A few months ago, this blog featured an incident from a delightful little book, Stories from My Working Days by Richard Sakulich, a retired engineer who spent his working life solving problems around the globe for industry. With his eye for irony and ear for the comic, he has recounted his adventures for others to enjoy. His friends, family and the occasional stranger who read Stories from My Working Days have encouraged him to continue, and he has obliged with a sequel, More Stories, just in time for holiday giving. In the new book, his musings continue to explore the comic-tragedy of the human condition through the mind of a logical person.
The office atmosphere was fairly relaxed, a professional environment and rather than being one huge room, there were a number of connected smaller areas for the various departments. This helped make it cozier. People worked diligently enough during the day but at the normal quitting time, you did not dare to get caught standing near the exit doors or serious bodily harm could result.
But there were exceptions to the stampede…one of my employees, an Industrial Engineer who had been with the company a fair number of years, was always still at his desk… It bothered me that he worked late constantly, day in and day out, so one night I stopped and stood around a bit until he realized someone was there. We had the following exchange:
Me: Why don’t you pack it in? We certainly don’t expect you to be putting in extra hours like this every day.
Him: It’s no problem. I just want to keep ahead of some of the projects we have going.
The conversation did not end with that, and I dragged out all the stereotyped managerial phrases that are appropriate to a situation like this. Finally, it seemed he was rather tired of my benevolent intentions and he looked up wearily from his desk, shoulders rounded and hunched from a lifetime of paper shuffling…
“Dick! You do not understand. For years, I have had the habit of working late. It is my standard routine, well-established and I am quite comfortable with it. In fact, the people around me have gotten used to it and they scheduled their lives to match. If I went home right now, it would be a complete and utter surprise to my wife. It is the last thing in the world she would expect. In fact, to fill in the time when I work late, she probably plans a little dalliance now and then with some bozo and if I came home early, it is likely I would catch them together. Now, if that happened, I could not just ignore it. It would be necessary to react and do something and the bottom line is that no matter what that would be, I would have a major marital problem. And Dick, with all the work I have to do here, I don’t have time to deal with a marital problem, too!”
Was this beleaguered employee just getting Richard off his back? For this full story, and more stories from the minds of engineers, you can obtain a copy of this privately published gem by contacting me or Richard, and we’ll get a copy to you.
Richard Sakulich’s book is available at local bookstores in the Doylestown, PA area. For most of my readers, that is a bit of a hike…or flight. So, if you would like a copy, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will forward your request to Richard and he will make arrangements to get a copy to you.