I haven’t written a post about a strange person I worked with in quite a while. I’ve been concerned about giving the impression that I worked with a bunch of kooks and weirdos. That is not the case at all. Almost all the people I worked with over the years were perfectly normal – just like me! 😉 It’s just that we tend to recall those who stand out from the norm.
That being said, I’d like to tell about an unusual man who was my boss for a year forty years ago.
I’ll call him Dylan – not his real name. Dylan is a Welsh name, and he was Welsh; not American of Welsh descent but Welsh from Wales.
From what little he revealed about his past I gathered that he was born in a small coal mining town in the late teens or early twenties. His family was very poor and his education was limited, so he ended up in the mines in his mid-teens. He had Adolf Hitler to thank for being rescued from a lifetime underground. He spent the war years in the British Army, participating in all the major campaigns in Europe. At the end of the war he knew he did not want to return to the mines.
Somehow, he was able to emigrate to the United States, where being very bright and ambitious, he attended night school studying accountancy and eventually took and passed the Certified Public Accountant Exam. After spending some years in private practice and becoming a naturalized citizen he was hired as an auditor by the U.S. Customs Service.
When I worked for him he had advanced to the position of Director of Internal Audits for the agency As I have noted, he was both smart and competent – well qualified for his position. He had a very dignified manner and somewhere along the way he had discarded his Welsh accent and replaced it with one much more refined, similar to Richard Burton’s.
So why do I consider him one of the strange ones I worked with?
Well – -although he was generally very businesslike, rarely indulging is small talk, there would be days when he was moved to pontification, and I was usually the pontificatee! (I think I have just coined a new word! :D)
Believe me, it was the part of my job that led me to consider another position. He was a self-proclaimed expert in EVERY subject imaginable – politics, history, carpentry, finance, gardening, World War 2, relativity, etc. etc. etc.. He would go on interminably and would not brook any argument -anything I would offer would be dismissed out-of-hand in a manner of a teacher putting down a slow student.
One memorable day he said: “Where Einstein made his mistake …….” and followed with almost a half hour dissertation which went way over my head. I was absolutely gobsmacked! By the time he was finished my eyes were crossing!
His favorite topic, though, was World War 2. He was convinced that the only people who were more stupid and incompetent than American soldiers were American Generals! He insisted that if the U.S. had just provided the materiel to the British Army and stayed out of the way the war would have ended much earlier and there would have been no part of Germany under Soviet control.
The first time he propounded on that subject I suggested that the U.S. had been supplying Britain even before entering the war and they hadn’t even been able to defeat Rommel in Africa, let alone attempt any landing in Europe, and that the British did not have the manpower to unilaterally carry out the western offensive. He got angry and advised me that he had been there and I didn’t know what I was talking about. I got the same reaction when I suggested that Americans, while stupid and incompetent, appeared to have done fairly well in the Pacific Theater. 😕
When I offered that Roosevelt and Stalin had agreed to a partition of Germany which included Soviet occupation of what became East Germany, and that, not incompetence, explained why allied troops held back the advance through Germany, I was reminded again of my ignorance and then subjected to a diatribe about the perfidy of Franklin Roosevelt which caused the Cold War.
After that I didn’t bother to argue with him.
But the thing that finally convinced me that I had to get out of that position had nothing to do with Dylan’s pontifications. One day he scheduled a meeting at our data center in Silver Spring, Maryland and told me that I would have to drive because he had taken the bus to work. I had no problem with that, but when I brought my car around to the front of our building Dylan got into the back seat.
I considered telling him that I was sorry that I had forgotten my chauffeur’s uniform and cap, but I have better sense than that. It felt like steam was coming out of my ears all the way to and from the data center. I don’t think I had ever felt so disrespected.