NOTE from Robert: This article is reprinted with permission of the author, Bill Sarine. When Bill told me this story, it touched my heart. As a person fighting off cancer, I’d given much thought to my remaining “Time”….
It was 1975 in Chicago and I was a salesman for a large computer company. I had a number of large accounts including Illinois Bell Telephone and American Can Printing Company. One day I was waiting in the American Can office pending my appointment and was watching a young man through the display window, running tapes on the computer system. It was a print shop and he was loading machines and then going to the command console and rapidly keying in command codes on a key panel in computer code. This fascinated me that anyone that could not only remember all the codes but key them in so rapidly.
The manager I was meeting with came out and I commented to him how amazed I was at the skill of the young man. He nodded and with a quiet voice told me he had some bad news for the young man. The company was closing down the print operation and moving it to another site. He was going to have to let him go. What made it more difficult was that this young man had no education and was the support for his entire family. His father had died and he had his mother and three siblings to support. He said he always came in early worked late and never complained.
Later that day I was meeting with the Comptroller of Illinois Bell and on a whim asked if they had any affirmative action difficulties. He immediately got serious and said one of his greatest challenges was finding qualified people with technical skills. I told him about Petro. He indicated he would like to speak to him and asked me to set up an interview. We set a time for the following day.
I called his boss and arranged to meet Petro at his office early so I could give him some briefing.
The next day when I met Petro I immediately decided that Jeans and worn sneakers were not the appropriate attire for an interview. We went to Marshall Field’s Bargain basement, fit him out with a suit, shirt, tie new shoes etc. he felt very uncomfortable so I decided to give him a pep talk.
When I was starting in business one of my first mentors pulled me aside and gave me a watch. It was a simple Timex but the words he said always stayed with me.
I never will forget that look as he stared at the watch. I dropped him at the reception desk and with shaking legs he walked into the interview. Over an hour later he emerged with a glow in his eyes. Smiling he said he got the job.
I lost touch with Petro over the years but heard he was doing well. I moved on to North Carolina and 30 years passed. Now I was running a company in the east and distributing electronics nationally. Attending a trade show in San Diego I had a very hectic schedule of booth operations, press conferences and committee meetings. Tired and exhausted on the third day I was taking a break with my 3rd cup of coffee when a well dressed gentleman approached me and said; “are you Mr. Sarine formerly from Chicago?” I nodded yes and then he dropped the bomb. “You may not remember me but I used to be called Petro. I am now Peter and I hoped I would have the chance to meet you again.” I guess I showed my shock. He explained that he had been given an opportunity to finish his education and in fact had a master’s degree from Northwestern and was now on the staff of ATT Headquarters in NJ. He was married with 2 children and a fine life. We planned to have dinner that night.
At dinner he stated he had a gift for me and handed me a box. In it was a new watch. Included was a note that will always be sacred to me.
Thanks for your faith in me.
Since then I have made it a practice to always have a spare watch available to pass on when needed. The price of the watch is not relevant. It is the use of time that is.
This article is Copyright © by Bill Sarine, Writers Guild of America Registration number 1706756