It’s The People

January 12, 2017 marked my 30th service anniversary at my place of employment.  I’m very thankful to God for my job.  It’s taught me countless things, allowed me to experience incredible thrills, and taken me to fascinating places all over the world.  I even get to write–the thing I most passionately love to do.  Who could ask for anything more?

But it’s not the places I’ve been nor the things I’ve accomplished that matter much.  Above all those things, it’s the people that I will remember most fondly.  I remember the places because I went there with good people.  I remember the accomplishments because I accomplished them by working together with good people.  Hands down, it’s the enjoyment of working with people that makes work fun and memorable.

There’s the time when my colleague, Grant and I almost set off the giant foam guns in an airplane hanger at the SPAR installation house in Edmonton, Alberta.  It was my first big responsibility–coordinating the effort to design a Flight Management System for the Canadian C-130.  My finger was just over the snapshot button of my flash camera when someone  yelled “Stop!” and pointed to a sign that said flashes triggered the guns which fill the entire area with 10′ of foam.

Edmonton is cold in January.  I remember that well because once I excused myself from a meeting to get some fresh air, wearing only my dress shirt and tie.  The door closed behind me, and I heard a distinct “click”.  It took me 10 minutes in -30C to find another door.

There were fun times too.  I remember flying 200′ over Lake Ontario testing our computed air release function.  I got to hang out with Canadian Department of Defense engineers in an executive suite after hours, and played some kind of crazy game called “crud” using billiard balls on a large pool table at Trenton Air Force Base.

I remember almost running over Rich, my future Director of Engineering, on a beach in St. Augustine, Florida.  We rented bikes during some down time and cruised around.  Harry, a third coworker riding with us, decided to pop a wheelie right in front of me and wiped out.  I swerved just in the nick of time, barely missing my two colleagues.

Rich and his buddies Tim and Gary were transporting a dining room table across the busy intersection of Collins Road and C Avenue (busiest intersection in NE Cedar Rapids) when the table fell out of the truck and smashed into a thousand pieces.  I still laugh about that.  Tim and I played practical jokes on each other–he was a Hawkeye fan and I’m an Iowa State Cyclone.  I think I got the best of him when I put a sound bite on his PC that played the ISU fight song every time he hit a key.

Shirley worked for me a few years as an Engineering Project Specialist.  She is the sweet, wonderful lady, always asking about my kids, looking at their pictures on my desk.  Then I learned that in her teens, Shirley used to drag race on Collins Road when it was a two-lane, backwoods highway.  Our team helped Shirley’s mother “muck out” her house after the flood of 2008.  Nothing bonds a team like mucking.

There were trips to Toulouse, France, with my boss, Cris.  We ate plenty of cassoulet, got a tour of the city from our good friend, Didier, and nearly got lost in the Pyrenees trying to find the Cathor castles.  Cris is the guy who dropped out of college, worked in a fish factory in Alaska, then went back to school, got all A’s, and ended up in engineering.  He recently won Engineer of the Year.  

Another trip to France took me through Paris, where my friend Jason–another one of the many certified smart guys I know–gave me a tour of the city.

There were a few trips to Sao Paulo, Brazil, with good people like Ryan, Bruce, and Brett.  Sao Paulo is near the home of Embraer, the only place where you’ll find engineers routinely hug each other.  They have these churrascarias where they constantly bring you different cuts of meat until either you signal them to stop…or explode.  Our routine was to eat and drink ourselves into a coma, then take the 8-hour flight back to Dallas while we slept the sleep of death.

More recently, I travelled to Mielec, Poland with my friend, Jake.  I remember the 5-meat appetizer Jake ordered in Warsaw, which was promptly followed by a large, meaty main course.  I still kid him about that.  If you ever get a chance to go to Warsaw, do it.  The Poles are amazingly resilient and unassuming people.  In WWII, what the Nazis left standing, the Soviets leveled.  There was nothing left of Warsaw.  After the war, the Poles built it back up in the same style, same architecture.  And they did it without any funding from outsiders.  The food is good too, just ask Jake.

I have another friend named Jake whom I hired out of South Dakota.  He and I spent countless hours in the “Persistence” Green Room working on a proposal.  We got to fly on our company’s Beechcraft King Air to Denver, Colorado.  Jake was salivating the whole trip because he loves the Broncos.

Later on that same proposal, I had a chance to fly to Ankara, Turkey, with Mollie and Pierre.  They flew United direct to Ankara, but I wanted to fly Delta, connecting through Istanbul on Turkish Air Lines.  It was eerie being the only Caucasian in the terminal, but the TAL airline food was fabulous.  During our stay, the Turkish air force shot down a Russian fighter.  The day we left, a bomb went off 10 minutes from our hotel.  A few weeks later there was a coup on a Friday.  People were back to work by Monday.  Business as usual, I guess.

I learned about a place called Mickey Mantle’s in Oklahoma City by traveling with my friend, Mark.  Great steak there.  My friend Richard once ordered a Kobe steak. The waiter looked puzzled as he took the order, then left, then came back almost apologetically.  He said, “sir, you do realize the Kobe steak is $30 an ounce…?” Rich sheepishly changed his order. I laugh about that a lot. Once we caught a Thunder game and saw Westbrook light it up.  Visiting General Atomics in San Diego…in January…was even better.  I’ve already written about recent work trips to London and Dayton.  All great times with great people.

I tried to find the cloth tie and suit coat I wore on my first day, but to no avail.  I did pay a visit to Tom, the first guy I met on January 12, 1987.  Tom is still working.  #goals.  

There are countless others that I have met and worked with.  Sorry if were close and I’ve forgotten to write about you.  It’s not intentional…it’s just past my bedtime.  

I didn’t think I would be at the same place of employment for 30 years, but here I am. I am blessed to have some very rich relationships with such wonderful people. Here’s to the next 30.  Thank you, Lord, for my job.  It’s been a fun ride!





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