Sunday, October 6, 2013

Laughing with Larry

I heard someone yelling DUMB!! DUMB!!! DUMB!!   as I stopped the car.   That would, of course, be my neighbor and business partner, Larry.

Larry had called on the phone  a few minutes earlier and told me to get moving!!  He had  just gotten through to a plant manager and made an appointment for us to make a sales presentation at a chemical plant south of Houston and we needed to leave immediately. I told him I would drive, and I grabbed my briefcase and ran out the door.    Larry, who conveniently  lived next door, was coming across the lawn as I jumped in the car and backed out of the garage. But there was one tiny problem. I had forgotten to open the garage door so I backed out through the garage door. That may have justified Larry’s screaming comments.

It wasn’t the first time or last  that he had said I was dumb. But I didn’t mind because my partner  was capable of the same kinds of dumb tricks and we had a sort of Dumb and Dumber contest going on. 

Pat Collins and Larry Rolfe - National Information Services Corp.

Our partnership in our little business and our deep friendship were a bond made in heaven.   What a pair we were, two older guys on the wrong side of “middle age’ trying to worm our way back into the world of industry and commerce.   Larry a retired Senior Vice President of a New York Stock Exchange listed corporation and me, a recently laid off Director of Advanced Technology for large engineering company, back on the street toting a sales case, starting over so to speak, not down or discouraged but reflecting all of the spark and vigor of two young entrepreneurs!

It must have been a sight to see,  two older, overweight guys who would’ve seemed more appropriately placed sitting on a park bench feeding the pigeons, trudging up flights of stairs in process industry plants, lugging computer equipment to make our sales demonstrations on those hot summer days in south Texas and Louisiana.   Picture a lot of arguing about whose turn it was to carry the computer equipment.  Larry insisted that he would lug the heavy stuff, I think to prove that he “still had it” in spite of his recent lung transplant.  I, of course, insisted that I would carry the weight since I was  2 years younger and in tip top shape!!  Then we both laughed!!!

To give you an idea of the challenges I faced working with this guy, I relate the following... Larry was a guy who loved cowboy boots. Celebrating a large sale multi-million dollar sale in his previous employment, Larry and several of the sales team took a short holiday and ended up on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. Larry found a shop that sold expensive cowboy boots and he found one particular pair, a beautiful blue lizard skin boot  that he just had to have. The shop owner wanted $3,000 for the pair and Larry had only $2000 with him. He paid the $2,000 and the owner agreed to give him one of the boots to take home and he would hold the other until Larry returned with the rest of the money. Larry did return about three weeks later with the rest of the money, only to find that the shopkeeper, apparently tempted by bigger money sold the remaining boot to a one legged man for $2,000.   I still don’t know if I believe that, but, knowing Larry…. anything is possible.

Our sales trips were filled with stories of this nature and we laughed from the time we left home until we returned.

I remember one day when we were driving along the deserted back roads of east Texas.  I noticed that the crows feeding along the road always flew to the south side of the highway as we approached.   I observed this for a number of miles, and each time they flew just to the south, which captured my analytical curiosity.    Then, even knowing that Larry would think it was a "dumb" observation, I shared this finding with him.  Once again, that "look", the raised eyebrow, the unbelieving shake of the head… just knowing he was thinking 'What a Dummie!!'    We both burst out laughing!!

Then, when we finally reached our appointment at a chemical plant in Louisiana, things went downhill. As we drove towards the gate of the plant we saw hundreds of 50 gallon barrels of manufactured product stacked in front of the plant and a line of flatbed trucks, engines running, waiting to be loaded with the flammable products. 

We were excited about the possibility of a big sale and as we approached the plant we could see the Plant Manager and the Process Safety Manager, whom we were to meet, standing out in the parking lot to observe the loading of the trucks. As we drove through the gate in Larry's Mercury Marquee, as if on cue, we noticed smoke and flames coming out of the hood of our car. As we drove in towards the trucks where the barrels were being loaded  all of the people began screaming and waving us away.  Skilled pilot that he was,  Larry pulled into a parking place. He turned to me and shouted, "Get out and put that fire out"!  I replied  indignantly, "Wait, it's YOUR car".   But I did get out and Larry popped the hood.  I was greeted by leaping flames and smoke apparently coming from a power steering leak hitting the engine block and flaming up. My fire fighting tools were one white handkerchief.

By that time some of the truck drivers had grabbed fire extinguishers from their trucks and were running towards us. We managed to get the fire out without burning down the plant or exploding the hundreds of barrels of catalyst. Larry then told me to go ask the Plant Manager where we were to meet. 
In speaking with the Manager he felt that, in light of recent events,  the meeting should probably be cancelled and that we should get "that piece of hazardous junk" off his property and some references to our next meeting being when conditions in hell were frozen, or words to that effect.  I was so fascinated by how red his face was and how his voice was shaking and his eyes were sort of popping out of his head that I can't remember the exact words, but I did get the sentiment. 

We didn’t laugh immediately, but after a little while we did.  If you are a Laugher... you laugh!!!

On our sales calls and while doing business, we were like a trained team of Clydesdales pulling together,  but before and after, and especially during our travels, it was a hilarious give and take!   When people talk of love they often refer to a romantic relationship between two individuals, but real love is more far reaching.  Love can be that connection between friends, a deep feeling of respect, admiration, tenderness, support and affection. Sometimes that love is even more lasting and more deep than between two individuals whose sexual attraction may be a substitute for a real love.  

Author Mary Baker Eddy describes love this way:  
Love is not something put upon a shelf, to be taken  down on rare occasions with sugar-tongs and laid on arose-leaf. I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results. Unless these appear, I cast aside the word as a sham and counterfeit, having no ring of the true metal. Love cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power. As a human quality, the glorious significance of affection is more than words: it is the tender, unselfish deed done in secret; the silent, ceaseless prayer; the self-forgetful heart that overflows; the veiled form stealing on an errand of mercy, out of aside door; the little feet tripping along the sidewalk; the gentle hand opening the door that turns toward want and woe, sickness and sorrow, and thus lighting the dark places of earth. *

Last week I was having lunch with some of my old friends here in North Georgia.  I’ve written about this little group in an article last year... The Old Men's Club- click here.  During this delightful lunch I was once again reminded of how love crosses the boundaries of age, gender, race, religion, nationality and brings us all into that harmony of love and affection that buoys our spirits and brings a warmth and glow to our lives.

I love this quote:
Love never loses sight of loveliness. Its halo rests upon its object. One marvels that a friend can ever seem less than beautiful. **

On days like this, I remember Larry.  Thanks Larry for being my friend... and for the Laughter..

* Miscellaneous Writings - Mary Baker Eddy  (250)
**Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures Mary Baker Eddy (247)


Pat Rolfe said...

Thank you, Pat from the bottom of my heart for kindling long forgotten memories of my laughter-invoking husband, who with his next door neighbor business partner could put the world in an epic uproar - whether they were roasting a whole pig or finding that your car had been left at the office! I do miss him so, and you and Gail, and give thanks for the times we shared! Love, Larry's Pat

kevin said...

Love the writing and the funny stories. You are a master dad! Weren't they your neighbors in Fort Worth ? I met them several times if it was.

kelly mac said...

laughing along with you and Larry. Thanks for sharing these treasure-memories... and the reminder that love, joy and laughter walk hand in hand....

Patrick Collins said...

Pat, I thought of you as I remembered all of the fun times. They will always be with us. What a special treat in life to have known you and wonderful Larry. I had so many stories but it would have been hours of reading if I included all of the fun experiences. John's email changed and I couldn't.t send to him and Sally.

Patrick Collins said...

Thanks Kevin . Yes, you met them in Conroe. Wonderful friends.