I feel as though I’m on the set of the last half hour of Papillion
, or the movie Life
Just said g’mornin’ to Henry for the gazillionth time.
He’s been an employee at this fine establishment since the doors opened, before even me, of which I’m regarded as the furniture. We are both a bit slower of foot and noticeably grayer since we first met.
We have light conversation…about gardening, the weather, our offspring.
He’s a bit short on words.
Been thru a gaggle of engineer regimes.
Been in charge of what we call the process room forever.
It’s where we encapsulate, vacuum varnish, mold, and do all the dirty work…..the dirty work that takes a mad scientist to coordinate all the tanks, racks, and ovens to yield product (as our brochure says) ‘in a timely manner’.
For him, it’s a symphony, and he’s the conductor.
Patience his not his strong point.
He’s ‘hard to work with’.
Whenever an upstart engineering manager approaches him about a certain process (more like begging for an answer, so he can document the procedure in the build book), his usual reply is, ‘You’re the engineer, you tell me….ah...hahahahahaha’.
He can be seen on any given day, meticulously scraping out the last drop of epoxy in a 5 gallon bucket….’It’s expensive’.
About ten years ago I had to take him in to counsel.
He’d made a production worker upset, to the point of tears.
We all knew he was just being Henry, harsh words were how he communicated.
I sat with him and the production manager, and explained to him about how he represented our company, and therefore an example, blather blah, blah, blather.
I guess he took every one of my words to heart.
I guess I dressed him down, took him to his inner core, because he began to weep.
It really took me off stride, as I was just building momentum, not even getting off my final salvo.
It confirmed what I’d learned sometime before.
Gruff crusty people, folks with chips on their shoulders, that once the armor of their defense is removed, will just fall apart.
I guess he was more than motivated that day, because motivation lasts only a short time, but he has yet to come off so harsh, as he’d been so many times before.
He is not articulate in the English language.
Someone once mentioned to me that ‘Henry sure speaks funny’.
‘Yeah, he speaks funny
like that in seven languages.’
He was a man without a country for around twenty years.
I was one of the privileged few from our company that he’d invited to the celebration of his citizenship.
A lot of his people were there, and they all revered him as a god.
He looked good in his uniform.
That day he became ‘Henry’, and we shared a six pack of Private Reserve. He still mentions our little celebration, and has the Henry’s Private Reserve cap, I’d given him that day, hanging above his desk.
Henry has several distinct scars all over himself.
Holes the size of machine gun rounds.
Holes that remind him of the death march, of hiding under the body of the guy that became him when he took his identity papers because he’d lost his.
Holes that should have killed him more than once.
Holes that remind him of the loss of his entire family.
Holes that cause him to be even less verbal when someone inquires as to ‘what’d you do to get that?’
Holes that remind him of the price of freedom.
He still eats his lunch with sticks, sometimes sitting on the picnic bench cross legged.
It was a year or so after I’d hired on that Henry learned it was more acceptable to sit on the toilet instead of stand.
I was glad to see that…hated always having to wipe those freaking footprints off the lid every damn time.
Yeah, him and I are on the other side of the hill now.
But it’s still really great to say g’mornin’ to my fellow countryman every day….it’s actually quite an honour.