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THE JANITORHow an Unexpected Friendship Transformed a CEO and His Company
By TODD HOPKINS RAY HILBERT
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Todd Hopkins
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOn the following two Mondays, Bob noticed that the light was still on in the young CEO's office, but he made it a point not to disturb the busy man. He waited until the CEO left to clean the elegant corner office. This Monday, Bob was just starting to prepare his cup of green tea before he launched into his well-choreographed cleaning routine that took him through the entire office, top to bottom, nonstop in two hours flat. After retiring from his prosperous business career, Bob had taken this job as a way to get out of the house and stay active while doing something useful at the same time.
Bob turned the work almost into a fitness circuit. He found that he really enjoyed the manual work; it freed up his mind to give shape to his thoughts. Ever since Alice died two years ago, evenings were the hardest time for him because that was when they would usually sit down and talk about the events of the day. It was the little things that Bob missed the most about Alice-the smell of her hair on the pillow, her way of folding his paper in the morning so that he would see the comics before the news (reading bad news first thing in the morning has tobe bad for your heart, she would say). She was kind, his Alice; she was smart and very, very kind. They had a sweet, long life together and three beautiful children who had produced the most wonderful gift time can bring-three healthy, ebullient grandchildren.
As he waited for the water to boil, Bob made some notes in the little spiral orange notebook that he carried everywhere. The door opened behind him, and the young CEO came in, carrying an empty mug.
"Good evening, Mr. Kimbrough," Bob said.
"Please call me Roger. I'm sorry, I never caught your name," the young man replied.
"Bob Tidwell," Bob said with a nod, getting up to pour his tea.
"What are you writing, Bob?"
"Oh, it's just a habit of mine. I keep writing the same notes over and over, trying to get them perfect. I've been at it for two years." Bob signaled to Roger's empty mug. "Can I get you something?"
"I'll do it. You sit down and tell me more about opera. What do you drink?"
Bob was amused at the role reversal. "Green tea. It's good for you."
"Okay. I'll have the same then."
Bob sat down, and Roger poured two steaming mugs of green tea and handed one to Bob. He sat down across the table and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"Tired?" Bob asked.
"Boy, I'm bushed," he said.
"I noticed that you often work late," Bob ventured.
"Often is not the word. Always is more like it. I practically live in this office. I used to enjoy it so much."
"But you don't anymore?"
"I don't know. It feels like I'm living to work. I get home, and my wife and girls are already asleep. On weekends I always have some function to go to, or I spend half my time on the phone. I don't get to spend any time with them."
"That's a shame. They grow so fast," Bob observed.
"Do you have kids?" Roger asked.
"Yep. Two sons and a daughter. All grown now, and I have three grandchildren."
"Of course. You'll be sorry you asked!" Bob took out his wallet, which had a foldout with one picture each for all the family members. The first one was Alice.
"Is that your wife?"
"Yes, that's Alice. She passed away two years ago." Bob tightened his lips.
"I'm sorry," Roger said.
"Thank-you. I miss her every day. She is the love of my life. We were very happy together."
"Really? Not many people can say that these days." Roger seemed surprised.
"Absolutely. Alice was a formidable woman. She was a great partner, a good mother, and a very wise person. She's the one who got me hooked on opera and classical music. She was interested in everything. She enjoyed cooking exotic meals for our friends, and she made even the simplest thing beautiful. She taught me how to live. That's why I'm writing these notes. I'm trying to remember her six directives for living a happy life both at home and at work, and I keep correcting them to get them exactly right."
"That sounds interesting. Why six?" Roger was intrigued.
"I have no idea! You'd have to ask Alice." Bob chuckled with glee. "But I can tell you that they work."
"Can I read the six directives?" Roger asked, pointing at the little orange notebook.
"Oh, no, I'm not even close to getting them right yet," Bob replied, tucking the little orange notebook back in his shirt pocket.
"Come on, Bob,"Roger teased him,"I can use some help."
"Really?" Bob thought a moment. "Are you really interested?"
"Well, I figure that at the rate I'm going, either my wife will leave me and take the kids and half my earthly belongings with her, or even worse, I'll have a premature heart attack and pop my clogs right here in this office."
"That bad?" Bob asked in a softer voice.
"Let me give you an example of how my life goes. It was my wife's thirtieth birthday last week," Roger said. "I promised we would have a romantic dinner, just the two of us. I even made reservations. Then I forgot. I got home, and she was already asleep. There was a huge bunch of flowers on the entrance table, with a card signed by me. Except it was not sent by me. Becky, my assistant, had remembered and sent it in my name. She had also tried to remind me, but my mobile phone was turned off."
Roger continued. "I was in the middle of closing a deal with a big Chinese client. I had been working on it for months. The meeting was scheduled for the day before, but the flight of the Chinese reps got canceled, so they arrived a day late. I had to change all my meetings at the last minute, it was a mad rush, and they were leaving the same night for their next stop. I took them out to dinner, with a translator, and ended up signing the papers at the airport, right before they boarded their flight. Everything moved so fast. I remember driving home in my sleek luxury car, feeling like Superman. Then when I saw the flowers and realized I had forgotten my wife's birthday, I felt like I couldn't breathe. My wife has not spoken to me since. So there you have it, Bob. I am a cockroach."
"Hardly," Bob said.
"What do you mean?"
"To me, it sounds like you are very human, and you are just working too hard."
"I don't know why I'm doing this anymore. My home has turned into a battlefield. I sometimes feel like I'm living with a stranger, who just keeps me around to pay off the credit cards."
"Oh, boy, I think you do need the six directives." Bob thought a moment and reached a decision. "I tell you what. You give me a week, and I'll get the first one ready for you next Monday. I bet you that in six weeks, one directive at a time, you can turn your life around and enjoy both your family and your work again."
"I don't mean to be rude, Bob, but that right now sounds impossible."
"I thought you wanted to read the six directives a minute ago?" Bob wagged the little orange notebook in the air.
"All right. You have me intrigued now. What do I have to do?" asked Roger, smiling for the first time.
"That's better." Bob smiled back. "You just make me a cup of green tea on Monday evening, and I'll come by half an hour early to share the notes with you. But you have to give me time to get them right, so only one directive per week. Deal?"
"Deal." Then pointing to the empty tea mug, Roger added, "By the way, that tea better be good for you. Man, that stuff is bitter!"
They both broke out in a relaxed chuckle as they went back to their jobs, Bob to clean the office and Roger to run it.
Excerpted from THE JANITOR by TODD HOPKINS RAY HILBERT Copyright © 2007 by Todd Hopkins . Excerpted by permission.
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