The smartest guy I ever met

Nov 2nd
Posted by shambo  as engineers, Jobs, Relationships
Smart Guy

Smart Guy

Let me say this about that.

Did you ever stop to think what series of decisions led to where you are today?¬† I don’t mean just geographically, but how you wound up in the job, the profession, the career in which you currently find yourself.¬† I would wager that almost none of us actually planned the precise position that¬†we currently occupy in the workplace.¬† Although much has been written about career interests being solidified during our childhood and adolescence, few of us actually spend the time to analyze how our formative experiences led to the jobs that we occupy today.

Sometimes, it ain’t pretty.

In 1972, America was entering a deep recession.¬†¬†I was working in Cape Canaveral during¬†the wind-down phase of the space program.¬† It was a hard job, loads of pressure, long hours and¬†much stress.¬† The stress of meeting launch dates without blowing up…¬†¬†¬† any of the astronauts took it’s toll on many of my fellow engineers.¬† So much so that the company I worked for had a licensed psychiatrist on staff.¬†¬† He helped the guys through nervous breakdowns, dissolving marriages, suicide attemps, and all sorts of mental unraveling.

I lived in a small bungalow about a block off the beach.  I loved the place because after a fourteen hour day, I would come home, grab a couple of beers, walk to the beach, listen to the ocean and unwind.  One night, I got home around midnight, got my beers and walked down to my ususal spot on the beach.  It was dark, but as I approached the beach I could see the outline of a long haired hippy type, sitting on the beach playing Jethro Tull music on a flute.

Damn, he was really good.¬† I didn’t want to disturb him,¬†so I¬†just sat there and enjoyed his music while I sipped my suds.¬† After a while, he lit up a joint and in the light of the flame I could see that the guy was the spitting image of those pictures of Jesus you always see hanging in churches. ¬†I could also¬†see another guy approaching.¬†

As the new visitor got closer, I could see that it was the company shrink.  We all worked such horrendous hours that I never knew the guy lived in another bungalow not fifty yards down the street.  We struck up a conversation that began with small talk, commenting on our private flute concert, and the serene beauty of the ocean at midnight.

But as we talked, the conversation began to take on a more philosophical tone, perhaps fueled by the beer and the fact that we were sitting down wind from a pot-smoking ‘Jesus’.¬† “Doc” as he was known, was an incrediblly intelligent guy, but he made you comfortable¬†with his low-key manner.¬† We spoke on any number of odd-ball subjects -¬†existance of ¬†life after death – the irrationality of women – why people get tattoos – how hard is it to learn to play the flute – why the first beer is always the best one – the possibility of sex in heaven – and, the big one, how we both wound up on this particular beach at this particular moment listening to ‘Jesus’ play Jethro Tull on the flute.

Doc asked me how I became an engineer.¬† I replied I wasn’t sure and had never given it much thought.¬† He seemed annoyed at my response and implied that either I didn’t want to tell him, or I was some stumble-bum, meandering through life and¬†accepting any fate that befell me.

That kind of pissed me off, so  not having a clever and thoughful comeback, I shot back the same question to him Рa skill I learned from the female of the species.

Shambo:¬† “OK, Doctor Smart Ass, how did you become a shrink.”

Doc:¬† “I became a psychiatrist because I’m insane.”

Shambo:¬† “Now who’s being evasive?¬† You’re way too smart to be insane.¬† If you don’t want to tell me, just say so.”

Doc:¬† “Oh, I’m insane alright.¬† The State of Florida has certified that I am fully qualified to make such a diagnosis, and I’m¬†telling you that¬†I am¬†clinically insane.¬† And by the way, there are lots of insane people that are smart.”

Shambo: “But how can that be ……. a crazy guy becomes a psychiatrist?”

Doc:¬† “It’s not too hard to understand.¬† You probably know some guy¬†who is an auto mechanic.¬† Chances are that, sometime in his youth his car broke down.¬†¬†He probably tried to fix it and discovered that there was a value in knowing how to fix cars, so he became a mechanic.¬† It’s the same with me, physiciatrity and insanity.”

I was totally blown away.¬† It was so simple and I had overlooked it completely.¬† That night on the beach I learned what “smart” really was ….. the ability to look at small, everyday things and derive incredible wisdom from them.¬† I also reconstructed my decision to become an engineer, how I wound up on that particular beach that night with Doc and a flute-playing ‘Jesus’, and how I now find myself sitting in a log cabin on a mountaintop in the Smokies writing this blog.

As I said, the economy was in the toilet.  The company Doc and I worked for went from 5,200 employees to 2,200 in eleven months.  Doc was on of the layoff victoms.  But because of his education, he beat out several other guys for a job selling cars at a local Chevy dealership.  I got a job with a consulting firm in Atlanta and stopped by the dealership to say goodby to Doc as I left town.   I remember the last thing he said to me as I was leaving:

Doc:¬† “I think I’m going to learn to play the flute.”

It is one of life’s little ironys.¬† The smartest guy I ever met was insane.

And, that’s all I have to say about that.

Shambo

 

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2 Comments

  1. shambo  3rd November 2009  

    Greg,
    It’s good to know that real talent like ‘Jesus’ was appreciated by more guys than just the ones who hung around on the beach at midnight. Also glad to hear he is still alive and kicking.
    Shambo

  2. Greg Rose  3rd November 2009  

    I know the Jesus looking flute player. I’ve played with him (me on guitar); he was a very close friend. We graduated from Cocoa Beach High together in 1970. He was a very good player; don’t know if he still plays or not. He played mostly classical pieces though he loved Jethro Tull. He lives in the Tallahassee area now.

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