The White Pencil

Today, I found a white pencil on my desk. You don’t really understand the significance of some event or item, until later – at least, that was what I have found.

A White Pencil.

I must have been 18. I worked at Apature/ACR manufacturing. I soldered, did inventory, managed speaker covers, shipping, and got coffee too.

“Marcia! Go to the lumberyard and get a pencil. I need a white pencil to make marks.”

Me: “Ok. By myself?”

“It’s just a pencil, Marcia. Do you think you can handle that?”

Me: “yea yea”

“and make it quick”

So, I get to the lumberyard and I find people and asked 2 people – hey I need a pencil. So, I never get one… and I’m like – excuse me…. and very polite – as I was raised to be.. I searched for other people to assist me. There were white pencils they were using… but I wasn’t going to grab one and take off…

No pencil. I couldn’t go all the way to the shop and tell him. So, I asked to use the phone but they were on it constantly. I left and found a pay phone. yea… before cell phones. Way before.


“Where are you!”

“There was a problem. Well, I couldn’t get anyone to get me a pencil. I asked 2 different guys and the girl at the front.”

“No pencil? Go back. They’ll get you a pencil.”

“Thanks Dad.”

Yes, I had to pull strings to get a pencil.

You see, our speakers were made using particle board and formica. You wouldn’t want to lose that type of business in a small town – no less, over … a pencil, now would you?

… and that’s the day my dad taught me about …customer service…

When they found out who I was, they rushed to give me several pencils and on the house… and all showering. I don’t like kiss ass crap, but, it was a learning experience.

A few weeks later, dad took me with him to the lumberyard. When we were there, he introduced me to the guy in charge – and it turned out his daughter was the girl at the front.

Dad towered over me at 6’1. I stood right next him.. in my t-shirt, jeans and sneakers – pretty much what I’m wearing now…

“I just wanted to make sure you know who my daughter is because I’ll be sending her to get other stuff – and showing her the ropes – since she’ll be the one taking over for me.”

Priceless. The dads talked. Something about – ‘we good?’

A white pencil.

Oddly enough, I’ve taken gigs on the DL, even when management was out – not realizing it… I once had someone tell me I could hide in the server closet when management came around. As a consultant, I have seen some stuff!!!

I’m just a kid who wants a white pencil.

Dad died a month after my 20th birthday. I was penniless with no family support. I learned how to get my very own white pencils.

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