Way back in the very early 80s when the subway fare was 60-cents and you could rent a nice one-bedroom in Manhattan for well-under $1000/month, I got a job as a copywriter at the in-house ad agency housed on the 11th floor of Bloomingdale's department store at 1000 Third Avenue at 60th Street.
These were the glory days of Bloomingdale's. The retail impresario Marvin Traub was in charge and he hired John Jay as creative director. John was my boss before he went onto big things at Wieden & Kennedy in Portland.
Bloomingdale's was a great training ground for a young person in the business. I literally had to write dozens of ads a week. There was no time to be precious or a dilettante. You had to come in, sit down, and do your job.
The guy who made the advertising group run was an odd, slightly autistic older man named Sol Liebowitz. His official title was Traffic Manager. Unofficially, he ran the place.
Bloomingdale's in those days might have run 20 ads a day in 15 different papers in 12 different sizes. Sol made sure the right ad got to the right paper right on time. In those days of course, they had to be hand-delivered or flown to the papers. There was no electronic delivery.
Every successful business, or organization for that matter, has someone like a Sol Liebowitz. You know, the kind of person that without whom the place would fall apart.
It's a little indescribable what they do. Mostly because they do whatever needs to be done.
Often they're quiet people, or like Sol, slightly autistic, or misaligned or just plain odd. They're almost always on the edge of the place and most often they're ignored. No one in management can quite understand how they do what they do but so long as they do it, they're pretty much left alone.
The funny thing about people like Sol is that as much as they are vital, they are usually taken for granted. They do their difficult jobs without a sneeze. No one seems to notice that they're often the first one in the agency, and the last one to leave and they seldom take a day off.
After two-years at Bloomingdale's, I finally got hired as a copywriter at an agency called Lowe. I remember I took a $1000 pay cut to go there. But agency life is what I wanted, and I deemed the cut worth it.
I kept up with people for a while, and would even check in with Sol, who was good to me. But in a year's time, or two, the tectonic plates of work relationships had shifted. You are further away from some people, closer to others.
I don't know what happened to Sol. It was a long time ago and there were no social networks, and he just fell out of my world.
I will say this though.
It people like Sol who make business' run.
They should be treated better than they are. And I can definitely relate.