Saturday, March 24, 2018

Captain My Captain

When I first started at Tull Metals back in 1987, Bill Baldwin was the mean old scheduling manager. He wasn’t THAT old, but he was older than me. As a fledgling inside sales person, whenever a customer needed an order quicker than normal, we had to go over and petition Bill to cut it quicker. Bill would shuffle his papers and circle the date – usually crossing it out and writing in a later date, open his desk drawer, pull out an orange HOT card and staple it to the order. You see, back then all the orders were printed on multi-part forms that traveled through the plant. But I digress.

One day I got a hot order from a customer in Tennessee. I went through the routine, Bill got it cut, and the next morning it delivered up to Tennessee. Pretty good. Then the customer called thanking me for the shipment, but also asking where the hot part was. It was at that part I realized I had expedited the wrong order. So I went over to Bill and said: “You’re not going to believe this, but I have ANOTHER hot order.”

Not sure what that story has to do with Bill, but I always remembered it.

Many of you may not know it, but there’s a whole bunch that goes on here in Norcross (and around the Southeast) that Bill has been involved in. He worked out in the plant doing Lord knows what. Then when he worked on the inside sales desk we had these things called Tull Culls. Ryerson Outs. Slow moving material. Sell it and the salesperson got a little commission. Guess I shouldn’t bring it up. Not sure what the rules were about cutting Tull Culls, but Bill would get an order, enter it, and at 5 o’clock he’d put on his boots and go out into the plant, pull the material, and cut it.

Guess where Bill is from – Buffalo. Why we never called him Buffalo Bill is beyond me. Bill likes his puns. Now as you know me, my humor is much more cultured and subtle. Or maybe not. Still, I would always try to appease Bill. He’d hand papers back with stickers – smiley faces, frowny faces, and the ever popular monkey stickers. Kinda like emojis today. I told you Bill was a man before his time.

Believe it or not, I used to be a little on the goofy side. Yes, it’s true. Bill picked up on this, and somewhere along the way Bill gave me a nickname. Gilligan. Not exactly sure why. But if I was Gilligan, that made his nickname obvious: The Skipper.  

Those orange HOT cards weren’t the only things on Bill’s desk. As a kid back in the 60’s places like drugstores sold these pictures of monkeys dressed up like people, in shirts and ties or dresses, with hilarious captions. Bill had one at his desk. The cation was perfect for a scheduling manager: “You want it WHEN?”  Kind of like the memes of today. Bill always was a man before his time.

Bill would accumulate the most interesting trinkets. By the time he hit 35 years with the company he had an entire curio shelf devoted to them. Not that I can talk – I collect bobbleheads. In the past few months as he’s neared retirement Bill has been bequeathing these treasures to some of his favorite coworkers. He swears that I gave him this Happy Meal toy. You’ll be happy to know Bill gave me his beloved 50 year old joke book. I would’ve brought it today and held it up, but I can’t remember what I did with it. But when I find it we’ll all be set for hours of hilarious entertainment. Bill, I’ll always treasure my Oscar Mayer wiener whistle. There’s no underlying meaning for this, is there?

After scheduling, Bill worked in Purchasing getting coils processed at outside vendors. We all do a lot more of that these days. Later he returned to the processing building as the inside Sales Manager, where he shepherded Debbie, Dennis, Sandra, and others. Bill invented the Mapinator, the complex spreadsheet some of us use to forecast how much material should be bought. While we’re eating cake I’ll tell you how he came up with the Mapinator name.

Bill was a famous chef. He came up with a scheam to increase sales: Grilling for Billing. I told you he like puns. But Bill went much further than burgers and dogs. Brats. Peppers. Onions. Gosh knows what else. Talking about food (a) gets me hungry and (b) remind me of a famous Bill Baldwin line. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas over at the processing center Sandra and Frances and Sandra and the other ladies would organize a huge covered dish luncheon for the office. Every year it got bigger, with more and more food. Someone got the idea to bring in breakfast items. Bill shook his head and muttered “This is turning into an all-day eat!”

It was during this time I was working in the fabrication department over on North Berkeley. I entered orders for Bill to cut coil. From my vantage point Bill was taking care of his people’s orders before those from other departments (like mine). It wasn’t really true, but people like me who are crazy in the head sometimes have a warped sense of reality. I know that because Bill Baldwin told me. It was at that time that gave Bill a secret nickname, one he never knew about because I never told nobody. The Ogre. Over the years it would come to be an affectionate term.

Then there’s the famous carwash story. One day Bill traveled to Alabama to visit a customer with RMP quality manager Ray Aiello. I’m not sure of all the details so hopefully we can get Bill to tell the story after I finish the rest of my speech. Something happened to the car and it got super dirty. I think it involved a cow or a goose. But the car was too dirty to show up at the customer, so they went off in search of a carwash. They pulled in and the machine started washing – then shut off. Bill and Ray were stuck inside. Not sure what happened, but trust me, it was a really funny story.

Eventually departments were consolidated into the main building. My longtime boss moved to Florida. My next boss was fired (though no fault of mine). I think. My next boss left the company. I had like five bosses in five years. Through attrition, at one point I reported to Kevin Richardson. I’D MADE IT ALMOST TO THE TOP! Next thing I knew, I was reporting to Bill Baldwin. Is that like going from the penthouse to the outhouse?

Bill was always loyal his employees. He looked out for them. Not just with the monkey stickers. I can honestly say that he looked out for me, in many ways. I’ll always remember that, Bill. But enough serious stuff.

You know how these days how clowns are creepy? It wasn’t always that way. You guessed it – one more thing to give Bill credit for. There’s a photograph floating around the universe of Bill in a full head to toe clown outfit. Creep city.

In his old age Bill has been developing super complicated costing and pricing spreadsheets, with downloads and V-lookups and dozens of tabs all linked together. If you want to see one you can come to our EZGo pricing meeting next week. I guess it wouldn’t be funny to make a joke here about these spreadsheets funneling funds to secret Bill Baldwin beach house account, kinda like a high-tech Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption. After this meeting Bill is going to go back and tunnel out of his office and head to the beach and we’re never gonna him again.

I could go on and on with more Bill Baldwin stories, but I know I’ve already gone on way too long. Bill Baldwin, you are indeed a Ryerson legend. You’ve made a tremendous contribution to the company, and to all of us, your coworkers – more than most of us will ever know. Good job. Great job. Bill, you will be missed. Farewell, Skipper!

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