Volume 41, Issue 8 - August 2006


The Shredder
by Lyle R. Hill

May 16, 2006 – 7:35 a.m. ...“I don’t care what they’re tellin ya, it ain’t here. And furthermore, it ain’t never been here and you can take that to the bank cause I know what I’m talking about and they don’t.”

I really like Steve Salzman. He’s a standup kinda guy. In our younger years, we played quite a bit of softball and a little bit of basketball together. He was a hard-hitting, hard-throwing outfielder for a team that won more than its share of league championships in its 12-year run. On the basketball court, he had a reputation as an enforcer … a tough defensive player who was usually assigned to guard an opponent’s big guy. At the end of a typical game, the man who Salzman was assigned to wouldn’t know if he had just participated in a basketball game or a street fight. What he may have lacked in finesse, he more than made up for with tenacity and guile. 

“He’s right, Lyle, cause I had my guys turn the place upside down looking for it and if they couldn’t find it, it just doesn’t exist. Nobody knows this place as well as they do.”

I really like Danny Hernandez. He’s a terrific guy … dedicated, loyal, creative and resourceful. He’s also a runner. Not the around-the-block type. He runs marathons and he’s good at it. And in his spare time, he acquires and rebuilds motorcycles. Kawasaki’s are his cycle of preference and he’s got quite a reputation for restoring and racing them. Mechanically speaking, there isn’t much Danny can’t do, and the people who he supervises respect him for his talents and his no-nonsense style. 

“OK, listen to me for a minute,” I began. “All I know is that both Mike Swanberg and Koziac said that they saw it here … in this building … since we moved in a little more than three years ago and I don’t think either one of them would say this unless they did indeed see it.”

“And exactly where do they think they saw it?” asked Danny.

“Mike thinks he saw it in a gang box somewhere in the glass warehouse area,” I replied. “I don’t think Koziac gave a location but he did question how we could lose a 200-pound, $1,400 document shredder the size of a copy machine without someone noticing it.”

“Come on, Lyle,” Steve fired back, “when’s the last time you were in Koziac’s office? You could park a small car in there and he wouldn’t know it was there for a month!”

“Alright, I hear you, but just look around one more time because I really hate to buy another one of these things if the old one’s still here.”

May 16, 2006 – 9:20 a.m. … “I don’t give a rip what they said, I know I saw it. It was in one of our jobsite gang boxes sitting on top of a pile of drop cloths. I don’t know how it got there and I don’t know why it was there, but it was there!”
I really like Mike Swanberg. He’s a wonderful guy. Hard-working, straightforward and willing to tackle the tough assignments. He’s as competitive in the business world as he was on the softball diamond and basketball court in his younger years. You always know where you stand with Mike. He’s going to give it to you straight and he’s not going to sugarcoat it. He’s been the company’s chief operating officer for the past five years. 

“Yeah, and I think I saw it, too. Besides, why would those clowns throw out a piece of equipment without getting permission from somebody? This just wasn’t some home-use shredder; this was a big industrial size model. Who do they think they are?” 
I really … I really … I really have known Koziac the Polish Accountant for a long time. More than 30 years to be exact. Difficult to understand, impossible to predict; he is one of the most unique people I have ever met. While recognized as a truly great pure accountant, he is equally well-known for his quirkiness. And his office tidiness … or lack thereof … is legendary. 

Once, a few years ago, when Koziac was on vacation, I pulled up a few dandelions and a hunk of wet dirt, scrunched it all up in a ball of newspaper and, more or less, planted it in his office amidst the assortment of papers, boxes and files that cluttered his office floor at the time. I left it out in relatively plain view thinking that he would come back from vacation, see it, and then come and blame me for placing it there. I would then claim that I had nothing to do with it and tell him that his office was such a mess that apparently weeds were now sprouting in it. It seemed like a good idea at the time. 

Well, he came back from vacation and never even noticed the dandelions. After a week or so I forgot all about it and it wasn’t until about a month later, when people started noticing that little, puffy, white seed pods came floating out of his office every time he opened his door, that I remembered what I had done. I went into his office and there were dandelions growing all over the place. It took a landscape crew three days to clean them all out and now, every spring, we have to spray his office with weed killer.

“Listen guys,” I began, “I don’t know what to tell you about all of this. They claim they have turned the place upside down and inside out and can’t find the missing shredder. Now I know it’s a big building with lots of places to lose things, but I’m not so sure it’s here.”

“Lyle,” Mike responded, “If I wasn’t leaving for China tomorrow, I’d find that thing myself cause I know I saw it.”

“Yeah,” Koziac chirped, “he saw it and they should find it! The problem around here is that we’re too soft on everybody. You need to get tough … threaten somebody … teach ‘em a lesson.” 

“OK,” I said, “I’m not sure which way to go at the moment so let me think about it for a bit. In the meantime, have a safe trip Mike, and Koziac, I suggest you start getting pricing information together for a new shredder.” 

May 19, 2006 – 3:48 a.m. … After a very restless night, I reached two conclusions. First, the old adage that “you will catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar” is as true today as it ever was. And secondly, instead of planting dandelions in Koziac’s office, I should have planted poison ivy. 

May 21, 2006 – 7:00 a.m. … I distributed a memo to all warehouse personnel offering a reward to the person who could find the missing shredder. The reward was six extremely good tickets to a Cubs game or four extremely good tickets to a White Sox game. Six Cubs tickets for four White Sox tickets is the current exchange rate in Chicago. 

May 21, 2006 – 7:08 a.m. … “Where do you want this thing?” asked Danny Hernandez as he grunts and groans his way into my office carrying a commercial-grade shredding machine that probably weighs more than he does. 

“Wow … that didn’t take long. Where did you find it?” I asked.

“Lyle, you probably won’t believe this, but it was in a big steel gang box nestled gently amongst a bunch of drop cloths. But what was really strange was that when I opened up the lid on the box … a bunch of these fluffy little seed things came floating out. I think they were dandelion seeds.”

“At this point, Danny, I’d believe anything. So tell me, what tickets do you want?”

“Well, Lyle, I live pretty close to Wrigley Field, but I want to take my dad to the game and he’s a White Sox fan. Do you think I could get six tickets at Wrigley when the Sox are playing there? I know I’m being a little pushy here but you did say it was an expensive shredder.”

“Yeah, I think so, Danny. And would you mind putting the shredder in Koziac’s office so he’ll know we found it?” 

“Sure. Not a problem. I’ll put it by that little patch of crabgrass growing next to his file cabinet.”

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