Monday, July 18, 2011
The harsh light of the office was hard on his tired eyes. The smell of the basement office hadn’t changed in years. He had been passed up for promotion a dozen times and it was time to think about retirement. Yet he couldn’t bring himself to. Too many mysteries to solve; too many unanswered questions.
It was lunch time and all his colleagues were heading out to the lunch room. He didn’t have to eat much anymore. He didn’t exercise or perform manual labor and so his food intake was minimal. He hated to exercise anyway. It was for those insecure muscle men that were afraid of getting sand kicked in their faces anyway. You know the kind that answered those ads in the back of magazines. They always seemed to be short guys anyway.
He was not short at six foot two but he was very out of shape. Of course in 1946 there was no emphasis on fitness. Most people still worked manual labor jobs and the thought of exercise was not a priority. The new phenomenon of the couch potato was about to invade the modern psyche but not quite yet. Kids still played outside and people still worked with their hands. A suntan meant that you were a manual laborer and was not a sign of high social status. Everyone smoked and drank.
Many homes had little bars in them where friends would gather after a good meal in each other’s homes. Taking turns being host and hostess having their peers over for dinner was what weekends were for.
Not for Crenshaw however. He was unmarried and uninterested at this point in his life. His life was his work. No hobbies and no distractions. Just his paper pushing job and the Soviet missiles…which by the way was not his job. His boss had made that very clear. He made him give back all the blackboards he had setup and told him to not work on the Soviet missile issue.
How had he put it? “Forget god damn Stalin’s missiles and concentrate on your own god damn job!”
So he worked on the problem in his spare time. How were they doing it? What was the guidance system? He’d figure it out if it took him the rest of his life.
Which between you and me, was only another 12 months anyway. Lung cancer, undetected and untreated, was in the early stages of forming. A lifelong smoker Crenshaw was doomed since he was 36. If he had stopped then the damage would have been reversed…but he didn’t. So he was a dead man walking thanks to Pall Mall cigarettes. The only brand he ever smoked. After all Santa smoke Pall Mall and “puff by puff … you’re always ahead.” Which of course he was.
He was going to die a full 15 years ahead of his non-smoking twin brother.