I had never expected to stay at my summer job way back in 1974. I considered it pure luck that through a friend of a friend I wiggled my way into a New York City Employment Agency and called on Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing AKA 3M.
I actually thought that 3M made bowling balls like AMF when I called their order department manager, Howard Katz that fateful day back in April, 1974. I asked if they had any openings and was quickly punted to Bob Kemp who ran the old BPSI Service department. Back in those days 3M had copiers, fax machines and microfilm products that needed a bunch of guys to fix them when they broke. The job was to take the complaint and dispatch the technician.
I sent myself to the interview after getting a haircut worthy of a court date! I aced the job interview and grabbed hold of my first full time JOB.
Less than 4 years later I was the Credit Manager of the Manhattan Office and feeling every bit the young turk!!
It happened that as junior manager I was tabbed to be in charge of the entire office the day before Christmas, December 24, 1979. All the senior operations managers were off shopping or whatever, and no one was really about to do any work. This was the ultimate goof off day and we were laughing it up hoping to leave as early as we could.
Seriously as Mr. Big Shot the entire staff started lobbying me for an early exit the moment I walked into the office at 8 AM. There was absolutely no way I would authorize the early escape, since the head honcho of the office Dick Keller had been quite emphatic that everyone would have to stay until 5 PM!!
Evidently this early exit desire was an annual event that somehow I never noticed before or more likely we were simply already off the day before Christmas!
As I recall the office was a complete chaos in the late afternoon when my phone rang and the receptionist asked me if I would come to the front and meet the CEO of 3M, Lew Lehr. My reaction was of course typically NY as I asked her if she was drinking or completely full of %^&$?
Good old Marilyn Merotta (God rest her soul) simply responded ” You had better come up front- -and move your as$!”
I love a good prank so up front I headed wondering what type of silly hoax I was going to be confronted with when I got there?
Standing in the lobby is Lew Lehr, in the flesh, for real, the Chairman of the Board of 3M!!
I just about passed out when I realized two things very quickly.
A) This was no prank. .
The 3M CEO would probably want a tour of his offices given the fact that he sure wasn’t there to see little old me!!
Mr. Lehr shakes my hand, introduces himself and hands me his business card. I tried not to stammer when I replied that it was an “honor” to meet him. .and asked what I might be able to do for him today?
He smiled and said that he was in town and simply wanted to say hello to the 3M employees at our lovely office on 845 Third Ave, and would really appreciate the nickel tour.
Off we went into what was rapidly becoming an office right out of Animal House (The Movie) and as we approached the main office the laughter was louder than I had remembered from ten minutes earlier, probably because I had been out of sight.
In we walk, me walking in front of the CEO like I was his bodyguard.
“Folks!! Folks!! Hey GUYS!!” CAN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION!!!” I SHOUTED!
“I’D LIKE TO INTRODUCE YOU TO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF 3M–LOU LEHR!!”
One of the more boisterous ladies in the office yells out ” Stop the Bull Sh&$!”
I quickly shoot a look at Mr. Lehr who has a quiet smile on his face. No way he missed that retort but he was as calm as a fellow could be. .just smiling.
Mr. Leher yells back: “I CAN ASSURE YOU- I AM IN FACT LOU LEHR AND I’D SURE LIKE TO MEET YOU ALL!!”
The office became as silent as a wake.
Mr. Lehr stopped by every desk, every employee and handed them his business card. Shook their hands and wished them all a Merry Christmas!
By the way; you should have seen the face of the Operations Manager and the senior managers the following Monday when they heard that the CEO had dropped by before Christmas!!
PS- I worked plenty of days before major holidays in the next 29 years- -but never had something like that ever happen to me again.
Moral of the story??
Be prepared for anything!!??