“When most people are done, my work has just begun…”
—Aaron “Meticulosity” Greenlee
by Greg Hague
In 1960, I was just 12. Remember The Christmas Story? Little Ralphie. The Red Ryder BB Gun? I was obsessed. I had to have one. Grand visions of hunting with Chubby, my dad. One problem … it was July. Christmas was six months away.
I consulted the big man about it. “Well,” Dad said, “Aaron could use some help at the office. Let me see what I can do.”
Aaron was a gentleman in his 60’s. The custodian. The comedian. Cracking jokes with the agents. Everyone loved Aaron. His “office”? A plywood enclosure in the basement. His black metal desk… meticulous. Pens and pencils lined up like soldiers. The surface — polished to perfection.
Dad’s real estate office had cherry wood paneling and mahogany desks. So my first assignment from Aaron — wood polishing. I worked the entire morning. Polished every square inch of that wood. Aaron would be impressed. He would tell Chubby. A bonus for sure!
Just before lunchtime, Aaron checked in to assess my work. “Not bad,” he said, “but not all that good.” Not that good?! Was Aaron playing a joke? I snorted a laugh. Aaron responded with a straight face. No laugh. He pointed to the spots I had missed. Inside table legs. Wooden armrests. Smudges on a small wooden door-stopper in the front entry!
“That door stopper is just gonna get dirty on the ground every day anyway,” I whined, rolling my eyes.
“Greg, it’s time for you to go home. You have something to learn. Ask your dad about a word you don’t know.” Aaron turned and walked away. I called Mom to pick me up, almost in tears. I was part mad; part hurt, not a good day. That night, I expected the worst. But Chubby didn’t say a word. And I wasn’t about to ask about what Aaron meant — some stupid word I didn’t know.
Just as I was dozing off, I heard Dad’s footsteps creak up the stairs. “Come on, we’re going for a drive,” he said. It was 9:30 p.m. Was Chubby nuts? I didn’t complain. Dad meant business. It was clear in his face. On the drive, my father was unusually quiet.
Where were we going? I thought I better not ask. We pulled into Dad’s real estate office around 10 p.m. I had an uneasy feeling about this. There was one car in the parking lot… Aaron’s.
As we walked in, Aaron looked up to greet Dad. He bellowed out,
“When most people are done…”
And Dad chimed back,
“Our work has just begun!”
It was surreal. You think I’m kidding? I’m not.
Dad and Aaron laughed and embraced in a hug. Aaron turned to me and asked, “So, did you ask your dad about that word you don’t know?” He knew I had not. Dad and Aaron smiled, looked at each other, then at me.
In unison they said, “Meticulosity.”
(Now, you’ve got to picture this. I’m just a kid. 12 years old. School the next day. It’s late. This is crazy. My friends’ dads didn’t do stuff like this!)
“Let’s get to work!” Aaron exclaimed. That night I learned about doing things right, with Meticulosity. Dad even cleaned with us for about a half hour before going to his office to work on contracts. We headed home around midnight.
“Greg, Aaron may be the custodian, but he’s the best mentor I’ve ever had. The man is a beacon of doing things right. With Aaron, good is never good enough. It’s a lesson you better learn if you expect to work for your dad.”
I haven’t done everything perfect and right in my life. But thanks to Aaron and Dad, and one very late night, I learned about Meticulosity.
noun 1. extreme care; attention to minute detail; precise; thorough: Aaron like.