Thursday, February 5, 2015

A lesson learned.

When I was about 19, I got a job working for a guy called Frankie Moreno and his cousin Olindo Nocito. They had a small aluminum-siding business and they needed a large stevedore like myself to do the work--more, the cleaning up--they didn't want to do.

They'd leave me at a job site with a hammer and a crow bar and tell me to strip all the shingles off a house. Or I'd unload aluminum strips off their Ford pick-up. Or I'd help them install aluminum casement windows and vacuum up afterward.

It wasn't a great job. I wasn't really on the same wave-length of Frankie and Olindo, but it paid $125 for 40 hours of work with time and a half for overtime. For a teenager, that was a lot of money back in 1977.

One week it rained but fortunately we had some interior window work to do. We'd knock out the old wooden windows and put in new aluminum ones. It was hard work and messy. You had to measure meticulously and shape moldings with care lest something not look finished and squared off. 

I remember the guy whose house we were working on. When we were finishing up around 4 (we had started around 7:30) he came out to where we were working. He was black and large and wore a white "wife beater" t-shirt. In one hand he held a large cannister vacuum cleaner.

Frankie nodded to him and then the man handed me the vacuum. As Frankie and Nolindo put his tools away, I was down on my hands and knees cleaning up all the dirt, dust and wood shavings. When it was neat enough for me, it still wasn't neat enough for the owner of the house. He stood over me like Gulliver and pointed here and there. I vacuumed until he was satisfied.

I learned a lot from that guy that's served me well in my career and I think my life. Whenever a job is done ok--when things look neat and clean, when the copy is written and the brief is covered, I think of that large black man pointing.

So I go over things again. Read the brief again. Comb through my work again. I try to clean things up.

I didn't really like Frankie and Olindo. And at the time, almost 40 years ago, I resented the guy that made me crawl around all over his house cleaning.

But I still think about him.

And I roll up my sleeves.

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