Category Archives: Work

Keep your eye on the (base) ball…

Image result for baseball field

The first job I ever had – I mean genuine, real job, where they wrote you a paycheck and didn’t just give you the money they had in their pocket – was lining baseball fields.

And it taught me a lesson I remember until this day.

I got the job in the summer of ’78, when I was 14. Up until then I’d cut apricots, mowed lawns, washed cars and shined shoes (unshined them is more like it) but the summer of my 14th year I decided I was old enough to go find me a big boy job.

I don’t recall how I thought of it, but at some point in my search I went to the Parks & Rec Department in my little town to see if they had any jobs I could do. It turns out they did. The guy who’d painted the lines on the baseball fields in town had quit, and they needed someone to take his place. I filled out an application, talked to some lady with a title like “assistant director” and a few days later received a call saying I got the job. A little confession here: no small part of this lucky turn had to do with, to the question “have you ever lined baseball fields before?” I answered “Yes, of course I have.”

A more truthful answer would have been “No, no I have never done anything even remotely close to drawing thick, straight, chalk lines all over a baseball diamond”, but somehow I wasn’t quite able to write that one down on the application.

The fields were situated all over town, so on my first day, because I was a kid still 2 years away from getting his license, Dad drove me (every time after that he handed me the keys to the old truck and said “Keep to the backroads”). And that first day went pretty badly. The next few days after that weren’t much better. Turns out I was terrible at drawing lines on baseball fields.

The wheels on the ‘line chalking’ contraption that you used to do the job were out-of-round, and hard to push in a straight line. And the lines that were already there (that I thought I’d just follow to make new lines) were pretty much obliterated by previous games. It seemed like the harder I tried, the worse I did. I even started to go really slow, taking twice as long, in my effort to carefully create the thick, straight lines I’d need to keep my job.

I was getting angry with myself, and embarrassed too. I didn’t know what to do. And with no youtube how-to videos for help, and no one I knew who’d done this sort of thing to ask, I felt alone. Really alone.

So one evening, about a week in, I sat down on the side of a field and decided to spend some time thinking rather than working. I started it with toughts of quitting. I hate to admit it, but when I begin doubting myself an early instinct I have is, just cut and run. But then I felt even more embarrassed, like really, I can’t figure this out?

So I figured it out.

Here’s what I came up with: my solution to the wavering, crooked lines I was drawing had been to go slower – to be careful. And then I’d go slower yet, and be even more careful. I was watching the line as I drew it, trying to match what was there before. But the slower I went, and the more closely I watch the line in front of me, the worse I did and the more frustrated I got. So I thought “The hell with it – I’m not going look at what I’m doing, I’m going to look at where I’m going”. Instead of trying to match a blurry, messy, disappearing line I started looking at the bases I was drawing my lines to. And when I did a weird thing happened – I started to speed up. I would just look straight toward first base, and quickly walk to it. Then I’d do the same with second, and so on. All of a sudden the job was taking half the time it used to.

And the lines were almost dead straight.

After that I started hearing from the assistant director lady that the players loved how the fields looked. The lines had never been so straight. And I felt proud.

Lesson? Don’t worry too much about where you’re at, just keep your eye on where you’re going to…

 

 

 

 

 

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What will you build today?

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When my Dad first came to America from Ireland he didn’t yet know how to build a life here.

He was a farm boy from a poor family in Ireland who saw America as the promise land, based on the stories he’d heard about how good life here was from the US Army Soldiers stationed near his village. It was just after World War II and his Uncle Walter, who lived in California after emigrating from Ireland himself, had sponsored Dad’s entry into the country.

Part of the sponsorship agreement was that the new immigrant had to find a means to support himself – and soon – or run the risk of being sent back home. But because it was the years just after the war, when a lot of GI’s were still returning home and re-entering the work force, jobs were scarce.

So Dad had to get resourceful. Continue reading

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A Stab at Friendship

I once stabbed a man through the foot.

And the worst part of it was – well the worst part for me, for him the worst part was the actual getting stabbed through the foot part – the worst part of it for me was he was a friend of mine.

Have you ever done something you didn’t mean to, but you did it anyway, and the outcome was so crappy you wish you hadn’t done it – and you almost sort of pretend, at times, that you maybe didn’t do it, or try to forget the fact that you actually did do it? Continue reading

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The Truth about Flying

When I was a kid I loved airplanes.

The truth is I still do – and have my whole life. But when I was a kid I thought I wanted to fly them. You know how when you’re a kid you approximate, to the best of your kid abilities, those things that you think you want to do when you grow up?

Well my way of approximating piloting an airplane was to build models of them. And oh did I build a ton of model planes. Big ones, little ones, ones that I hung from my bedroom ceiling and ones that I used to simulate fiery crashes in my back yard (don’t tell my mom, but I discovered at a young age that model glue was a handy, and highly flammable, co-conspirator when re-enacting crash scenes from war movies). Continue reading

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Are You Experienced?

When I was younger I wanted to own my own business.

At about 36, when I’d already been part of the work force for 20 odd years, I saw the opportunity to start my own company. I was in sales at the time for a window manufacturer in Sacramento. One of the accounts I called on was a glass and window contractor in Vacaville, which is where I lived back then.

That contractor had formerly worked in San Francisco, and was talking about going back there because he was more familiar with, and did better in, that business climate. I suggested to him that he sell me his inventory and vehicles so that he could get back there.

He agreed and I started scraping together the money to meet his asking price. Continue reading

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Bridges are easier to cross when they’re not on fire

 

Did you ever burn a bridge?

I’ve burned a few in my time. One such instance was set in motion on a November morning back in 2008. I was working for a company called LP Building Products – I was a sales rep for them – and my job was to sell building materials to home builders in California. You may recall that 2008 was the year that the housing bust was reaching epic proportions.

That November morning started with me receiving a phone call from my immediate supervisor – who explained that a representative from Human Resources would also be joining the conversation. It was about then I gathered we would not be having one of our usual light hearted chats. Continue reading

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Rut We’re Supposed to Do

 

I used to run a lot more than I do now.

Well that’s not exactly true – I still run a fair amount. What I mean is years ago, when I exercised, my aerobic activity was just running.

When I lived in Hollister in the ‘90’s I would go running in the mornings with my dog Watson. We’d get up at dawn, or I’d get up then – he’d already be up, waiting and ready to go.

He was always so excited that he’d be jumping up and down, hardly able to contain himself. You’d think by watching him that he’d never been out of the back yard before – but it was exactly because he got out of the back yard every morning that he knew what was coming – and what to be so excited about. Continue reading

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