Sunday, February 19, 2012


Friendships made in the work place rarely stand the test of time.  People have their own families and other friends they see more often, and once someone leaves/retires, they get invited back for a party or two, but after a couple years you stop wanting to go as much, or you stop being remembered.  However, the real reason is turnover.  Faces where you used to work continue to change until there are only one or two you even know, and the once fun experience becomes uncomfortable.  So, you (me) basically stop going on your own!
Robert is second from the right end!
There are the exceptions in these friendships.  Case in point, the relationship I've had with Patti Pitts and Robert (Bobby) Ridenour.  

We worked together way back in the Lockheed Martin days at Oak Ridge, and I'm guessing, for somewhere around 12 to 13 years!  Our friendship has endured, although often a span of a few years pass before we get together again.  However, when we do, we pick right back up where we left off and immediately begin enjoying each others company.

Robert on left side, me on the right.
This past Thursday, Patti, Robert, and I met at Puleo's Grille in Knoxville, and spent a long lunch laughing and reminiscing.  It would have been longer, but Robert still works.  It was as though we were back sneaking away from the plant again, having lunch to relax and catch up.

We talked about the times I worked for Patti and she and I would go out to give Merlin telephone presentations to secretaries, and sometimes their bosses, telling them about the advantages the "then new" electronic "key system" had over the old 50s and 60s style "1A2" system, with its 6-button sets; each set wired via a 25-pair cable.

We met some characters in those days, like a nameless lawyer who once asked Patti if she knew where a certain candy store was in Knoxville.  Patti told him no, and asked him why he thought she should.  The lawyer, assuming since Patti was a little on the plump side then, said, "I would have thought you knew where every candy store in Knoxville was!"  

Patti was my boss, and I have always loved her, so I wasn't about to laugh in front of her, but believe me I nearly busted a gut holding it back.  I was also surprised Patti didn't rip him apart.  If you knew Patti, like we knew Patti, you knew she could probably hold her own with the old gray-haired man in the dark "lawyer" suit!  She never let a "man" get the upper hand, but, this time, she only let him know, in the kindest of ways, how out of place his comment was.

I remember when Patti first became my boss too.  She called the three of us guys into her office and flat out told us "sexual harassment" was mandatory!  Try that today!

You should have seen our faces!  However, right from the beginning, Patti let everyone know she was boss and didn't want any special treatment because she was a woman.  I don't think I've met too many women in my life that were as strong, resourceful, engaging, or as intelligent as she was.  She loved to laugh and have fun on the job, but business got done, or you explained why your part didn't meet her expectations.

Then there was Robert.  We kept each other laughing from the minute we met.  He'll always be special to me...almost like a son, or brother.  He was much younger than me, but even then we taught each other a lot about our business in telecommunications, and how to deal with clients.  The time at work just seemed to fly by...he made it fun.

Once we shared interviews for a new hire in our department.  We were looking for a well organized person to sort out our records and stock.  We sat around his unkempt desk, which was piled high with unrelated papers and pieces of electronic equipment, talking to the final applicant of the day.  

Robert was always the "messy" one, not caring how his desk, or his truck for that matter, looked.  He raised his boys to not care about things, and that family was all that was important.  However, that carefree attitude was foreign to me.  He knew it made me uneasy, but he loved to watch me look around his office, or move things off the seat or kick them out of my way in his truck!  

When he visited my "anal" office, he would keep talking but move something out of its place when I wasn't looking.  He would then grin when I couldn't stand it any longer and moved it back into its proper place!

Anyway, the interview went on and on until Robert finally asked me if I had any more questions.  I said yes, and turned to the young lady and said, "Does anything in this office bother you?"

She looked at me, then Robert, and then shyly said, "Yes, this desk.  It's killing me!

I wiped my hands, as if finished, and said, "You're hired!  It's has always killed me too, so I think you're just what this job needs!"

Robert looked shocked, but didn't say a word.  He just sat there with a big grin and agreed with me.

Ah, yes, and the road trips we took together were wonderful experiences!  
Robert on road trip to Huntsville!

Once several of us from IT went to Huntsville, AL to benchmark a project we had coming up.  It turned out that Robert and I road together in my '89 Mustang.

We didn't know each other very well at that time, but we got in and I pointed at the tape player and said, that's your responsibility...mine's to drive.

So off down the highway we roared, sunroof open, windows down, and Robert played every tape I had on volume 8 or 9!  I even introduced him to Lynyrd Skynyrd!   We had a ball singing along and playing air-guitar!

Patti looked wonderful Thursday.  She's lost a lot of weight since I had seen her last, and it was only then that I learned that she almost died in a nasty car accident last year.  It was the hard way to lose pounds, but she looked great and seems determined to keep it off.  

I was a little upset that I hadn't known about the accident before, but that's the way it is when you have a "working relationship" I guess.  But even though she doesn't look like the old Patti, she's still the Patti I love.

Robert, well, Robert has become me.  The me I was about 20 years ago.  I little gray around the edges, and his edges are a little rounder than they were then.  But, he's still my Robert...has the laugh and smile, I always liked!  The young Robert inside is still there and that's his best quality.

I say all this...and I could tell so much more...just to say thanks guys for being my friend.  I love you both and enjoy you so much.  Let's not let too much time pass before getting together again.  Life is short and we only have a few years left to build up even more memories to sustain us through those coming winter days of age.


FHB said...

That was a fun read. I've always been able to get along well with the people I've worked with. Still do. I work with a couple of strong Black women now in my day job. I think I won them over when I started playing good R&B and Soul music in the classroom during the day. "He's got more Black music than a Black person!"

One of them just took a refresher course to be re-certified to restrain the kids if one of them gets out of hand. The day after she took the class she walked into our room and said "I'll take you down Mr. Wilson!" "Mmmm," I said. "I love it when women talk dirty to me." She laughed. We have a great time. Almost lets me forget the old gig.

That was a fun read. I miss your writing, and my own. Not sure why I don't go there any more. Maybe some day I'll get back into it.

PRH....... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PRH....... said...

Another good read brother, as usual. Albeit, yours now days, in your busy retirement, are too few and far between.

BRUNO said...

We were BOTH in totally-different lines of work, yet still had(have!)many of the same-parallels!

I'd go to work with a three-day beard and hardhat---and you'd go clean-shaven, with a tie an' Gucci-loafers!☺

Believe it or not, I miss getting paid for freezing/frying my ass off. I mean, in winter, the ICE was slick for falls. But, in summer? It was the GREASE on the 'catwalks' that'd trip ya' up!

And I(intentionally!)miss SOME of the people still yet. And, I don't mind going through the freeze/broil-cycle at my own desire.

If I was physically-able to do it all again?

Yeah, I'd be there---time-sheet an' all...!!!

BRUNO said...

OK, after a SECOND-look at that early pic? Maybe you weren't clean-shaven---but it WAS washed-an'-combed!

I never could keep a nice-beard---it kept gettin' burned-off in spots, kinda like a brushfire, y' know...!☺

Mushy said...

Ah, comments...didn't know I'd missed them, but it's only because I miss you guys!

Thanks for dropping by, 'course you do get an auto email when and if I it ain't like you missed me and dropped by accidentally!

Seriously, I miss posting 1 or 2 times a week, but I have too much other fish to fry these days.