There’s a commercial for State Farm where an employee gives her 15 year notice. “Well, I better schedule your exit interview,” sighs the boss. “Fifteen years goes by quickly.”
Last year, I started training my replacement at the office. Max’s nephew, out of college and looking for a job, came to work. Max asked what I thought about him working for us in the office. I gave my best fake smile and said I thought it would be a great idea. And I did. Sort of.
On the one hand, I loved the idea of having back-up. A second set of eyes is nice. My two bosses are all about work; there’s nobody better than they are. They aren’t much on paperwork. With nobody to double-check my work, I worry about the probability that I’ll make a serious error and cost them money. In time, I hoped that Sobrino could check my work as I can check his.
I worry about dying. Not the act of dying. I concede that I’m mortal. Still holding out hope for immortality, but the evidence is leaning toward my having a “Best by —-” shelf life.
I fret about how the fellows will get along if I die at the estimating desk. It isn’t that I am indispensable. I am not. There are plenty of other estimators, most of them much more educated and more competent than I. The good ones are working; so are the fair and not so good. Like I can control from beyond the grave, I have a list of people who Max CANNOT hire no matter what under penalty of haunting.
In a few months, Sobrino could discern the good from the bad. He saw the paperwork that should go with every bid. He understood that plugging in numbers, guessing the cost isn’t acceptable in a bid. It’s ok for a seat-of-the-pants-don’t-hold-me-to-it estimate. But not for a real bid; every number on a bid has some rational. The rational might be flawed, but he needs to think through the pricing and not grab a number out of his ear.
With luck, Sobrino and I will work together for a few years before I retire. I wasn’t worth what my boss paid me the first few years I worked as an estimator; bad judgement makes good experience. And I got plenty good experience at the expense of my first, and maybe my second, bosses.
My trainee is truly an associate after a year of working together; I enjoy the companionship of collaborating on a bid. Despite the 40 years difference in our ages, there’s a commonality. He’s joined the Royal Order of Insane Construction Estimators.
That’s all on the plus side.
On the down side, I battle this “dead man walking” mentality. My professional mortality looms large. They are ready to pull the plug. No. Life. Support. Gaspchoke. I have this sense of decrepitude.
There’s so much ego involved in this process. I never liked co-workers and bosses who were knowledge hoarders, sharing just enough information to make their subordinates dangerous. It wasn’t in the nature of the men who trained me so I sure don’t want it to be part of my nature as I train Sobrino. I want him to know what I know, what I’ve learned over the past 30+years, all the hard fought knowledge that’s kept me working and supported since GE was a little girl.
I’m the aggregate of Roy, Charlie, Spec, Tharel, John, and Gary. Ghost voices remind me to slow down just like I remind Sobrino to break the job into parts, think it through, ask questions, be confident that he can do the work.
And I am not confidant that I will want to move on when the time comes. GE has said she was sure that working until death was my retirement plan. This has been my life’s work, but I don’t want to die at the drafting table finishing a bid. I’ve known a couple of estimators who did just that. Unfortunately, it was literally. (For sale: One drafting table.)
My best friend and I were talking about taking care of her 90-year-old mother in law. She said that it’s a little uncomfortable: we are approaching our beginning of the end. It’s uncomfortable to see what might be, to know that we might not have prepared well enough to have choices. I wrote uncomfortable. Should have said terrifying.
Ahh. One more of those dang things I can’t control.