The lesson of perseverance can be taught in some unusual ways, even ways you do not want to succeed.
I was eligible to caddy from the age of 14. A couple of things about caddying. As a new caddy, you were not guaranteed to get a “loop”. You had to show that you were reliable and would appear consistently and perhaps most importantly, willing to caddy in the morning and then again in the afternoon when needed. After a brief indoctrination, I was called on consistently, did thirty-six holes a day when needed and it was fairly lucrative for someone my age.
Somehow during my sophomore or junior year in high school, my dad did not think that was responsible enough. I caddied quite a bit, arrived at the course early, etc., but he felt that I could use a job, not so much for the money, but for the discipline or experience. As a result, he asked (told) me to go to the local A&P and apply for a job. I reluctantly did just that and the manager George Sweigert, told me he would call me if he needed me. That worked for me.
I went home and informed my father of the good news “I applied for a job at the A&P”. He asked what the manager said, and I told him he will call me if he needs me. My father told me to go back to the store the NEXT DAY and ask if he needed me. I felt that was being a bit pushy, but I went back to the store and asked Mr. Sweigert, and he politely said they he would call me if he needed me. No problem.
I went home and that evening told my father that Mr. Sweigert would call me if he needs me, and I probably had a kind of a “I told you so” tone. I was awash in glee that this was over. I thought that I would probably never get the call and I could caddy the entire summer.
Much to my chagrin, my father said, “go back and ask him again – TOMORROW”. Now at this point, I thought Mr. Sweigert would toss me out of the store. Being the manager of the A&P was a busy job with long hours and he did not need me pestering him about a job. Nonetheless, life is all about moving away from pain and towards pleasure and I did not want to argue with my father when the alternative was only annoying a store manager who was probably never going to call me anyway. So, the next day, I dutifully went into the A&P and walked up to the perch Mr. Sweigert had overlooking the entire store and asked again if there were any openings. Now this is the third time in three days and surely, he is going to tell me to stop bothering him and never come into the store. Anticipating being rebuked in that manner with a curt reply, as I asked the question, I literally started to lean towards the door to exit. To my surprise he asked if I could start tomorrow. Yes, the day after today, tomorrow.
For the rest of that summer, I did night shifts, was the wagon master pulling in carts that were left in the parking lot or elsewhere around Morristown, NJ, mopped up every spill in every aisle and updated the pricing on the shelves with the master or one person who could name any price on anything in the store, Bill Brooks. I was able to stay away from being a cashier. These were the days before bar code scanning and each item had to be individually entered into the register. I had my limits and ringing things up at the register and then having the customer review the receipt line item by line item, while the next customer’s ice cream was melting was beyond what I could handle. I decided my only way out was to be really good at everything else so they would never ever want to teach me to be a cashier. The strategy worked. All the while this did not hurt my status as a caddy. I was there for the busy weekends and went thirty-six holes a day, if needed.
I think both my experience as a caddy and of course at the A&P revealed that perseverance showed some level of reliability and willingness to do the job. While I was thinking, and even hoping, that my perseverance with Mr. Sweigert was going to get me banned from the store, it had the opposite effect. I have my father to thank for that one, but he also instilled a persistence in me from an early age, which is how I survived “the early years” as a caddy.
The A&P also gave me some good insight into how the store ran and unions worked, which I would not have received if I solely chased errant golf balls into the woods. I wasn’t a month working at the A&P when I asked Mr. Sweigert how he ever existed without me. He said with a wry smile “I never thought I could get rid of you” and that had a lot of truth to it.