Passing by the "rookie table" in the bullpen these days, I often chuckle at the stories they tell. While the adventures described seem amazing to them, it's easy to remember being just where they are. First, they congregate far away from the extra board table, as if veterans are intimidating. You know how it is, when you're new to something you tend to associate with the comforting familiarity of those wearing similar shoes to your own. It's a tad intimidating to venture away from that table and from those with whom you were trained. As the miles click by, you meet operators on the road who are kind and helpful. Some aren't much senior than you, and your circle begins to widen. Eventually you feel more comfortable with your brothers and sisters. Then, you come across a hardened old-timer who won't even acknowledge you when greeted at a break room. There are some operators who don't speak to trainees or newbies or even those they have never met. Reality bites in every vocation, especially in a seniority-driven career.
|Willie Jack, veteran of nearly 40 years.|
His daughter is a good friend of mine, but I didn't immediately make the connection. I should have, because she's a lot like him (a bit more ornery perhaps, but a sweet potato nonetheless). Jenelle was just a few classes ahead of me, and for a few signups I unknowingly picked her old routes. She gave me great pointers and let me know who the regular riders were. Just like her dad, she was (and still is!) eager to help when many wouldn't even look at me, let alone speak.
Just like others who are intelligent, kind and truly caring, Willie is humble and soft-spoken. While I'm sure he's a force to be reckoned with when somebody acts up on his bus, he's also one of the most beloved operators we have. Passengers who know him sing his praises. Fellow operators love and respect him. I don't know him as well as I'd like to. Every time I've been invited to join a family gathering, work or other obligations have intervened. Someday soon, I look forward to sitting down and getting to know this remarkably decent gentleman.
All good things come to pass, and this summer is Willie's last as a bus operator. He's retiring, leaving behind a family of fellow operators who will truly miss him. Surely, I'm but one of hundreds, probably thousands, who aspire to honor his legacy.
Roll easy, Mr. Jack. We're sorry to see you go, but you've earned a long and happy retirement. Congratulations, kudos and may the Lord always bless you and yours with the best life has to offer.