who I am

I retired January 30, 2009, a date a few weeks short of 36 years’ employment at the same plant (if multiple owners) , where I was a quality guy. The plant makes hydraulic and industrial hose, and takes pride in its quality workers and quality product. So do I.

I found quickly that retirement was the job I was born to do! I’ve been busy since the first day, and never seem to run out of interests and options to fill the time in productive, interesting ways.

Though my university major was English/Journalism/Advertising Copywriting, I’ve had a long interest in photography and cinematography. I was, in fact, a US Army motion picture photographer in the early 1970s, stationed with the 69th Signal Company (Photo) in Kaiserslautern, then-West Germany. That job took me many places in Europe, lots of places in then-West Germany, and several times to then-West Berlin, my favorite assignment!

I attempted to find employment after my army days in motion picture photography or videography, but ran into the curious problem of being too qualified for jobs in my area.

I also applied for a job at the local paper, thinking a job as a photographer on a small hometown paper would be a foot in the door to a newspaper career. “We’re looking for a photographer/sports writer,” said the managing editor, “We can’t use you exclusively as a photographer.” He ignored my university background: I have written sports stories, too! A few weeks later, the man hired a fellow whose sole job was photography. Ha! Then…within a few weeks, he was writing news and sports articles. I suspect he was paid minimum wage or darn close to it because he left after a short time, that the writing assignments were “in addition to” his job description, a form of serfdom or wage slavery. I note again, I worked almost 36 years in the same place when I did find a job. That’s the kind of loyalty I show a place, and that’s the kind of loyalty the managing editor missed out on.

Oh, did I mention that I started a beard after I got out of the army in December 1972? Apparently that was an issue bigger than any skills I might have as a reporter or photographer. I was even asked by one prospective employer if (he stumbled around the point…) I’d agree to shave the beard if hired! I spared him my notorious rapier wit, that uncivil tongue I reserve for idiots and people who might hire me, and simply told him it was a “hobby beard” till hired, not something that I would defend to the death. Hmm. I might have been a bit sarcastic. I didn’t get that job. Ha!

Here I am in my  uniform while serving as a motion picture photographer in the US Army (December 2, 1969-December 1, 1972).  I was checking the light level with my light meter. That's an Arriflex unblimped 16mm SLR motion picture camera, my pride and joy during my service. It was a fantastic piece of technology in its time, and still represents incredible innovation.

Here I am in my uniform while serving as a motion picture photographer in the US Army (December 2, 1969-December 1, 1972). I was checking the light level with my light meter. That’s an Arriflex unblimped 16mm SLR motion picture camera, my pride and joy during my service. It was a fantastic piece of technology in its time, and still represents incredible innovation.

They were in the process of starting up the hose factory in early 1973 when I was hired to work as a finishing operator baling factory seconds. If I had three eyes, a wretched stench, and a police record all the way to Texas, they would have hired me, labor was so tight in the area then. I assure you none of those attributes applied to me, so they were most pleased to pull me off the street!

I moved from finisher to hydrotester, a person who blows out the mandrel used to form the hole in hoses made on, well, mandrels, which are a braided wire core with an extruded rubber cover over which a tube is extruded to start the process of making hose. Whew! I’ll spare you further detail, though I found the process endlessly fascinating, the basis both for eventually moving into quality and for lasting so long at the factory before I retired. I guarantee, I never once aspired to work in a factory, so I was surprised I stayed so long, too!

I did have one further job before I became a quality inspector, my first quality job: vulcanizer operator. That job was hot, dirty, dangerous, and not a good career path if you dislike any or all of these job characteristics. I might have stayed with the job had the vulcanizer not blown up on me, bathing my chest and side in steam, burning me bad enough to require hospitalization and scaring the bejesus out of everyone in the plant that night! Fortunately, because it did blow, I was amenable to accepting any new job offered me afterwards. I might have stayed with the vulcanizer job otherwise. Because. I don’t know. I’m that way.

I had several positions in quality: inspector, supervisor, process analyst, returned goods guy. Of those, analyzing data was what appealed the most. (At this point, I’ll spare you lots of detail about applying statistical process controls, standard deviations, control charts, etc., though this was the part of working with hose that was, for me, “endlessly fascinating”!)

I was good at what I did, I suppose, though toward the end, I felt I did a lot of work that no one used, perhaps even understood or appreciated. I promised myself at one point that I would retire when I no longer enjoyed what I did, I felt my work contributed nothing to the bottom line, and/or “they” asked me to leave.

The perfect storm came in January 2009. Though I had the option of not retiring early, everything seemed right for it. Without lots of detail, when presented with the option, I gave the company six work days to process me out. (They prefer 90 days, but who benefited by me giving them that consideration?)

I failed to mention one significant issue in the picture before retirement: I have a disease called Wegener’s granulomatosis- now called GPA- that attacks the small and medium-sized blood vessels in the body. A person can die very fast with it if it’s untreated, and 90% of instances where a person doesn’t have treatment, death happens within two years.

I’m in remission, but retiring shortly before my 61st birthday, I risked inadequate insurance and no insurance until I became eligible for Medicare. I did, in fact, go without healthcare insurance from January 2011 till March 2013. When you have a disease that required $220,000+ in medical care to bring into remission the first time…! Let’s just put it this way: I have no connection with the old job now, and have no desire to! I could have died for lack of resources had the disease flared.

Following WG, which struck in December 2003 and took till March 2004 to settle down enough for me to return to work, I suffered a herpes zoster attack (shingles) in October 2007 that was so bad my doctor, who had over 30 years in practice then, characterized it as the “worst case I’ve seen.” Not the thing you want to hear from your doctor. Of course, when the doctor who diagnosed the WG told me what I had, he noted, “…and you’ll be dead in two years.” Ha! I reminded him of that on the third anniversary of being diagnosed.

Are you still reading this? Gad!

Finally, retirement. I hit the ground running. Financially, I managed to do an adequate job of providing for my future needs. No Mercedes Benz in my future, perhaps, but I am doing fine. I volunteer in my community. I write this blog. I make videos that started out as vlogs on the vicissitudes of Wegener’s and Prednisone, the drug from hell that, combined with Cytoxan, helps bring weggies into remission. (I almost wrote “submission: It is a very rough combination, and Prednisone is a drug I hope never to have to experience again.) Now I post lots of cat videos because they are cuter, more entertaining, and fun to share around the world than videos of me pontificating and promulgating. I enjoy editing the cat videos into little stories where possible or into simple vignettes where the material shows cat behavior, if not a complete story.

What do I know about quality, life? Mostly the veracity of this Italian proverb: A thousand probabilities don’t make one fact. I kind of like this one, too: Torture numbers, and they’ll confess to anything. That one comes by way of Gregg Easterbrook.

I think that covers it. Any questions? Any questions knowing I can become quite verbose? None? OK!

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