Things you learn from friends, part 2

By Gerry Fischer

 Tom and Rosemary were very good friends of ours. We actually relocated from Florida to Arizona where Tom and I could once again work-together. He was the director of construction, and I was the west district construction manager. I resigned from the Circle-K Corporation, that filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as soon as I could, collecting the bankruptcy employee-retention plan bonus, that kept the company operating.

 Tom had left Circle-K before me, and had taken a position with Northern Automotive who had two chains of after-market auto parts stores, Checkers and Northern Automotive. They were similar to Auto Zone, but centered out west. These stores were larger than convenience stores, but that didn’t scare me, because they all go together one stick at a time. Fran stayed in Tampa and sold the house, while I moved to an apartment the company rented for relocating employees. I went straight back into the work I knew.

 I really thought I knew Tom before we moved west, but we were always separated by 3,000 miles, he in Phoenix, Az. and me in Tampa, Fla. We were in touch for eight or nine years by mail, email and phone, but except for five or six times a year, we never were together on any regular basis. Now we sat in the same office, lunched together and made road trips. We also golfed and when Fran came out, we socialized. I found I did not know him as well as I thought.

 Tom was a slight but handsome man about 5’-8” in height, weighing about 145 lbs. He was dark complexioned, with dark brown hair, brown eyes and a thin neatly trimmed moustache. He looked remarkably like Thomas Dewey who lost to Harry Truman in 1948. We made an odd pair, with me and my Pillsbury Dough-boy appearance, and he all neat and proper. He called me the professor, but I learned things from Tom.

 He did good things no one could see. Once we were heading to play golf at a Tournament Players Club course in Phoenix, and stopped at a Circle-K convenience store. Tom wanted to make a purchase. When we got to the check-out counter there were three people ahead of us. There was a man being rung-up, a young Hispanic woman holding a baby behind him, and then us. After the man exited the girl had some cans of baby formula, box of disposable diapers and another baby related item. She shifted the baby to her hip like mothers do, and emptied her change on the counter and began counting. When she had counted all her change, she was short two dollars. I was ready to make up the difference, for her, when Tom stepped up and told the clerk to ring his purchase with hers, and he paid the entire bill with two twenties, and gave the change to the young woman. She cried. I learned a lesson about generosity that day. While most people would simply have been annoyed by her delaying them counting out change, he was concerned about her and her baby’s welfare. This was not unusual for Tom.

 Tom also had a great sense of humor. He made daily quips that brought me to laughter. In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected President and appointed Dr. Joycelyn Elders Surgeon General and Janet Reno as Attorney General. Reno managed to stay in office, but bungled Ruby Ridge, Waco, and was an embarrassment. Two unrelated events happened between 1991 and 1993, a star of children’s shows, Pee Wee Herman was caught doing scandalous things at a pornographic theater, and a movie was released named “Free Willy,” about an imprisoned Orca.

 Tom had arranged to promote a lady in accounting, named Willomena, nicknamed Willy, to become his administrative assistant. She was highly qualified but doing a clerk’s job. They delayed her move for a month but was paying her from Tom’s budget. One day Tom found out, and was so mad he turned red and stormed upstairs. I asked where he was going, and he answered “I’m going to Free Willy.” And he did. A day or two later Dr. Elders decided the government should hand-out condoms to elementary school children, and public opinion forced Clinton to fire her. I asked Tom who he thought would replace her? He said “Knowing Clinton, it’ll probably be Pee Wee Herman!” Thank God it wasn’t.

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