Two roads diverged in a wood

Jerry O’Dovero  (my blog, quadriplegic, disabilities)

I loved working for my father’s real estate company. It was the perfect job for me. A lot do to the fact that I went to college. I didn’t go to college to get a piece of paper with the words diploma on it. I went for an education in the field of business and finance. Too many kids these days go to college for a degree that they can’t find a decent job with. If I known I’d be writing my story, I would have taken a course in writing, but otherwise, Northern Michigan University provided me with an education I’ve been able to earn a living with. A year after the accident when I was 18, I started working part time at a rental company my father owned. Most people that were involved in a serious automobile accident that left them paralyzed from the chest down would probably sign up for social security disability income. I went to work, than I went to college, which I paid for myself. Then back to work. After I figured out how to dress myself, take care of my daily needs and drive a car (by myself), I worked at providing a living for myself. I didn’t look for the easy path through life. I think Robert Frost said it best in his poem – The Road Not Taken. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

I take a lot of pride that I didn’t opt to live off of social security. In my mind, for me at that time, that would have been giving up.

I thought when I started working for my father’s real estate company that I’d be there for the rest of my life. I loved the job. I leaned so much how business actually worked. How contracted were used and enforced; who the business people were in the Marquette area. When I left in 1994, I had leased space at one time or another to some 200 different businesses. Add to that all the businesses I dealt with to build the buildings we leased, banks to get the loans from and government agencies to get the permits from, I had a rolodex of many of the who’s who in business in Marquette County. I still have that rolodex in a closet somewhere.

I loved that job. But now that I think of it, I think I’ve loved all the jobs I’ve had over the years. Here in California I’ve worked for H & R Block preparing income tax returns. I’ve had some health problems so last year I quit working there. Do you know that until last year anyone in 47 of the 50 U.S. states could prepare income tax returns without any state or federal oversight? I’m not big on big government, but this is one area that I’m happy they finally woke up. Like working for the real estate company, at H&R Block, I prepared income tax returns for 300 clients. I guess I love a job where I’m dealing with dozens or hundreds of people. What can I say, I love a crowd.

Like I said, I loved the real estate job. Being the project manager on a 20,000 square foot building from day one can be pretty intoxicating. I’d go home after a 10 hour day either dead tired or feeling higher than a kite because I just negotiated a $1,000,000 loan with a bank. Before I go any further I will say the O’Dovero name opened a lot of doors for me in the business world. But in business, once through the door you still have to perform. Not only that working for Peter E. O’Dovero you better perform, especially if you’re his children. It didn’t matter how old you were. You were required to work twice as hard as the man standing next to you. There are two things I learned from my father that I live by still to this day. Get the job done, and do it right (the first time)! Oh, do you know the definition of an optimist? When I was 16 years old still working for my father’s construction company I was told I must be an optimist. I was on a job site one day when lunch time came around. There were 6 or 8 guys at the lunch table when I sat down. Most of the others had their lunches in a cooler, but I had mine in a brown paper bag. One of the guys I knew somewhat peeks into my bag. I had 3 sandwiches, chips, fruit and a soda or 2. This guy, without looking at me, after looking in my lunch bag says, so you’re an optimist? Construction people are some of the hardest working people in the world. They work hard, but they also play hard. The first thing going through my mind was I’m starving I hope I get to eat my lunch. I hear a chuckle or two, so I quickly take a few bites from my sandwich before I ask what an optimist is. This guy with clothes dirty from working 4 hard hours, a 2 day half gray beard growth and eyes cold as ice turns and looks at me. You brought a lunch on your first day here on the job. He knew I worked mainly at the construction yard and who my father was, his boss. But I’m guessing he also figured I was now 16 years old, driving and going to show up at more job sites, so this must be an initiation many of the first time employees received. This old wily guy looks at me and says, an optimist is a guy who brings a lunch on the first day he works for your dad. Everyone laughs except me. I don’t have a clue what it means until one of the guys I knew better tells me – a lot of new guys are fired before noon, they didn’t need to bring a lunch. I think everyone laughed at the lunch table because they were happy for it. When you’re working 4 to 8 man crews, you don’t want slackers. It doesn’t take 6 months of training to shovel dirt.

Here’s a story I laughed right away when Jay Are told me. My father’s construction company was doing work at a gas station in south Marquette. He sees Jay Are with a shovel in his hands so he orders him to quit standing around and to start shoveling dirt. Jay Are says no. My father says no, than you’re fired! Jay Are tells my father he can’t fire him. Why, he asks already to send him home without his lunch. Jay Are replies, you’re not my boss, I don’t work for you. I work for the gas station. I guess you can’t fire everyone.

In 1994 I quit working for my father. I loved the job. I learned a lot working for him, not just the 4 years after the accident, but the 9 years before it as well. I was placed in positions of responsibility that most people never get. I was trained to be a leader from day one and failure wasn’t an option. That training, the never say I can’t became so important when I broke my neck.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost