Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Albert Law

Albert smiled as his workers clocked in. He enjoyed owning his own company and most everyone thought he was a good boss. Most everyone. Everyone but his own Dad.

"You care too much. You can't care and make money at the same time." And Dad sucked on another cigarette, and he blew smoke toward Albert's face.

Albert thought about his dad and the time the EEOC was putting pressure on them to become integrated. His Aunt Julia used the same maid for almost 35 years. Aunt Julia still owned half the company then. But when she died, Albert bought back all the shares, when he should have been enjoying himself as a single man, he mortgaged everything and bought 50% of the company he and his mom didn't own. After the deal was closed, he gave up his apartment and slept at the plant. Not too many girls were impressed with a guy who lived in a factory and didn't even own a car but would drive one of the company trucks if he needed to get groceries.

Albert thought how hard those days were. Every day back then, his dad's voice echoed in his head, about his lack of ability. How he couldn't run a company and make a profit. Many days he thought daddy was right. He struggled 5 years never knowing from one month to the next if he could make the light bill or water bill. The employees stuck with him that one time he couldn't pay them. He paid them back, with interest, but he cried when he told them that Friday afternoon. That was then.

Today was now. There was Lydia, he smiled. The woman produced more than any other worker at the benches. Loyal, never complained. Always on time. Then Charles clocked in. What to do with Charles? Someday, he'd have to deal with it, but in the mean time, he'd wait and see if Charles would work out. The others passed by, a few went into the break room where Rachell smoked one half that Pall Mall red pack cigeratte before some of them had even got out of bed.

Satisfied, and proved right. Albert had fought weeks with his dad to hire her. A black girl who had never worked anywhere for a paycheck. Why, he couldn't answer, but it was the right thing to do. His Aunt Julia had been after him to hire the daughter of her maid for over a year now. Albert was supposed to hire her when no one else wanted her.

He hired her and she started the day his dad had his first heart attack. Albert sent her to Ohio for the Yale lift truck training. When she came back the TYPE E; 1965 Yale Model was hers. Brand new. He told her to drive it and move stuff around. She took the unplugged the wires to the charger, sat in the black cushioned seat and turned the key. No noise at all. A barely noticeable hum. And today, nearly a half century later, she still drove the 'old fellow'.

Over the years she'd read and studied the manual. When the Yale Service man retired, Albert figured it was time to trade it in. Rachell would have none of it. She started servicing it. Started replacing the parts as they wore out.

Best decision he'd ever made. He'd made it over the protests of his dad, the board and even their lawyer. Couldn't they see? How can you run a company and not select the best workers. The ones who were smart, tough and hard working. The ones who knew hard work and hard lives. Besides the fact that Rachell was black, could barely read, too shy to talk, she would work for far less than any white man he could hire. The white guy would most likely call out on Mondays drunk again. If he did show up, he'd be late.

Rachel was his first good decision.

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