A man considers himself lucky if he can point to just one male mentor in his life other than your typical father/brother/uncle role model type. One who helped shape and define him and teach him things that he otherwise never would have discovered. A different way of looking at things. A new point of view. Or even just another way to laugh at life's cruel way of forcing you to deal with people who's best side you wouldn't even shit on if it weren't for your job forcing you to just smile and wave as they rip you up one side and down the other because THEY bought the wrong hex bolt and you just happen to be the poor son of a bitch to walk down the aisle at that given moment.
Today I found out that I have lost one of mine. I first met Chris Croce when I was a smart-assed 20 year old slinging paint
cans at Home Depot. My first memories are of us closing the store when
no customers were around. We would jokingly jaw at each other between
the aisles. "Hey, Croce?" ..... "What?"..... "Fuck you." and he would
crack up. Soon after I joined the night crew and Chris worked in
plumbing overnights for inventory prep. And the jawing got worse. With
no customers in the store and the entire building locked down from the
outside world, it was a free for all. But a bond was forming. I am not
sure if he saw a little of himself in me when he was that age. Or if he
just appreciated my candor. I never held back and would call out anyone
who didn't do things the right way. More than likely, he just liked
hearing me tell him to fuck himself.
Over the next 5 years or so I worked for Chris both when he managed the night crew and then hardware. Chris was a man who not many people understood. To the outsiders, he appeared angry and cynical and at times an asshole. But to those of us on the inside? The ones who were lucky enough to have not only worked for him, but to have earned his respect along the way? Well, who we saw was a man that just wanted to do things the right away. Learn to question those who took shortcuts, and also train ourselves not to mirror their actions. Don't let management dismiss your concerns and ideas with a flippant wave of the hand just because they think they knew more than you did. Because most often than not, they were just jealous and insecure for not having the intelligence and foresight to have thought of those ideas themselves. But most of all, we learned that in a culture that breeds self serving and ass covering on a daily basis we had one person who always had out backs. If you worked hard for Chris and actually listened to what he had to teach you and made sure you did what was right, he had your back like no one else in that company ever did, or ever will.
Tonight, I hang my head in sorrow and remember a man who taught me so much more than anyone ever could have at that age. I don't think anyone else had the personality and intelligence to have gotten through to me back then. I started at Home Depot as a boy. But thanks to Chris Croce, I left as a man.
Hey Croce? Fuck you...........