True story: In early ’75 I was working for a Los Angeles tree-trimming outfit. (This was right at the end of my “secret genius” period.) We needed the owner to unlock a large gate to the back yard. I rang the front-door bell a couple of times…nothing. We went over to a screened-in patio area on the side and knocked on the screen door. A high-pitched woman’s voice said “come in!” I explained who we were, etc. “Come in!” I’d begun to suspect a Mynah bird, but just to be polite I repeated that the gate had to be unlocked. “Come in!”
The bird also did a great wolf whistle.
The name of the company was A. Kelley Tree Service. The owner was Bob Kelley, a muscular, dark-haired Irishman with a temper problem. He stuck the “A” in front of his last name so the company would be listed first in the Yellow Pages. Bob could be a charmer when he turned it on, but his anger would always pop through under stress. A co-worker named Nick explained to me once that “when Bob gets angry, it’s mainly because he’s angry at himself.” Bob was married but had a girlfriend on the side. He also had a suspicious or disapproving attitude about non-Anglos.
“Workin’ Man Takes Rebel Stand,” posted on 2.24.16:
“[Kelley] spent most of his time meeting prospective clients and selling the work, and I was a kind of informal foreman of a three-man crew. Bob would calculate the cost of a job by estimating how much time it would take. Sometimes the job would take less time than he figured and sometimes a little more. Either way he knew we’d get the job done within a reasonable time frame.
Not long after I was hired Bob showed us a job that he figured would take a full eight hours and maybe closer to nine. “You’ve got all day,” he told me as we arrived in the early morning. “I’ll be gone until the late afternoon but if you can finish by 5 or 6 pm we’ll be in good shape.”
As soon as he left I told the other two guys, “Let’s finish this sucker as fast as we can — five or six hours — and then we’ll have a couple of hours of lying around time in the late afternoon.” We did that — busted ass, had a short lunch, managed to finish by 3 pm. We were raking up, folding the tarps and putting away the equipment around 3:15 pm when Bob returned. “Whoa…you’ve finished! Good work!” He was so pleased with our professional dispatch that he decided to take us over to another job.
“Whoa, wait…you told us this was it for the day,” I said. “Well, yeah but we can make it an even better day if we finish this other job,” Bob answered with a grin and a comradely poke. “It’ll only take an hour, 90 minutes at most…won’t be that hard.”
I felt used and abused, but this episode taught me a lesson. Never work hard for the boss because if you do he’ll just try to make you do more and work harder. From that point on I never worked any faster than I had to, and sometimes a little slower. I didn’t become a slacker and I always did the work, but I learned to take my time.