Once, when my girlfriend was little, she went along to work with her dad. While he went about his business, he gave her some highlighter pens to draw with.
Highlighter pens are not the best kind of pens for drawing. But this was an office after all and she was only little.
Hearing this story reminded me of the time I went to work with my dad. My gifts included a free spin on a fax machine and a small plastic G-clamp.
When I was very small, my dad drove a truck. There are photographs of me and my mum and my dad standing proudly in front of the house with my dad’s truck. It was shiny and blue.
Dad was an excellent truck-driver. He had an HGV lisence and liked truckstop breakfasts. It was hard work and long hours and he didn’t like to have the sunrise shining in his eyes in the morning and the sunset shining in his eyes in the evening. He now works as a highschool teacher where sunrise and sunset do not trouble him.
I once went out in my dad’s truck on a night time mission. We were kept company along the motorway by cat’s eyes. My dad explained that cat’s eyes are tiny glass balls that reflect the beams of car headlights and that they were invented by a man who had seen torchlight reflecting in the eyes of a cat.
We did not have to worry about damaging the cat’s eyes with our wheels because the glass balls are set in rubber.
I remember this very well because I was impressed at the cleverness of cat’s eyes. They light your way along the roads but they don’t use any extra electricity. Once they are set into the road, they will reflect light forever. You never have to worry about changing the batteries.
When we got to our location, a factory, my dad talked to an overalls-wearing man in an office and the man fed some details of their transaction into a fax machine.
“That’s gone all the way to France, that has,” the man explained to me.
“To France,” said my dad, “that piece of paper is now in France”.
While I was smart enough to understand that the piece of paper had not been physically transported to France, I couldn’t work out how the machine had done what it had done. I was very impressed. What an age we lived in.
The man asked if I wanted to send anything to France so I drew a picture on some special fax machine paper of a frog with the phrase, “no more smelly socks” and the man sent it to France for me.
I realise now that sending specifically that image and that phrase specifically to France could have been misinterpreted. I hope it didn’t cause an international incident.
In the meantime, my dad had loaded his truck with whatever cargo he had come to collect and it was time to leave. My fax-sending friend gave me a small plastic G-Clamp from his overalls as a parting gift.
My girlfriend went on to become an illustrator and I went on to become an email jockey, frequently sending things to France. If ever you take your kids to work with you, remember to give them something to play with. It could be formative.
I don’t know where the small plastic G-Clamp is today but I imagine it is still in my dad’s shed with the other G-Clamps.