As I began my career as a draftsman, I was learning my trade and I was learning more about people. The new office environment was certainly different from working in a noisy, doors-opened shop. Hammers banging, grinders shooting sparks across the work area, radios playing, guys talking loudly.
The office was more sophisticated, more refined. People would politely smile as you passed them in the hallway. The only noise would be an adding machine in someone’s office, definitely no radios and rarely the banging of a book on a desktop.
The drafting room was on the second floor out-of-the-way of foot traffic. I would learn that draftsmen needed a quiet atmosphere to concentrate on what they were drawing, which involved reading architectural plans and mathematics. We were to focus on details and how things would fit in the field.
My first duty was to fill out Bills of Materials. I would take the drawings a draftsman had completed and transferred the information on the drawing to a form which would list the number of beams, columns, and bolts. I would become familiar with the style of drafting the company wanted and put it to practice when I got on the board.
This job was a big step for me. My family was mainly laborers and I saw this job as an opportunity to advance and create a better life for Terrie and me. Working in an office was important to me and I wanted to succeed.
The drafting room had about sixteen open-work station arranged in four rows of drafting tables and reference table along with a side table. Two rows were pushed together at the center of the room which gave us two aisles.
In one corner of the room was a glass enclosed office of the outside drafting coordinator. He was a very thin man, maybe forty years old. He reminded me of Jack Webb in appearance and in his mannerisms. Just the facts.
In the other corner office sat the chief draftsman. An experienced person who managed the schedule of projects and dealt with personnel issues. Most of the draftsman were intimidated by him. He behaved somewhat like a headmaster at an English school.
When your review time came, he would invite you into his office, shut the door and ask you to sit in the lone chair across his desk. He would pull out a little retractable shelf that was part of the desk to view the pay scale. Across the top of the paper had headings identified as ‘single’, ‘married’, ‘married 1’, ‘married 2’, etcetera. I learned the numbers behind the word married indicated the number of children you had. A vertical column identified how many years you had worked for the company. If you had worked for the company three years and you were married with two children, he would slide his finger from the three-year row until he got to married 2. At that intersection, was the dollar amount an employee would be paid. I didn’t know much about how things worked, but that method seemed to fail to take into account the quality of work you did and other things. But they may have accounted for that on another shelf in the desk.
We had an insecure checker. A checker “checks” the work a draftsmen does by highlighting in yellow or “ringing up” errors in red. If the chief draftsman decided to take a stroll through the drafting room to see how much progress you were making, the checker would mark something in red just so the chief draftsman could see he was doing something. If it was correct, he would scratch it out afterward. You never got a drawing back without some red on it.
We had a guy who was a high school football referee. He told us, he would wear pantyhose in the cold weather instead of long johns. It seemed to me, he took a little too much pleasure in telling us about wearing the pantyhose, but what do I know about pantyhose.
We had a supervisor who had the hiccups for about three days straight. Normally a quiet man, who was a good teacher, he lost all patience by the end of the first day. You did not want to ask him any questions during that time.
I watched silently as I was exposed to these people, who were farther down the road than I was and I tried to learn from their experiences.
After I worked there for a couple of years, one of my fellow draftsman moved to another steel company in town. I followed and this place seemed more open in their structure.
I had a cubical with a drafting table and a reference table. I was allowed to have a radio, but since we were all allowed to have a radio it would get loud and confusing, since we didn’t all listen to the same station. The chief draftsman walked down the aisle one day and said it sounded like a Saturday night in Tijuana. The rules were changed to listening allowed, if we used headphones. The music made the day go quicker, but it had an effect on my hearing years later.
Since I was making more money, Terrie and I bought a 1,000 sq ft house. Having moved as often has I had, it was so nice to have a place to call my own. It was not luxurious, but it was nice and it was ours. Things seemed to be going our way, but there was still some things unsettled in our relationship.
We would be invited to parties that my co-workers would give. I would have drinks with them and think that I was advancing, but it created some uncertainties with Terrie. I still had a hot temper and she wasn’t sure our marriage would last. On top of that, I thought it was time for us to have children; but was that the right environment to bring children into?
One day, Terrie called me and wanted to have lunch with me. She met me at the Peking Chinese Restaurant at SW29th and S. May Ave. I think it’s a pawn shop now. We sat in a booth and ordered lunch. After a little while, she told me that she was late in her cycle. We stopped eating and just looked at one another. Then we would giggle and just look at one another. I was very happy. I thought this is wonderful!
But sadly, a few days later, we realized she was just late. It was not for us to be parents. It’s amazing the response we have received from people when we have been asked if we have children. You could feel people withdrawing from you. It was if we had some contagious disease. I remember one time we were at someone’s home and they asked us if we had children. Terrie said we did not, but we had a cat. The woman responded “Well, a cat is not the same as a child!!” Oh, really? We didn’t know that! Thank you for letting us know!
A few years later, I was called by our church to be ordained as a deacon. We had some people vote against it because we did not have children. Others have said to me, “Doesn’t the Bible say to be fruitful and multiply?” I answered, “Yes it does. It also says that I cannot add an inch to my height or change my hair from black to grey (paraphrased). There are things that must originate from God.” It’s not easy not being normal and to be different.
But what about adoption? After I became a Christian and I changed and our marriage stabilized, it was too late. At the time, Terrie was not open to having an adopted child. We would go forward as two. Trusting what God would have for us.
God had a purpose in Terrie and me not having children. We may never know the reason, but it was His decision. Terrie was an elementary school teacher for twenty-five years, we would get glimpses of what joy parents would have by being involved with her students and we saw the challenges parents had as well. Parenting is not trouble-free. Those who do it well will be rewarded in their later years.
The early years have ended. Living and growing together for the long haul has begun and I have enjoyed the road. There was no telling were it would lead.
What road are you on? Let me know.