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Midnight Requisitioning

February 16, 2013

This is another excerpt from my first book, From Sharecropper’s Son to Tracking Missiles.” This is a story about how we outfitted our office, sometimes. My second book, “Memory Harvest of a Sharecropper’s Son,” is now available in Amazon Kindle format. Each book is only $2.99.

George and Don were totally different. George was from Brooklyn and would say or do almost anything. George did not brag, he just did things. Don was from Georgia and was a blowhard. He boasted of things he would do, but never did. Sometimes he would even claim to have done things that someone else had done.

Our offices were the standard, stark offices with metal file cabinets, metal bookcases with glass flip-up doors and metal desks with black tops. The floors were vinyl tile over concrete. The Tech Lab building was three-stories plus a basement.

At the rear, the doors entered the basement. At the front, there was only one door through the first floor lobby. There was one passenger elevator at the lobby area that traveled from the basement to the third floor. A freight elevator was located near the shop areas at the south end of the building.

Three by five, small carpets were put at each entrance door and each stairwell door. When the carpets were returned from cleaning, they were piled just inside one of the back doors. Sometimes the carpets lay there for several weeks.

George suggested to Don that they brighten up their work area and be different. They picked up two of the small carpets and put them under the chairs at their desks. Naturally, they bragged for the next couple of weeks about how comfortable it was to have something soft under their feet. You wouldn’t feel much with your feet while sitting at a desk, but it was a bragging point.

One day a two well-dressed gentleman from Security stepped in the door. One called George and Don by name. Each of us had name plates on our desks. When they responded, he said, “Do you have a carpet under your chair?”

They told him that they did. He then told them to pick up the carpet, give it to the other Security man and come with him to the Chief of Security. George and Don handed the carpets to the Security men and went out into the hallway.

The first man went into our manager’s office to inform him of what was happening. While he did that, the other man laid the two carpets on a desk that was in the hallway, waiting to be moved. He then turned to George and Don and was talking to them.

Hal walked by and saw the carpets on the desk. Hal had wanted to get a carpet for his desk, so he just took one. He did not realize what was happening. The Security man turned around just in time to see Hal enter his office area door with one of the carpets. He stopped Hal, took the carpet and went to our manager’s office. He told the other Security man about another person already trying to “steal” the carpets again.

George and Don were taken to the Chief of Security for a lecture about “stealing” property. The Security Chief happened to be in a new office and did not have enough furniture yet. There were no chairs for George and Don to sit in. They had to stand in front of his desk.

After a lecture about not stealing, he gestured about the room and asked them if they thought he should just go take chairs anywhere he found them to outfit his office. George looked at him and asked, without a smile, “Do you want chairs?” The Security Chief gave up and sent them back to their office.

George returned first and told us about everything. George was laughing about the incident, since nothing fazed him. Don had been scared to death. Since Don had not come back yet, we decided to have some fun.

I went to the stair door, picked up a carpet and placed it under Don‘s chair. George then left the room so we could get Don’s version. Don was known for bragging when he got a chance.

Don returned and since George was not there, began telling his version—in his normal showoff manner. Max led him on by asking him exactly what had happened, since he had not been present when everything took place.

Don told how the Security man had called them by name and asked if they had carpet under their chairs. As he reenacted the scene, he looked down and saw the carpet under his chair. He stopped in mid-sentence and his chair slammed into the wall behind him.

He grabbed the carpet, ran into the hall and stashed it behind a stair door. He came back in shaking like a leaf, saw us laughing and sputtered, “Somebody’s trying to get me in trouble!” For the next few days, Don was very quite and did not brag about anything.

We had bare minimum furniture for our office in 1964. There were not enough file cabinets or bookcases. Our desks were the gray, metal desks, circa 1950s. We had requested additional furniture but could not get approval.

Offices were always moving around the Tech Lab during those years. We had a theory that there was one group more than the total number of offices. By always keeping one group in the middle of a move, there was enough room for everybody.

Two of our guys noticed some boxes of metal bookcases had set in the hall for two weeks, untouched. Late one evening, four modular bookcase shelves migrated from the boxes into our office. The empty boxes were left where they were. The boxes were closed and the bookcases might not be missed for several days. It was not the first time that we had acquired something by midnight requisition.

We stacked them in the middle of other bookcases against a wall and even grease-penciled fake inventory control numbers on the glass front. In many cases, the inventory control sticker was on the back and the inventory people had grease-penciled the numbers on the glass so they could read them without trying to move the bookcases out from the wall. It would be almost two years before inventory control came around again. At a casual glance, you could not tell any differences in the bookcases. Several weeks passed and we had almost forgotten about having the stolen bookcases in our office. Every bookcase was full.

One Monday morning, a person I knew named Bob stuck his head in the door and said, “You people have 30 minutes to put the bookcases you took back where you got them. No one will be looking and no one will know who took them. If you don’t, we’ll have Security take care of the problem and I don’t think you want that to happen.”

Bob was the supervisor of a group down the hall, near where the bookcases had originally come from. I bowled with Bob in the company bowling league on Wednesday nights. Bob nodded a greeting at me and left.

Everyone started talking at once about how much trouble we were in. I disagreed and tried to tell them that no one knew we had taken the bookcases. Bob had to be bluffing. If he had any idea it was us, he would probably have told me.

About that time, Charlie rushed in. Charlie was our manager. He said, “Put those bookcases back where you got them and don’t ever take anything again. We are all going to be in trouble if you guys don’t change your ways.” Bob had stopped in his office and told him what he had told us.

I tried to reason with Charlie that it was all a bluff. He told us to get it done immediately. We did and no one was watching. We had to place the books that were in the bookcases on top of other bookcases, since there was not any room left.

Wednesday night at bowling, I asked Bob how they knew who had taken the bookcases. I wondered if the cleaning people had traced them down. We had seen that happen before, as in the case with the little carpets.

Bob laughed and said, “So YOU took them. I had no idea who had taken them. I went to several offices and said the exact same thing and they were returned, so it worked.”

He and I laughed for some time about that incident. If we had not returned them, he had no idea what to do next. It would have been very difficult to find them until inventory control came around.


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