Sunday, May 18, 2008

Working 101

Last month, the man who took a chance on a neophyte wannabe technical writer 28 years ago in Sierra Vista, Arizona, swung by the southeast Texas area with his wife in their recreational vehicle. Richard and Margie are full-time RVers, having sold their homestead and equestrian ranch in favor of criss-crossing the country in an RV towing a wood-carving shop, working at bed-and-breakfast one season, spending the summer at their secluded acreage the next.

Me, circa 1986 (left) in my badge photo. Richard today, in his RV (right).

They looked the same, truly. Richard, prematurely gray even back then, now white-haired, but with the same jovial sense of humor, same good heart. Margie, a horse wrangler, looking fit and trim and relaxed.

Reflecting about the three years I worked for Richard reminded me of the Mark Twain quotation: "When I was 16, I was shocked at how little my father knew; when I was 22, I was amazed how much he had learned in six years." At 22, I'm certain I was a difficult, opinionated, undiplomatic, awkward, unpoised recent college graduate. Like Twain's 16-year-old self, I thought perhaps not that I knew it all, but certainly more than the people I worked with. In retrospect, I would not have wanted to work for myself. I thought I knew a lot; I really knew nothing. I had no idea the difficulty of managing a technical writing section. Richard not only put up with a lot of stress induced by me—and several other of my motley bunch of coworkers—but, to his credit, held no hard feelings.

Thanks to the start Richard gave me more than a quarter-century ago, I've made all or part of my living as a technical writer since then. But even more important, after years in the graduate school of hard knocks, I view Richard's instruction in Working 101 as one of the best fundamental courses I have taken.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My first boss also had qualities of character that I appreciated only after many years of toiling and one short stint particular boss from Hell. Small bits of advice or just the way he dealt with sticky situations keep resurfacing years later when I'm presented with difficult situations.