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May 04, 2009

Experience, standing on the shoulders of giants, and camaraderie

Last Friday I had the pleasure going to a luncheon with the retirees from my day job. They've been meeting for years, first Friday of every odd month, 11:00 for lunch.

I'm not retired, so I'm not eligible to be among them. B.I. went in March and brought the word back that we're invited. I felt like it was an invitation from the Vatican, a chance to see the old lions, the guys with remarkable experience.

It was like being a bat-boy at an Old Timer's game for the Yankees, a team with a real impressive alumni group. Different retirees show up in different months, this one's in Florida, that one's visiting grandkids, so the mix is always different. You know that back in the day they had the same bumps and frictions that we have today, but they're all past that. They've got nothing to prove, and they're living the dream.

They all looked healthy and happy. These guys have seen it all, they've been through the times that I read about in school. The stories they told weren't war stories ("there I was..") so much as funny interpersonal anecdotes told in the spirit of bonhomie.

I knew most of them from the mid-80's, when I was a noob and they were in their last years, but there were a few that I'd never met. I met one man, F.G. that I'd heard of - my older colleagues always spoke of him with great respect, and it was cool to meet him. There was a elderly gentleman there who'd been a B17 pilot in WW2 before he came to work on the job, he's been retired a long time but it was awesome to see him there. He's been going to retiree luncheons longer than I've been working.

It was a genuine pleasure to see these men. In their day they probably weren't all giants, they worked at it like everybody else — yet somehow, over the course of their long careers and their significant experience they'd become giants. These are the giants upon whose shoulders my generation rides. They taught us our craft and, to a degree, their perspective.

Although the technology has changed, I think they'd be right at home in the current culture. Their expertise is beyond the equipment and software.

It led me to think about experience and camaraderie, and what walks out the door along with a senior person. Then on Sunday I saw the day's Doonesbury:

When I drove away (I had to go back to work, naturally) I realized this was my second-best day at work in 2009, after Bring Your Child To Work Day. I've been jotting down some thoughts on experience and hope to have a few entries soon.


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