3-22-2005 My termite guys earn their money

"McGroarty is going to have you arrested one of these days."

During those heady days when too few of us were doing our absolute utmost to oust the worst mayor Wilkes-Barre had ever been cursed with, this site and my name made the pages of the local newspapers every once in a while. Now and again, my name and my cyberspace creation would come up on WILK. And every single time I rose from my bed only to learn that, yours truly, the nefarious "Wilkes-Barre Blogger" had been mentioned on Page 3 again, I was filled with some measure of trepidation. Those of you who know me know darn tootin' that I could really care less what any local politician, or their mostly useless cronies thought about my online muckraking activities at that time. But I always wondered to myself whether my boss knew about them. The fact is, he had to deal with most of these very same politicians on a professional basis. And then one fine morning he treated me to a sly grin wider than our growing trade deficit and said:

"McGroarty is going to have you arrested one of these days."

And he then proceeded to talk my ears off about local politics like a man possessed. It was not exactly what I expected from the man, but stimulating nonetheless. What I mistakenly thought might get him to calling me in on the carpet, he got the biggest kick out of. The fact is, talking the ears off of most people came very easily to my boss. To call him an incessant chatterbox on steroids would be a gross understatement.

Anywho, my boss passed away late last evening. He's been dealing with some serious health issues for some time now, but he still tried to project that gruff exterior and that iron fist of management of his that he had so finely tuned over the years. Despite his enormous physical difficulties, he was a Marine to the very end. Semper Fi, dude.

I fully realize that some of you may be wondering what the big deal is after your having wished your boss ill many times over. I mean, I'll be the first one to admit that my boss had me punching the side of my old truck on many occasions. But somebody has to be the boss. Somebody has to be the heavy. Somebody has to make sure the highest of standards are enforced no matter what. And in this respect, my boss was the consummate professional. If you took a sharp object to any part of his body without his permission, I'm fairly certain he would have bled the easily recognizable stripes of our company logo.

I remember having to sit through three, possibly even four interviews before I was eventually hired by him and his immediate underlings. And I remember having to pen an essay about why I had applied at his always growing concern. Among other things, I wrote about my being impressed by his company's sizeable market share, and it's longevity as a company. Many weeks later during my training, he told me that my essay was as impressive as my resume. And as a brand new employee, I greatly appreciated such a kind compliment. It would be years before he'd come close to topping that compliment as he was not known for tossing very many compliments his employee's way. It seemed as if, in his mind, perfection was expected, not merely strived for. That approach to management stands in direct contrast to what I was taught in college, and on the job. I was taught to always strive for that highly elusive perfection, but not to fully expect it unless you wanted ulcers up the wazoo. It's obvious that he and I had teachers from the opposite ends of the spectrum.

And while both I and my fellow co-workers have had some rather serious disagreements with our boss over the years, no company, that's...no company, captures a sizeable share of any market, or celebrates the longevity that this company has without having some dedicated managers in place. And I know from experience that good managers don't have to be perfect in their approach to most things. They don't have to be loved by all of their employees. And they don't have to budge an inch as long as they are producing the numbers. And no matter what anyone may have to say about my boss, he sure as heck found a way to produce the numbers. And on a very, very consistent basis.

Somebody much, much more experienced than I in the ways of management once told me that employees don't necessarily need to love you, they just need to respect you and do what it is that you need them to do. And being that my particular job is a speciality of sorts, I totally respected my boss as being superior to me in my not-so-chosen field of speciality. As some of you already know, my daily grind is all about protecting structures from termites. If I may, I don't think any of my co-workers know near as much as I do, save one, about how to keep termites out of a structure, or how to chase them out once they've moved in. And what my company, the state and Dow Chemical doesn't force me to learn with constant re-testing, I learn on my own by cruising the internet. But with that said, I might never know as much about termite treatments as my boss knew. Despite being rated as high as I can be by the #1 office in a company rated as being the very best in it's industry; I'm gonna miss the comfy luxury of being able to pick my boss' brain whenever I run into a structural anomaly that has me second-guessing myself.

Team effort

A couple of years ago, I was supposed to treat an infested structure as instructed, but after studying the site graph and then comparing it to the actual conditions I found; I was left scratching my head as to what to do next. Something seemed seriously amiss. To treat or not to treat? And then this somewhat annoying voice suddenly popped into my head going "If you're not sure, don't do it!" And I didn't do it. I investigated things a bit further, talked to the homeowner a little bit more and in the process, (according to the bossman himself) likely saved my company millions of dollars in environmental clean-up costs and weighty fines. And when no one else was around to hear him say it, he congratulated me on a job well done. I jokingly asked him what percentage of those millions of dollars saved would appear in my bonus check and he snarled back at me with, "It's your job to catch those things!"

Kidding! I was kidding. I know the gig by now. It's my job to be the very best that the industry has to offer. I got it. I got it. I was goofin' on you. Chill already. It's my job to catch those sorts of things. Got it.

The fact of the matter is, it was his constant reminder that was pounded into my brain from day one, "If you're not sure, don't do it," that saved the entire day on that frightfully cold morning. I may have made the correct decision that not so fateful day, but it was his seemingly endless expertise drilled into me that saved the day. And still, he paid me a compliment that were so few and far between. He paid me a compliment, but it was what he instilled in me that ultimately staved off a costly incident.

The glove pic

On a very brief aside, the boss himself told me enjoyed my internet account of our volunteerism efforts in Kirby Park, but he apparently missed what some interloper did to that work glove before our having taken that picture.


From day one, the word around our office was that he was cheap. The accusation was that he wouldn't spend the money necessary to buy us the things that we needed to get the job done out their in the field. And being the borderline mental patient that I am, I started hacking on him about his being cheap. Each and every time, he lashed back at me most vociferously and went on and on about how he couldn't buy fourteen sets of everything for everyone that worked there. And you just know I was loving his reaction to my constant harping on him.

And then one morning, after busting open a couple of knuckles while trying to use a bench-mounted vice that had obviously outlived it's usefulness, half in jest, I called him cheap to his face. I expected to get my head chewed off. I expected to be shouted down. I expected something, but not what I received. His face soured, he mumbled to himself and disappeared through the doorway and out of the warehouse. And minutes later he slapped his Home Depot credit card (which was more secure than the gold in Fort Knox) and told me to get myself over there and buy a new vice. And as he wandered away, he was still grumbling under his breathe about not being cheap. This was the first of two such incidents, and I laughed myself near silly both times. What I took from this was that when presented with undeniable facts, even the dude with the supposed uncompromising personality and the gruff exterior would admit that maybe...possibly, someone other than he was right about something. As far as I know, no other grunt such as myself has set sail for Home Depot with that charge card on board. What a character.


What I sometimes found so tiresome about the guy was that no matter how much needless aggravation I had suffered, or how much mental or physical duress a particular job may have unduly caused me, when I bothered to complain out loud, he always looked back at me with that blank stare that so clearly read, "And?"


Blood? Sweat? Tears? Ripped Dickies? Worn-out knees? A tired lower back? And?

Oops! Sorry. The termite guy was supposed to expect as much. Nevermind. It was almost as if the termite guy was his raw recruit back at Parris Island circa 1970. Or something.

His son spoke to us as a group today and he said that his dad had always thought of his employees as being members of his extended family. I wholeheartedly believe that to be the case. I really do. Because every once in a while, from behind that well-crafted gruff exterior of his, a thoroughly likable guy would emerge, albeit, if only for a nanosecond.

I remember this picture very well. As soon as Tom Leighton dethroned Tom McGroarty on election night, May 20, 2003, the assembled masses marched on the Ramada for quite a few hours of celebrating. And that place was a Who's Who of the rich, the powerful and the rich and powerful. And even before the TV news babes could get their claws into mayor-elect Tom Leighton, there was the boss filling his ear. The consummate salesman who could have easily been the consummate politician.


While at a job site a few months back, the ultimate critic himself arrived at a job site only to learn that everything the two of us were told to expect of that job was completely wrong. And it was obvious that we were going to have to gut it out and suck it up to deliver what had been promised to that particular customer. And as I knelt there banging away at a three foot-long drill bit stuck in the mother of all floating slabs, he paid us what could only be described as the ultimate compliment coming from him. He told the two of us to take a break and said, "My termite guys earn their money."

You're damn straight we do! And who set the bar so high?

The "Weasel."

That's who.