While deciding on my first day office outfit, he delivered my uniform: long-sleeved safety gear with cinder block-heavy steel-tipped boots. Surprise! I wasn't working in the "office." I was the fill-in summer janitor for the oil refinery warehouse production line, bathrooms, and get this - my favorite job - picking up the dead pigeons along the locomotive tracks around the plant!
After a grueling sizzling hot summer in long sleeves mopping up oil spills, bathroom overflows, bird feathers and carcasses, this same man asked me on my final ride home... "So, how were you treated all summer?"
I answered, "Fine. Everyone was very nice to me."
He said, "Good. Don't ever forget that you had the lowest job in the plant - cleaning up after everyone else - and people were kind to you. You're going to be a great leader someday. Just remember that everyone deserves kindness, to feel special. Learn their names. Get to know them. Treat them well, just like you were treated, always with a smile. You'll go far, sweetie," with that proud wink I always craved as the ultimate badge of honor.
That man was my father, Bob Pahlka... with a lesson that has stayed with me through the years, and I hope to pass to my own children. Thank you, Dad, for all your little lessons and stories I'd do anything to hear again. Happy Father's Day in heaven. (No pigeon-watching for you... flounder fishing, of course.) And to all you wonderful fathers.