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My Turn: Always value a good working relationship

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - While it's often said that good help is hard to find, by the same token, good helpers are a most pleasant find.

Late last week, I ran to answer a knock at my front door.

I wasn't expecting any packages and I wasn't in the mood to deal with solicitors of either services or salvation.

Turns out it was our mail carrier, Mack, dropping off a few letters, which was nice.

But he really just stopped by to tell me that he was retiring and that it was his last day on the job.

Aside from my uncle and a friend who's a postmaster, I never get to know members of this much-maligned civil service. Most times, they're in their trucks and I'm in my house and rarely do our paths cross.

But given my odd newspaper hours, I got to see Mack a lot, especially on my morning walks when I'd take my boy out in his baby backpack.

Mack would always stop his truck and we'd chat for a few minutes. He'd try to shake my son's hand or teach him how to give a high-five.

My boy had awakened from his nap when I answered the door and I called him over to say goodbye to Mr. Mack, which he did.

Mack said it had been a pleasure watching him grow and that he'd enjoyed getting to know my family. My wife Kris and I were sad to be losing one of the good people in our neighborhood. I knew I'll miss the sweet whiff of cigar smoke from his truck as he made his rounds.

He said he'd likely stick around here for a while but was considering a retirement community for postal workers in Florida. (Who knew there was a such a place?)

I just hope he enjoys a well-deserved rest in the company of good friends and family come snow, rain, heat or gloom of night.

I often find that being an amiable customer goes a long way toward turning business transactions into friendly interactions.

I got to know Mack by name over a period of years. Depending on the turnover at some establishments, you can come to develop a familiarity with some long-term employees.I've just introduced myself to Chris over at Colonial Exxon, so I hope he, his co-workers and I eventually get to know each other on a first-name basis, as opposed to "fella" or "buddy."

After a recent spate of work that needed to be done to our family vehicles, I finally had to tell him, "I like you guys, but I think I'm seeing too much of you all."

Truth be told, they have a friendly crew up there - and free air - and I don't mind seeing them every time I fill up. I like to think we're building relationships.

I've found that developing a good rapport with the people you work with is as important as it is with the folks who regularly provide you services - if not more so, considering that you have to be with them five days a week.

We interviewed Josh Work to fill a spot on our copydesk about three years ago and it's been a pleasure to watch him progress from an unsure junior member of the staff to a reliable, steady contributor with more certain instincts and self-assuredness.

(He might seem to be wracked with self-doubt about his work, but I believe it's more borne of over-thinking than lack of ability. "Trust your feelings, Luke," I'd often say, repeating Obi Wan Kenobi's advice to young Luke Skywalker in "Star Wars.")

Well, now, he's following his feelings to be closer to his family that's migrated from their native Ohio down to Carolina.

I'll miss his smart, quirky personality as well as his eye for detail, blossoming creativity and shameless love of the pun. As he enjoyed saying about the new Boy Scout camp near Fayetteville, "It's in tents."

Good help really is hard to find, so you'd better believe I'm always sad when I lose it.

Writer Philip Maramba can be reached at 304-348-1703 or philip@dailymailwv.com.


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