Valley Voices

The summer dad took his daughter to work was one of her best for the time they shared

“Take Our Daughters To Work Day” was created in New York City in the summer of 1992 by the Ms. Foundation for Women and its president, Marie C. Wilson, the foundation treasurer, Ms. Daren Ball, and with support from foundation founder Gloria Steinem. The first celebration took place on April 22, 1993, and has since been celebrated on the fourth Thursday of April. (Wikipedia)

My dad was a traveling salesman for a company that sold machine parts and tools to vehicle repair shops. His territory included the Four Corners area of Colorado. The summer I was 16, he sprained his ankle and could not drive, so he volunteered me to take him to his sales calls. Although I groused about it at first, it turned out to be the best week of my summer.

Every morning after breakfast, we would hit the road and head to one of the repair shops he serviced. While he chatted up his customers, I sat in the boss’ office and read a book. The smell of oil and diesel fuel, the whine of pneumatic drills, and the low rumble of masculine laughter wafted into my subconscious like second-hand smoke. The very air breathed testosterone; and wherever we went, it seemed like there was always a guy named Earl. Later my dad told me that some of the men busted his chops about being chauffeured around by a teenage girl. We got a chuckle out of that.

sharon hart
Sharon Hart Fresno Bee file

“Take Your Daughters (and Sons) to Work Day” was designed to introduce children to the working world of their parents. I think this is a good idea. Youngsters need do see how the oldsters do it; even the beasts of the fields expose their offspring to their beastly ways. However, what impressed me the most about my week with my dad was not the work but the commute. I realized that for my dad, the journey was just as important as the destination. For him, time on the road meant time to think.

That’s what we did together when I was driving him to his sales call. We sat, stared out the window, and thought. Where else can one do that with impunity? In most work situations, if you sit and stare out the window and think, you are considered unproductive. All the people that have a plan for your life pounce on you with their agendas. Just try to sit and think for a while at home, and all at once there is a task with your name on it. However, driving in your car on your way to work is different. Sitting and staring and thinking are allowed.

Between Durango and Cortez the speed limit was 70 mph, but Dad let me take it up to 80. There I was flying down the highway, enjoying the fast-changing scenery, and my dad never said a word. It wasn’t that he wasn’t scared speechless — he was just thinking.

The thing is my dad needed to think. Like the father in “History of the Rain” by Niall Williams, there was a “non-stop buzzing in his brain. Whatever part of his mind saw things in the everyday not-really-beauty that was around … that part had clicked On and gotten stuck.” The drive to work gave Dad an excuse to listen to the universe.

The week I traveled with my dad, I got a glimpse into his outer and his inner world. Years later, when I made my own commute to work, I followed my dad’s example and spent the time thinking.

I wonder how many children get to observe their parents thinking. Surely that is just as valuable as observing them hunting and gathering. Suppose there was a “Take Your Child to Think” day. Suppose it was perfectly acceptable to spend a day with your children sitting in a chair, staring out a window, and thinking.

“I sit by the fire and think of all that I have seen, of meadow-flowers and butterflies in summers that have been.” Bilbo Baggins

Think it would catch on?

S. M. Hart lives in Kingsburg.