Joe is our well-loved bindery guy. He actually came to me as a college kid. Not your ordinary college kid was Joe, though. About 7 years ago, a good natured, nice looking fellow in his late 50s wandered in and told our front counter person that he was looking for an internship. She was curious enough to call me to the front and I was curious enough to ask Joe for his story. He told me the first of many tales that I was to hear.
Joe spent most of his career with a large textile operation that was based out of Macon. With the incursion of low cost Asian imports in the 1990s, Joe’s company went belly up. Joe had graduated from Bulldog University in Athens in the early 60s and decided it was time to go back to school for “re-edumacation.” He enlisted in the Information Technology program at Macon State College. Y2K was coming and businesses were recruiting armies for protection against the dreaded “millenium bug.”
Joe needed an internship with one of those companies to complete the requirements for his second degree. He wasn’t struggling; he had a 4.0 average, as I recall. I’ve never quite figured out how he stumbled on to AlphaGraphics, or exactly why I went along with the whole internship idea. I remember explaining to Joe that he could develop a website or something, but what I really needed was “help!.” We were struggling to break even and I was covering way too many bases. Joe was a Godsend.
He worked several hours a week for the three months of his internship and learned a little bit of everything. When the semester was over, I really expected him to move on. He had one more semester of school and it was time to start looking for a real job.
Joe stayed. He asked if he could continue working part-time until he finished the program at Macon State. When he graduated, I expected him to go to work with one of the larger companies based in Macon. In those days, we even had a computer software business here. Joe may have had some interviews, but I never knew about them. He continued working at the printshop, doing a little customer service work, answering the phone, folding brochures, and putting books together.
I think that we had a “sit-down meeting” along there somewhere. My recollection is that I asked Joe what he was going to do and he responded that he thought he’d really just like to stay. I guess it was more fun to collate books than to chase down millenium bugs. He’s handled most of the bindery work at the shop ever since.
Joe has an uncanny ability to get enormous amounts of work accomplished without appearing to do anything. He takes a morning and an afternoon break and always has time to tell a story to anyone who will listen. Republican radio is his constant companion. He operates machines, but has no affinity for them whatsoever. If Joe can’t break it , it can’t be broken. I sometimes think that he could break a lever and fulcrum.
Joe says he’s going to retire next year . . . he’ll be sixty-five. I’m dreading it. His wife, Becky, has told him that if he’ll keep working, he can use the money he earns to travel. That means we’ll at least get to keep him part time. In preparation, I’ve been looking for another intern like Joe. I don’t think I’ll find one. I think they threw away the mold.