I have had this blog post in mind for years. The story took place nearly 10 years ago. Before I was married, before I had a child. These life events helped me to understand certain things at a deeper level. Enough preview though, lets get to the story.
Long ago and far away there was a large book store chain that spanned the country. I loved working at multiple stores in the company and up until the death toll sounded, thought it was a place where I wanted to work my way up the ladder and be employed for life. One of the joys of working in a book store is the type of employee it attracts. My knowledge of movies, music and books increased every day. Deep conversations took place regularly about the philosophy and nuances of pop culture. It was a college level education and experience but without the debt.
One of the managers at the store, we’ll call him Rob because that’s a common name, was young enough to be interested in the same geek things as my 20 something self but also older enough to have wisdom and insight. Not older like a parent, but more like that young uncle or older sibling who has so many years in between your births that the two of you never attended the same school at the same time.
Rob helped educate me on the lost Doctor Who episodes, he would guide me to sci fi books and movies that will never be on a top 20 list because they’re just under what’s well known and borderline cult. Even better, Rob had a certain level of sympathy for me and would frequently pick me up or offer me a ride home. But as the store started circling the drain he would also upset me on a regular basis, and this is where I did not understand his attitude until I became a father.
(I’ll cut you up here. I didn’t see him as a father and he didn’t see me as a son. There’s a different point coming. Stay with me.)
There were things that were maddening to me. Policies that didn’t make sense, approaches that didn’t feel right. All to get one more dollar out of every customer, and maybe that dollar would be the one to keep the entire chain afloat one more day. I can go on for hours with stories of how desperate it felt to work there for the last year the company was around, but that’s for another post. This manager, who I felt I had a certain kinship with, would come up to me and spout the script. You have to do this. You have to do that. Rob, this is garbage, don’t you see it too? That’s not what I asked you to do, now do as you’re instructed or there could be disciplinary measures.
I cursed his name. I refused to speak to him. I avoided him in the store. Other managers were one thing, but how could you read the same writing on the wall as I did and come away with such a different answer? I felt betrayed. And do you know how he responded? “Hey Kevin, do you want a ride home?”
What in the hell? I couldn’t be more mad at a co worker, and I knew I was rude to him all day, and his response was… kindness? My at the time single and childless self was at a loss of understanding.
Another event, which at the time was unrelated, but years later puts everything into a new light, took place around the same time. Rob had children, and one day at the end of his shift, Rob’s son came in the store. Rob’s eyes lit up in surprise, he put his arm around his son and asked what he wanted to do the rest of the day, and the two of them walked out together with not the stride and posture of a man who just worked a long stressful shift; but with the strut of a proud hopeful man.
Then, years later, I had a family.
“Its nothing personal, its just business.”
Not that I have someone like a young me at work. In fact, I’m almost positive no one I work with is even aware of this blog. But if there was someone of equal yet younger mindset I would look to him and say I get it. Work isn’t perfect. No matter the job there will always be a decision, a policy, a higher up that you do not agree with. There will be employees that complain about it loudly and to everyone. Sometimes with good reason, and you silently agree. Silently, because how many of those employees are supporting families?
These experiences taught me that your family comes first. Agree in the moment, get your work done. Understand that the squeaky wheel no longer gets the grease, it gets replaced. At the end of the shift there is the child who just wants to spend time with their hero. My younger ignorant self did not understand this and it strikes me funny how this manager who I wanted to learn so much from in the end taught me the most important lesson when I was at my worst towards him.
Be a geek dad. Get your work done, meet the goals given to you and keep your butt covered at work. Then, educate those co workers with potential. I love suggesting comics, movies, whatever to the youth. It thrills me to hear, hey that was great is there anything else like it? Lastly, punch out for the day, go home, and give all of that education and knowledge and attention to your child ten fold. The world seems darker most days and we need dads teaching the lessons of the doctors, the supermen, the wizards and the Uncle Ben.
Being a dad is the best thing in the world. Being a geek is second. The gift of combining the two is a gift every day.
Happy Father’s Day to all the geek dads out there.