Needing a breath of fresh air, I headed out for a brief walk outside. The corporate world, sometimes, can get a bit overwhelming. A group of plant employees, dressed in their protective Kevlar clothing were gathered near a picnic table. A few I knew and the others were temporary employees I did not know. They looked like laundry hung out to dry but now clumped on the ground when the clothes line broke.
I confess, at first I thought it best if I adjust my walk to avoid them, telling myself they didn’t need someone who worked in air conditioning around them. In the end, I could not, and wandered over. Only one or two even acknowledged my presence with a weary head nod. They all had worked six and seven days in a row for a month now and these last two weeks their hours were topping 60 hours a week easily. The exhaustion, the heat and the type of work we do was really taking a toll. Not even the best protective equipment can shield that type of weariness.
It was not the time for small talk. Not talking to anyone specific, I told them to hang in there, they were getting a well deserved three day holiday. Today and tomorrow was all that was left. I told them about the new crews we had just hired and how we were trying to smooth out scheduling so they could go back to normal hours. I tried to explain. Finally, I congratulated them on what they had accomplished. A couple of eyes looked at me but most just stared at the ground where their shoulders were resting along with their overworked backs.
We stood there in silence, my eyes now focused on the ground with theirs. Knowing I needed to get back inside, I looked at them and said ‘thank you.’ As I turned and walked away I overheard the following conversation.
“Who was that?”
“I don’t know man, but she said ‘thanks’”
Opening the door to the building, I could not help but chuckle. I went over to lift their spirits. They had schooled me. No wiser words have ever been spoken.