Where Doth the Wind Blow

Where Doth the Wind Blow?

By Patrick F. Cannon

My regular readers will know that I have a rather dim view of politicians. One of the qualities that most successful politicians share – and that most rankles me – is their ability to change what they claim is their bedrock philosophy if it becomes clear that their constituents are moving in the opposite direction. I’m sure the recent election was replete with examples.

            Thinking about this reminded me of something similar that I witnessed in the late 1960s. At the time, I was working for a small company whose factory and offices were in the same small Northern Iowa town. My title was operations manager; in reality, I was responsible for public relations, marketing communications, office management and – alas – personnel. The actual personnel manager was a local boy wise to the ways of the local employment market. Let’s call him Billy.

            Considering inflation, it would now be a company with roughly $20 million in sales. It was in the packaged beverage business, for which it also made small vending machines. As it happened, most of the packaging went on in the Fall and Winter months, and many of our employees were farmer’s wives looking for seasonal work. One such was an older woman who I will name Flo.

            Flo, to say the least, was a thorn in Billy’s side. She was often late, or overstayed her breaks, or called in sick. She was also a chronic complainer. Even in those days before the tort bar had fully appreciated the riches available in employment law, Billy knew he would have to fully document her transgressions; he did so fully and at length. He then, along with the plant manager, came to see me to seek permission to fire her. I enthusiastically agreed.

            I wasn’t present, but she didn’t go without a lot of yelling and screaming. One of her parting shots was a threat to sue. We didn’t think anything would come of it, but one day Billy got a call from a local attorney, let’s call him Lawyer Ezra, seeking an interview. Billy agreed, but decided he and I should be joined by our comptroller, a much older and more experienced hand (our boss was out of town).

            Let me tell you about Lawyer Ezra . His practice mostly consisted of wills and farm-related real estate. Of somewhat advanced years, he had passed the bar without actually graduating from law school. Like Abe Lincoln, he was able to “read the law” while working for a licensed attorney. Unlike Lincoln, his ambitions were modest. He stayed in the town where he was born, probably sometime in the 19th Century.

            My office had a small conference table, so we met there. After some pleasantries, Lawyer Ezra got down to business. At length, he listed the indignities that poor Flo had been forced to endure at our hands. When he was finished, Billy, prepared with his carefully written evidence, droned on for some time in rebuttal. When he was done, the plant manager, who had suffered most from her, added a few additional details to the long list. The comptroller, who was well over six feet tall and weighed in at about 300 pounds, tossed in a few more in his basso profundo.

            When they had finished, Lawyer Ezra sat for a moment in stunned silence. Finally, he composed himself and said, “That’s terrible. I think you ought to let me slap a suit on that cookie!”

Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon

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