Terry was one of those guys everyone loved. No matter who was around, Terry could charm them, and he never forgot a joke. Even though he worked in construction management, his hair was always perfect, his clothes ironed and immaculate, and his truck was spotless.
He hadn’t always lived this way. As a child his family was impoverished, and one of Terry’s favorite stories was the day he arrived in class at school wearing one shoe.
“Terry, did you lose a shoe?” the teacher asked.
“No ma’am, I found one!” Terry said happily.
Terry was fifteen years older than I, and his family sometimes sent their kids to school without shoes, without coats or jackets, without lunch money or lunch, and that was the way it was. There was a free lunch program but Terry’s father wasn’t going to allow his kids to be on welfare.
The big break came when Terry got a job after school working with a land surveyor. The man who hired Terry taught him how to survey, and taught him how to drink. This led to Terry having enough money for a car, dates, and Terry discovered women. He became quite the ladies’ man, got married young, she divorced him after their baby arrived, a daughter, and Terry vowed to never marry again.
Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony. Terry was doing quite well with his side gig and his regular job in construction. His presence at the bars was epic, and legendary. Life was rocking along just fine, but one day a county commissioner called the headquarters of Terry’s construction job and claimed Terry had gone to a motel on company time with a married woman. It was, in point of fact, the commissioner’s wife.
Now the man in charge of the headquarters had a dual reputation. The first was he ran a tight ship with no allowances for misconduct. The second was he couldn’t keep his own pants zipped up on his best days. Terry hadn’t done anything anyone could prove, so he wasn’t going to get fired, but from that point on, he never got another promotion.
What really sucked about all of this, is Terry was the go-to guy when it came to solving construction problems, and when complex projects arose his name was always mentioned. Yet his reputation of drinking and for disappearing from projects to visit women he knew haunted him. I worked with him for many years and never saw him take a drink on the job. Did he sometimes leave and no one knew where he was? Yes, but that doesn’t speak to what he was doing. No cell phones existed. For all we knew he was on the job, just not where we could see him.
Terry married again, late in life, and the last time I saw him he was in his seventies and getting quite elderly acting. I almost asked him about the commissioner’s wife, but decided against it.
Did you have a charmer where you work(ed)?
Mike writes regularly at his site: The Hickory Head Hermit.
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