but we got too close. Sometimes distance is a blessing. I learned something from this: you must teach what you can and then let the individual have adequate space to grow.

So once again it was time to move job, church, friends and home. All at the same time. Boy, God sure keeps me mobile!

I registered with a few temporary employment agencies and used the Church van to move into my new apartment. I secured a temporary assignment at Eckerd and focused on my new church relationships at Victory Baptist Church.

DEFEATED AT VICTORY BAPTIST CHURCH

Victory Baptist was like going from the frying pan into the fire. Pastor White and I had many discussions before he accepted me into his congregation. He verified my theology and teaching gift and water baptism and testified to the congregation one Sunday that I was an official member of the congregation. He agreed to provide a place and time for me to teach bible doctrine but thereupon blocked me at every step from teaching a single class.

He made no announcements and provided no real space to hold the class. Nor did he include any brochures about the class in the hundreds that we handed out in the neighborhood.

He had me busy doing everything else but what I was trained for. Then came the time came when the Senior SS teacher had to go out of town. So I was given the class to teach suddenly that morning without warning. I taught them the gospel from John chapter 3 and got all kinds of objections to faith alone through grace alone. I answered each one patiently and noticed that the room had become polarized. One group kept amening me, the other raised loud objections. One lady said to me afterward as I left, "If I knew as much bible as you do, I’d be able to refute everything you say!!"

I said, "Have you ever considered the possibility that you might agree with me?"

"Never," she said, "You don’t belong here."

And she was right, I didn’t.

Shortly thereafter the Seniors Pastor and founder told me to turn in my van keys and the KJV bible they forced me to teach out of and get out. Pastor White said the only way I could be allowed back in the congregation would be to stand up before it an apologize for what I had done. I contacted Pastor Danish and he said that was not biblical to apologize like that, especially for telling the truth of the gospel and defending it. Pastor White refused to confer with Pastor Danish, So I’m on the road again in search of fellowship.

I’ve been like a local city bus ever since - going here and there, whereever I am led to testify to Christ and Him crucified and faith alone in Him alone will get you an eternity in heaven. No one has grabbed me around the throat as yet.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN - ECKERD

Clerkwork

Donna was a good trainer. Font sizes were microscopic, but I managed through repetition and Donna's patience. I was on my own in Corporate America's basement. It was me and fourteen women in Cash and Sales. Lucy sat to my right ready to pounce on any attempt to be sociable, she reminded me of a Rottweiler. We sat in a cramped carrel set-up. My right elbow blocked Lucy's desk drawer. Deodorant was a good thing. Cathy sat behind me critiquing my every move. And Anita and Jill were just over the hill on the other side of my partition wall waiting in the bushes to pounce on me as the mood struck them. There was the distinct smell of territorial war in the air. The only friend in the place was to my left, the aisle on my left.

Trap # one:

Don't hit [ENTER] 'til you get to the bottom of the screen.

When it came time to print out the "Exception Report", if you hit [ENTER] instead of [TAB] before you got to the bottom of the screen you printed out 50,000 pages and shut down the main frame.

Why they didn't fix this problem is a mystery. There were so many things to remember. It was inevitable! I was one millisecond too late one day.

Anita sent me to the Main Frame room on the second floor and they did damage control. 40 minutes downtime. I devised the habit of taking my right hand off the keyboard when that critical screen came up.

We don't need to change the files

That's what coordinator and chief adversary Jill said. But I had 48" of filing to do every week, starting on Wednesday!!! They laid off the two women that did the job when Gisela saw that I was doing my job so well. 15 yards for piling on!! Oh, he's the temp, no problem.

So here I am home alone. If you wanted to define the word chaos, go into those files. Not a single tab was readily visible. Labels were illegible scrawl in fine point. The drawers were jambed to the hilt. Everyone complained - especially from other departments. They couldn't find anything. When they did it was too late - filing always dragged behind the time the information was needed.

I borrowed from here and there, mainly idle equipment from departments that were moved to Utah. I gathered a supply of pendaflex, file folders, label holders and file cabinets. I keyed in labels on my PC and began at the beginning. Jill said resistance was futile - I was wasting my time. And she warned me that I better not be doing this at the expense of something else. I was used to getting no help and attacked from the Borg.

I utilized the magic of "down time" to do my new filing thing instead of dragging things out. One drawer at a time, staggering the labels on pendaflex folders. Papers in the folders stood straight up and neat. You could see labels for "miles". I got instant positive feedback.

Rumors spread that there was someone who could get something done around here. This was passed on to Scott, my new manager, who was just hired to relieve Gisela from her overload. He was my buddy at first. He directed me to recommend new files to replace the beat up, mismatched ones we were using. They arrived - five brand new, 5 drawer, lateral files in matching tan color. Maintenance threatened to become my instant enemy unless I set them up myself and moved out the old ones to who knows where. They were miffed at having to unload these monsters and bring them to Sales and Cash. Remember, I'm Bob the Temp, new guy on the block. What do I know? They were heavy and bulky. They left me alone to the task. I did my usual foraging and came up with a hand truck and some tools. At least Ron in maintenance was willing to loan me some tools to do his work for him. A brilliant idea came to me too. Use the best of the old files to help other people out, especially Lucy who hated every breath I took. Her coupon files were a mess and Gisela asked me if I could do something about them. When I did she was flabbergasted because she had been so mean spirited to me from day one. She backed off the mean stuff, even gave me a ride to Tampa.

All the files transformed into something beautiful. 'Ecstasy' was once more restored to Eckerd. I made some instant friends in other departments. I saved them a lot of time researching by simply making files available promptly. I also triggered some adversaries into active pursuit. You wonder what makes people so mean spirited and bitter.

Acting coordinator to revamp the receipts warehouse

Scott proposed I tackle the receipts warehouse. He offered me the position of Acting Coordinator, no pay raise, (there we go again), or else the street. Someone permanent had applied for my position so I was bumped. So it was, take his offer or the highway. I was forced to train my replacement first. Then I was told to become popular with everyone that I was to deal with in the new position. It was a temporary one but if I performed a miracle in revamping the operation, I would be guaranteed the position full time as coordinator.

The operation was thirteen weeks behind when turnaround was supposed to be 72 hours.

The warehouse was a mess. Boxes were stacked on on top of the other, some rows had rows in back you couldn't see. Contents were marked in pencil on a brown box. I thought to myself, 'How could anyone let this get so bad?' But every step, every suggestion I took met with junk yard dog opposition. So I just went ahead with the changes without getting a popular vote.

New Cash & Sales layout 999

Energy dept billing999

WAGON WHEEL FLEA MARKET

CHAPTER NINETEEN

MSC SPECIALTY

I set up filing systems, did special internet research for the sales manager, and data entry until they hired someone who could speak Spanish. They said it was a pity I didn't speak Spanish because my office skills were so needed.

There's always something your have too little or too much of.

DANKA

I did data entry work and instituted the use of Microsoft Access data base. My assignment was extended several times and expanded to do special projects. I expanded the use of Excel and introduced everyone to Microsoft Access to speed up the work and made it easier. It looked like I would be extended indefinitely with the expanded duties and extensions.

The manager's sister had dropped out of college for a while so I was appointed trained her so I could be unemployed. She knew nothing about Access.

I had some time to share my faith with Holly. At first she was open, but most believers have a limit as to how much detail they want know about Jesus their Savior.

HSN

Data entry in an internet application. The application was brand new and had bugs. I worked with the software tech and improvements were made to make the data entry user friendly. I set up a mobile filing system.

The problem came when I was also asked to help out doing phone work - 50 to 60 calls a day. My supervisor was ecstatic with my capacity to do two jobs. One individual, however, complained that my voice carried. So I was ordered to whisper. A new Temp was brought into to train when the activity multiplied. He did everything the opposite of the way I instructed him and went over my head to the software tech to change it. He also would not do the filing because he felt it was too difficult to work out of corrugated file boxes. Add this all up and I'm out the door.

MIDLANTIC - NO PHONE, NO CHAIR, NO DESK

I was brought into a large room cluttered with boxes and huge stacks of papers all over the floor. There were two desks, one at each end and a table and chair in the middle near the shelving on the left.

"Put those papers in order," one supervisor said.

There was no chair or table for me to sit where she was pointing.

"Where shall I sit," I asked.

"On the floor," she said. Her tone included a sarcastic, "duh, where else."

Both women sat comfortably at their desks as I began my work.

I thought of my bad back and looked over to the empty table and chair by the shelving.

"Can I use the table over there?"

"No," she said, "people come in all the time to get files and may need to sit down there. You just have to sit on the floor, like everyone else"

I noticed that the only one sitting on the floor was me.

I worked on the floor for about an hour 'til my back couldn't stand it anymore. I noticed another chair behind a corner that I didn't see before.

"Can I use that chair," I said.

'Well, if you have to, but everyone is supposed to sit on the floor," she said.

So I brought the chair over to where I was working.

It was really tough to sort, bending way over to the floor.

One more thing, I needed.

I got up and took a few empty boxes off a large stack sitting against the far wall. I made a circle around me.

"You can't use those, we'll need them later on," one said.

"Do you need them right now?" I asked.

"No, but you can't use them," she answered.

I ignored her and began to sort on the boxes. My back instantly relaxed.

"See it works much better this way, and I'll have your boxes back on the stack in no time."

One more word out of them, and I was ready to walk.

They went back to their desks and sat down.

A very attractive, well dressed young woman walked in and announced that she worked for my temp agency. She apologized for being late.

One of the supervisors pointed to the table.

"You can sit over there," she said.

I finished sorting the piles where I was working and I relocated near the table.

Ramita asked if we could work together as a team. So the work was getting done much faster. I enjoyed working with her, she was originally from India studying for a degree in computer management - quite intelligent.

One supervisor came over and asked us not to talk to one another while we were working. Most of our conversation had to do with coordinating the sorting - and it was speeded up dramatically because of our teamwork.

Ramita looked her straight in the eye.

"Well, you'll have to get used to it," she said, "we are working together to get the job done faster."

"Well, hurry it up," she said and walked back to her desk.

Ramita said, "I'm out of here after today. These people are crazy"

At lunch time, I ate in the tiny break room. Several people from the calling area kept coming in to see who I was, but said nothing.

I overheard, "I don' know. Who is he?"

"Wahl, he betta not be from my group"

As I walked back to work through the office after lunch, one of the managers in the calling area screamed,

"Hey, you! What're ya doin' outta your seat.... Hey, I'm talkin' to you!!!"

I pointed to where I was going and went through the door.

I had my bag with me, so if he followed me, I'd make like a running back and turn right back into him and out the front door.

There was no point in talking to this man. He had an attitude that words wouldn't change. The whole place was like that.

There were constant shouting matches going on all the time - some nearly got physical.

It went on like this for the next two days as I worked at the table with Ramita's replacement, a bright young law student. At the end of the day we finished the work and left happily.

The temp agency called me about going back to do some more work, promising I would be able to have my own chair and table and be left alone. I declined.

INCOME4 SURVEYS - IN BED WITH A DOG AND BIRD

With no work for several weeks after MidLantic I decided to take this assignment.

I got off the bus and walked into a residential area looking for #2115.

It was a small house!!

I was about to turn around except for the sake of needing a job. The house was very nice inside, expensive everything crowded every inch. Walking space was very tight. I was led into a bedroom where I was to work.

A cut little, horny, male, fluffy white dog humped my leg as I sat down at a tiny, expensive, antique, irregular shaped, pedastal table. The antique chair barely fit me and wobbled as I sat down. It was very uncomfortable, my left elbow kept hitting the bed.

The PC dwarfed the table and wobbled with every key I hit. And the shrill "gwaak, eeeee, scrakkk" of the grey parrot, every twenty seconds, in the adjacent bedroom kept my heart jumping out of my throat.

But what was most disturbing was I was aiding and abetting a criminal conning people on the internet via an illegal mail spam operation. I didn't discover this until they shut him down the next day. So I finished the work and left, my left shoe worn out from pushing the dog off my leg, and my ear itching from the wax ear plugs I kept in my ear to avoid a heart attack from the screeching parrot.

The man decided he wouldn't pay me for the work because his operation was shut down. But the Temp Agency did pay me this time.

PROVUE

I had to use my own beach chair the first day. No chair, no desk no phone was set aside for me to use!

Temp man for sale or rent, jobs to let low percent

No chair, no desk, no phone, I'm back here all alone.

Ah, but 8 hours of jumpin' up, gets a mean ol' argument

I'm a man of means by no means, king of the temps.

I could use a saleman's desk two days a week to answer the phone. It was set right under a picture window peering into the owner's office. I could see every move he made from the side. No curtains.

The other three days I had no place to sit. I used a small shipping cabinet with a slide out shelf, 6 feet from the wall mounted phone in the warehouse - when it wasn't occupied. Other times I just wandered around looking for a place to plant myself. I finally borrowed one of the side chairs in the front entrance. No one really bothered to provide anything for me to work with. I was situated all by myself all day in the warehouse in solitary confinement. Everyone else had a desk, chair and phone in the office area.

I had to answer the phone on the first ring. That was tough, seated in a chair 6 feet away with the phone on the wall. Greg liked to race me to it from his desk to keep me on my toes. When he beat me, he let me know about it. It didn't help my back any to keep jerking out of my chair to catch the phone before the second ring.

Customers were argumentative about telling me who they were. Greg lectured me on not getting me their names and purpose for calling. I noticed that no one else asked who was calling. They just said, "Greg, call on line 2". I had to give full name and reason for calling. Many callers became incensed because I didn't recognize their voice - even the owner's wife on her first call! She often insisted I interrupt Tom's phone calls to patch her in - on trivial matters. He did not like me doing that. This was going down hill fast. Everytime I answered the phone, it created a problem. Once again I was being set up.

The warranty work was a piece of cake so the owner Tom made sure I was kept busy with gorilla work. I didn't mind doing the accounting spread sheet or organizing the brochure display; but I did injure my back carrying up heavy boxes over the mezzanine railing. Dangerous to say the least, climbing over on the railing overhead with 50 lbs of paper. I drew the line on gorilla work after this and they took a dim view of my not helping out unloading delivery trucks and doing extensive lifting in the warehouse. Everyday I brought ice and put on my back to relieve the constant pain. There was no empathy.

I ended up terminated and on workman's comp.

NOAA FISHERIES -

It's official, I have now worked for the government. I've heard the expression, "Good enuf for gubment work". Now I know what that means.

Kevin and I were brought in to key data in a new Oracle data base designed in Washington to replace the antiquated R Base. Big problem here: the ninth law of the universe: government workers do not like change.

We keyed data in for months and then the program crashed. Programmers as a rule do not interface well with people, here especially. Oracle was a bust because no one bothered to ask those who were going to use the program what they needed. We were redirected to work phones and help with the fishing permit work. When I got in the main loop amongst warring personalities my days were numbered. Add in a little harrassment from Cheryl and bitterness when I turned her down and you find yourself on the road again.

I had my opportunites to share my faith there, but it was Satan's domain all the way. The hostility toward anything spiritual was overwhelming. There were so many hurting people with closed minds to the One Who could help them.

CHAPTER TWENTY - REFLECTIONS - LIFE ON EARTH IS A TEMPORARY ASSIGNMENT

After all is said and done, what is my purpose here? Not to be CEO, evidently. Bobby was right about my naivete. The street philosopher was right, "People are people, water seeks its own level."

There is no grand purpose to Temp life but to go on to the next assignment and act like it's your first.

"When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun." [I got this out of the bible]

Yet there were times when I shared my faith on the bus or even at work and some listened and valued it, most turned their minds away. Where else can you meet people every day but where they go to work and play? Perhaps that's my order of the day...

Maybe see you on the next assignment.... got work?

FINAL THEME SONG

Temp man to share his faith, on the job and every place:

Faith in Christ alone, gets one an eternal home.

Ah, but 8 hours of punchin' keys, buys some time to talk of God's peace,

I’m a man of means by God's means, one of His own.

Add:

Trophy Club

Metroplex Chapel - marching around the church

Ho Jo's in Duncanville - a new wife and slain/punched in the spirit

Billy Graham in Anaheim and Back to Texas

Wagon Wheel booth

Acting Coordinator at Eckerd

Energy Dept porno

Maria's Restaurant/ Clown shoes make a debut

Lewis & I talk bible at Sky Chefs