tagRomanceLooking for Love

Looking for Love


As Janet Phillips paged through the thin personnel file she became more impressed. This file belonged to Frank Williams a part time distribution supervisor. Part time supervisors were rare; generally they came from the ranks of recent retirees who wanted to augment their retirement income. Frank didn't fit that mold. He had worked for her company, Global Partners, a $2 billion a year distribution firm for less than a year. He had also worked in each of the four regional distribution facilities for approximately three months averaging two or three days per week.

Job hoppers are always viewed with suspicion. Frank had not hopped jobs or companies---just locations. She had asked her Human Resources Director if he had any idea why. There was a rumor that possibly his wife had a security job with the government and had been moved often to potential trouble spots since the 911 attacks. Asking a non-exempt employee questions about his or her spouse's employment status was strictly against the rules; all she had to go on were rumors.

He had distinguished himself in Ontario, California, Atlanta and Dallas. He seemed to be on the same track here in the largest of the company's mega centers north of Chicago. He had been offered full time status and had respectfully declined the offer. He had been interviewed for exempt status---to become an entry level manager---and had again declined. He was never late for work, always passed his drug tests, didn't smoke and was in all regards an exemplary---and unusual---part timer. His file had a small handful of perfect performance evaluations accompanied by strong and obviously genuine letters of praise. He was recognized as extremely knowledgeable of the company's logistic system and a natural leader. The people he supervised seemed to love him and his managers at each location rated him as their top employee.

The Chicago area had recently had an unusual spring blizzard which brought the windy city to a screeching halt. Many regular employees could not get to work. Many of Global's customers had life critical products that had to get out. Frank had worked virtually around the clock over a weekend---even driving one of the trucks when the driver couldn't get in to deliver critical supplies. It turned out that he had a trucker's license, although it had not been noted in his file.

He had refused to put in for overtime. His boss and the man who managed this particular facility, a man who reported to Janet, wanted to recognize and reward Frank---financially---with some sort of bonus. Since Janet was Global's Senior Vice President—in charge of all four of their giant facilities---she would have to approve any sort of out of the ordinary payment to a non-exempt employee. She had no doubt that she would do so.

As she got to the last page of the Frank Williams story she found his official employee photo. While such pictures are seldom flattering, she assumed his might be. He was a handsome man with an easy smile and a far more relaxed and human visage than most official photos captured. The color photo captured the essence of his clear blue eyes, strong features and full head of dark blonde hair. It appeared that he was just shy of forty, had declined benefits, had an honorable discharge from some branch of the military and had attended some technical school in Massachusetts which she had never heard of---but no degree was listed.

He had no criminal record---not even a speeding ticket. Frank would easily have earned over $1,000 in the overtime that he refused to put in for. She walked down to the facility manager's office to get his opinion. It would be a $1,000 award. He would be the, 'Part Timer of the Month' a title he had earned at each of the other locations every month. They would have a little get-together two days hence in the break room with punch and cookies. She checked on Frank's work schedule and discovered that he was indeed working today and decided she needed to go meet him.

Before going down on the distribution floor she watched Frank and his crew from the catwalk above. It became quickly obvious that Frank's crew moved with a singular purpose---and accomplished more than the other teams she had observed. She also noted with satisfaction that Frank considered himself a working supervisor---more than pulling his own weight. There was a synergy at work below her that she wished she could capture, bottle and serve to every other distribution team in the country. She had picked her time carefully; Frank and his crew would break for lunch shortly. While she hated to disrupt any employee's lunch break she knew that most---if not all---ate on the premises and that interrupting their work routine would be far more disruptive—and resented. She had checked productivity cards and noted that this exact team did well with their normal supervisor---but always accomplished more under Frank's leadership.

Janet was just shy of thirty six. She had an undergrad degree from Northwestern and a Masters in Logistics Management from USC. She had moved up quickly; she had earned quicker than average promotions at every level. The core business of Global Partners was distribution---and she ran it. Sales and marketing where important—but they didn't have a job if she didn't do her job. No one would be surprised to see her become COO by forty---unless the company ended up being acquired. That rumor had been in the wind for almost a year. She was universally respected up and down the line. She had few if any real enemies within the company and a loyal following at every level. Global Partners was her life.

She had never married; as her biological clock was ticking down she regretted the fact that she would probably never bounce grand children on her knee. She had had several relationships over the years but none that stood out. She was taller than average, just shy of six feet. She had a commanding presence and hit a golf ball straighter and farther than most men.

She was actually quite attractive and made no effort to hide her body. She could be very tough when she needed to be in a very male business. She didn't flirt on the job and while always openly friendly, had a no nonsense reputation and an icy stare when she needed it.

She had spent three years as a Marine Corps logistician before coming to Global. She had never lost that Marine Corps bearing and most of the people she worked with assumed what actually was the truth—that she could kick virtually any man's butt in the company---not that it ever came to that. She was a Marine as her dad had been a Marine. Semper Fi and ooh rah. USMC is for life. There is no such thing as a former Marine---she occasionally corrected people on that count.

Back to Frank Williams who was just dismissing his charges for lunch. He was much more impressive physically in real time. He was tall, probably six four and carried himself well, like a military man. His boots were highly shined and his work uniform was pressed and lightly starched. His arms were quite impressive; his shoulders were broad and solid. In spite of their differences in station of life, Janet thought she would like this man. Anything beyond a business friendship was not in the cards. Janet was not a snob. Her parents had been solidly blue collar, but any sort of a relationship between two people vastly separated in education, financial means and general socio-economics was out of the question---particularly in the same company. As she approached, she noted no ring---but that could be nothing more than a prudent safety measure.

She called out to him. "Frank, Frank Williams. Have you got a sec?"

Frank turned toward her like a predatory cat sighting prey. He immediately smiled and replied. "Yes ma'am?"

As Janet extended her hand and got within hand shake distance she realized that the employee photo had not remotely done justice to this man. The blue eyes were captivating. Frank Williams was an extremely good looking man. He extended his hand in response to her gesture.

"Frank, I'm Janet Philips, Senior VP of Distribution. I don't want to take away from your lunch break but I just wanted to chat for a few minutes." She said, probably overly formally.

He shook her hand making no attempt to show his bone crushing ability----just a nice warm firm handshake. "It's very nice to meet you Ms. Philips." He said, never breaking eye contact.

"Frank, we're kind of like the Australian Army here at Global---it's Janet. Call me Janet. Is there someplace we can talk?" She said, trying to be a bit more cordial.

"We'll, spring has finally arrived in Chicago. I was planning to go outside and sit while I eat my lunch." He said, picking up the small paper sack at his stand up work station. "Would that be okay?"

It was a warmer than normal day for this time of year and she was glad to get out of the building. She noted a couple of picnic tables under a large oak. She didn't remember them being there.

As if reading her mind, Frank spoke. "My guys came in with me and built them one Sunday afternoon. You will note that there is one set off a little from the others. Unofficially that's my employee counseling area. I think we'll have a modicum of privacy at that table."

Not that modicum was that big a word, but it was not part of the normal argot of a distribution worker. He was obviously reasonably literate.

They sat down on opposite sides of the table. Frank offered her half of his sandwich—she declined. She proceeded to thank him for his exemplary service and tell him about the award and the presentation in the break room on Friday. He never lost focus; his eyes never left hers. He was relaxed and had an easy smile that spoke of confidence and comfort in ones own skin. She wanted to get to know this interesting man without prying.

"Frank, I noticed in your personnel file that you had been in some branch of the service---which one?" She asked.

"Just like you Janet---as it states in your official bio on the corporate web site. Semper Fi." Frank said, with a huge grin.

"Ooh-rah." She growled, also grinning from ear to ear. It was the only appropriate response between Marines when one initiates the greeting with the familiar shortened form of Semper Fidelis---always faithful. Regardless of gender, age, education, religion, race or financial status, the bond between Marines is instant and strong---though they may have been strangers a moment earlier. They were both Marines---the Corps finest. They would always be Marines---never former Marines.

"I was with the 1st Marine Division, 5th Regiment---the S4---my entire four years---I never did a 'B' billet." Janet said. Indicating that her entire time in the Corps had been with the fleet in the logistics staff. A 'B' billet might have included recruiting duty, an instructor assignment or anything that wasn't a line unit. Fifth Marine Regiment of the First Marine Division was one of the most decorated unit in the Corps' history. Janet assumed Frank had been enlisted---she had been an officer, having left active duty as a First Lieutenant.

"I worked with airplanes, Janet---First Marine Air Wing. I got called back briefly for Desert Storm in 1991, but fortunately I was too old for the current conflict over there." Frank said.

Frank did not offer details on what he did with the first Marine Air Wing and it wasn't her business to pry. She told him that her dad was a Marine, thirty years, having retired at the top enlisted rank. He had been in 2/5, the 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment, the most highly decorated unit in USMC history during the Vietnam conflict. They chatted briefly about the Corps as all Marines do.

She asked him where he grew up; he answered with several places much as she had. Feeling that they had crossed the formal threshold she asked how his wife liked Chicago.

"I don't have one of those, Janet. I'm not proud of the fact, but life just seemed to keep getting in the way of---a life." He replied softly. She knew exactly what he meant. Neither felt the need to dwell on it.

His break was nearly up and he needed to get back to work. She could have talked to Frank for the rest of the day. He was comfortable. He smiled easily. He was very easy on the eyes and very easy on the psyche.

She had one last question. "Where did you go to school? I saw the name---or the initials---in your personnel file. Was it MTI---Massachusetts Technical Institute? I've never heard of it."

"Ah, Janet the subtle bias of those Human Resources people to those of us trapped in the ranks of the blue collar. I told her clearly, she just didn't want to hear. It's MIT, Janet. Massachusetts Institute of Technology ---not particularly relevant for a part time distribution supervisor, though, is it?" He smiled again, clearly indicating no offense.

As he shook her hand and prepared to return to work he fixed her once again with those beautiful blue eyes. "Thank you for coming to see me, Janet---I truly enjoyed getting to know you. I hope we can chat again in the future. You're far more attractive than any other jar head I've ever had lunch with."

Frank returned to his crew and Janet made the long trek back to her office. What the hell is this guy doing here? MIT? Did he graduate? Why is he working part time at what amounted to glorified manual labor? I need to check this guy out. She knew no one at MIT---and had no authorization from the employee to snoop. Maybe her dad could help. He was still connected to the Corps. As soon as she returned to her office she called her father, gave him Frank's vital statistics and asked him to snoop.

Her dad called her back a few hours later. "He's a pilot, honey. Flew F14s in the med and the gulf war. He's still in the reserves in Virginia---not far from where we used to live and where you did a lot of growing up. It looks like he's inactive reserve right now. He's currently listed as a Major, USMC reserve. He was highly decorated—to include a Navy Cross. He shot down five Migs in his career---makes him an ace." Her dad told her, providing further fodder to the mystery who was Frank Williams.

She couldn't get Frank out of her mind no matter how hard she tried. Was he some sort of Labor Department spy? No, he had told her a little too much. She anxiously awaited the award ceremony in the break room on Friday.

After the award and distribution of punch and cake, she cornered him in a table by the wall. He was the guest of honor and she was the big cheese so no one would interrupt them.

"Hi, Frank---or should I call you sir?" She said, with a warm smile.

"You're a very good detective, Janet. I figured you'd check me out---bet your dad helped, didn't he?" Frank said with a grin, then added. "No salutes required unless in uniform and under cover. All of my crew assume I was a Gunny---Marine Gunnery Sergeants are a lot meaner than Majors. Let's keep it under wraps---shall we?"

"So, what are your plans for the long weekend?" Janet asked, casually.

"Well, I'm going to be here for a few hours on Sunday so one of the full time supervisors can be with his family." Frank replied. "Saturday, I'll be at the Yacht Club all day starting at 0700."

"Don't tell me you're a member of the Yacht Club---another detail of your secret life?" Janet said.

"No, hardly. Every year in many cities around the country---those that have a lake, calm river or ocean in close proximity---there is what is known as Junior Regatta. Adults who know something about sailing teach kids---many from the inner cities---how to sail. The Regatta is the culmination of the two week sailing camp. It's not much of a race, more of a gaggle. The well heeled volunteers provide the money for the tiny boats, meals, transportation and so on. The working stiffs provide the one-on-one instruction." Frank explained to her.

"Well, you're of man of mystery, Frank Williams, I had no idea you were a sailor." Janet said.

"Don't even call me that in jest, Janet---you know how sensitive Marines get about being associated with their Navy brethren." Frank replied with a grin, then continued. I "grew up on the East Coast of Florida---until I turned ten; both of my brothers sailed so I learned early. My step father had a place on Chesapeake Bay---everybody sailed. There were always sailing clubs associated with the Navy/Marine Corps bases to which I was assigned."

"I haven't sailed in years, but my dad's career in the Corps often put our family near the water. I used to love to sail—did it every time I could when I was younger. There hasn't been much time over the last few years, but I still love it." Janet replied wistfully.

"Why don't you come down to the Lake tomorrow? We are always desperately short of volunteers; we never have enough adults to provide adequate one-on-one time that is so important." He continued, more seriously. "It's odd. The very well heeled---those that have little more to prove---are exceptionally generous with their time and money. At the other end of the social spectrum are lots of people holding down two jobs without two dimes to rub together and families of their own who give everything they have to give. If we could get a scintilla of participation from those in the middle---those too busy proving their worth or grasping at the next rung---we'd be able to touch more kids."

Realizing his comments had hit a personal nerve, Frank continued. "Janet, for years I was too busy. I wrote checks, but just couldn't find the time to be there. I meant no offense with my rant regarding the state of volunteerism in this country."

Janet placed her hand over Frank's hand, not in a romantic gesture, but in an understanding one. "Frank you just hit me right where I live. And you're right on target. I'd love to help. What do I need to do to sign up?"

Frank removed a business card from his wallet and handed it to her. "This gentleman is the overall coordinator. He actually takes the whole month off from his corporate duties to organize this affair. Give him a call. If you get an answering machine, just tell him who you are, your experience level and how you'd like to help---then show up at 7:00 AM."

Janet looked at the business card. It was the card of a man who was on her company's board of directors and was additionally the Chairman of the Board and CEO of their largest customer---Jack Middleton. She had met him once when she had addressed the board. Did Frank know this captain of industry well?

"I met him once—very briefly when I was pitching something to the board." Janet said, inviting Frank to elaborate.

"He's a very special guy---also very special to me, personally---Janet. Also a Marine, I might add. He served with distinction during Vietnam. He well could have avoided the military and service in that war. He went out of a sense of duty and honor—as a Marine. He left active duty as a Captain---commanded a rifle company with the Third Marine Amphibious Force. Just greet him with a hearty Semper Fi and you'll have the inside track." Frank said with a grin.

Janet knew instantly that Frank Williams and Jack Middleton had some history---special history. The fact simply added to her confusion---and interest---in this enigmatic man she had only met two days earlier. If Jack Middleton is a friend---a personal, special friend---if Frank attended, possibly graduated from the top science and engineering school in the world---what was he doing here? Had he once been---like her---on the corporate ladder and gotten burned out, chucked it all?

Had Desert Storm had something to do with it? He was, quite obviously today a man bent on making a difference. Could this be part of the reason he worked part time for an hourly wage---so that he had time to do the things that really mattered to him? As she mulled it all over in her mind she liked this man even more---and was more than a little ashamed that she hadn't chosen to contribute to those less fortunate on any level in a very long time. Frank went back to finish his shift; Janet returned to her office.

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