More on Learnin’
Having a one-hour commute gives me a lot of time to reflect. Tonight, on my way home from work I had an epiphany. When I was a young child my father worked in a service station. This was when a service station was just that. There was no AM/PM, Taco Bell, Carl’s Jr, or Baskin-Robbins attached. It as a sheet metal building with a glass front and a garage, used for repairing cars. There was no little booth with bulletproof glass. There wasn’t some idiot sitting in said booth that didn’t know the difference between the hood and the trunk of a car, not even capable of changing a cash register tape, and afraid for his life to leave. There wasn’t pay-at-the-pump. This was when you pulled up and a guy, or two, came out and pumped your gas, checked your oil, checked your tires, and washed your windows. I spent many days sitting in the office with a coloring book and watching the goings on. This was the greatest.
When I got a little older, early grade school, my father began working for my grandfather (my mom’s
dad). My grandfather owned Tire Sales and Service. One of my father’s main duties was to get up in the middle of the night and track down some poor trucker that was stuck in the boons with a flat tire. At that point in my life the greatest thing was to have my father wake me up in the middle of the night to go with him. My job was to hold the flashlight so he could see while he changed the enormous truck tire. If I was good and actually pointed the light at the flat tire, a rare event, I was allowed to “shift gears” on the way home. I’m surprised the tranny survived. That, as all good things, eventually came to an end. I’m sure my father thanked God. My grandfather wasn’t the easiest of guys to work for.
After the stint with the tires, he got a job as a manager of his own station. I spent many of my late grade school and junior high days working at that station. Sometime in the middle of that my parents got divorced. Because of this, the time working at that service station meant so much more to me. Hey what could be better than getting paid to hang with my dad, pump gas, wash windows and work on cars.
When high school came, my mother and stepfather packed us up and we moved away. When looking for a job in high school, I quickly found that the only thing I was qualified for was working in a service station. I got bitter. I hated the job and resented the fact that I couldn’t do better. This coincided with the purchase of my first dual-purpose bike. It was my only form of transportation. I rode to that horrible place in rain, hail, and snow. The longer I worked there the more bitter, and later humiliated, I became.
As I got older, I found myself embarrassed by my past as a “pump jockey” and my father’s chosen career path and swore that I’d do better for myself. This evening, after getting gas (I still hate pumping gas) and noticing the poor guy behind the glass, I began to realize how ludicrous those old feelings were. A lot of what I am and most of my current success is owed to those early years. I really learned a lot that has helped me get where I am. I learned how to “cash out” a register; you’d be surprised how many high school graduates can’t count a cash drawer. I gained the mechanical confidence to allow me to work on my own cars, trucks, and motorcycles. This confidence allowed me to move into computer repair and later system administration. Most importantly I learned about dedication, professionalism, the value of customer service, and responsibility. These are probably the most valuable lessons I could have learned. These are lessons that many of the younger, college graduate, “professionals” I meet have failed to learn.
Today my father works for a company that owns and leases many gas stations in Oregon. My father is a dealer representative for many of these stations. To him, his “customers” are #1 and he is there to make them successful. From what I can tell, he is darn good at it.
Me? I manage a group known as Engineering Support Services. My group, mostly system administrators, supports development efforts at a software company and I’m there to make my customers successful as well. We really aren’t all that different. Yes, I’m very proud of my father. Also, I can’t thank him enough for all that I’ve learned from him.
What’s this have to do with dirt bikes? Think about it . . .