June 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Working Hard and Loving It

Part 2
(Continued from last week)

Working in my father’s warehouse presented another instance of proving my laziness. The business sold wholesale hides and skins (cow hides, calf, sheep and rabbit skins) mostly bought from slaughterhouses and meat wholesalers in the New York/New Jersey area. I do not remember how much detail I mentioned when I talked about this subject previously, so I will be brief. My father had started in this business as a Lehrling (apprentice) in Germany, shortly before World War I, and then after military service, started his own business on a small scale. After he married my mother in 1924, he built up a nice-sized business, by the standards of those times, until he had to sell his business for pennies in order to get out of the Buchenwald concentration camp after Kristallnacht in November 1938. A few years after he came to the U.S., he was able to start the same business again here. Why do I tell you this whole history? With a short interruption of a few years my father had been in the same business for about 35 years; in other words, he knew what he was doing with that many years of experience. So, I came around to him about 1950 and I didn’t agree with some of the instructions he gave me on how to do the various steps in the process of converting a raw skin into a salt-brine-processed skin ready for sale to the tannery.

My dear father was a very strong-willed person, and backed by 35 years of experience, he didn’t take kindly to suggestions from his son, still wet behind the ears. It was clear to me that trying to convince my father with words would not work. I decided to demonstrate my way of doing it, what I considered to be better and faster. I don’t want to go into details of the work involved, but when my father was out on the road with the truck, I would be mostly alone in the warehouse and could do “my thing.” Let us say, if for example I had been expected by my father to complete 100 units, and he would find 150 units in the afternoon when he came back, there would be comments like “Are you done already?” or “How did you finish already?” or similar. So, one day when we were both in the warehouse, I did the work my way, and my father looked and watched. He said nothing to me but he never again criticized me. I am sure it must have been difficult for him to accept that his son, with no experience in the field, would be able to better his 35 years of experience. Being lazy and acting on it can sometimes be difficult.

The story about my working at Hackensack Hospital is well known since I mentioned it only recently in my writing about volunteering. That was another example of my finding an easier and less time-consuming way of doing something.

Finally, in conclusion of this subject, let me talk about my work as a volunteer at Englewood Hospital. Over the years, first in the human resources department, then with the Center for Clinical Practice, as well as working in the finance department, surprised faces at the speed I could finish a job were constant. I would be given a job and told that there was no need to finish it that day, and I would complete it way before the expected completion time. It was sometimes a very small change in a process that enabled me to be more efficient. For example, when stuffing envelopes in a mass mailing, the placing of the pile of empty envelopes to be stuffed, can make a big difference when you have thousands to stuff. In many ways I improved procedures that were then adopted also by others in the department. In one department that I worked in, when I started, I was the second person working there, doing a certain type of work, over a period of four days. Now I am the only person, working two days, sometimes three, but in addition to that work, I handle the work of a second department.

It goes to show, when you are lazy as I am, if you are not afraid to work hard, you will be complimented, not criticized.

By Norbert Strauss

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