The man’s name was Millard Jernigan.
He spoke with the accent of rural North Carolina, where “lack” sounded to Midwestern ears the same as “like”.
The accent was so rich that no words were wasted.
He had done well for himself, this Millard. He owned three McDonalds restaurants in Central Arizona–big, busy ones near freeways. He was a rough-hewn man in his mid-fifties with hands still calloused from the plow, and he was married to a lovely redhead about twenty years his junior. She dressed like it was prom night all the time.
And Millard made sure things worked well in his restaurants. He kept a firm hand on the tiller.
Once I heard a kid lazily taking an order through the intercom, not speaking clearly. Millard excused himself for a moment, tapped the kid on the shoulder and softly asked “Kin yahh do that better, son?” And the kid suddenly did.
I was there to install the intercom system–the new intercom system. It was the one that gave wireless headsets to all the employees. Although this was pretty close to space-age technology in Millard’s world, he wasn’t content to let me and another tech handle it. He needed to be there. That sort of hands-on approach probably had ensured his success.
So while he was out in the hot sun working beside me as I drilled into the speaker post by the drive-thru lane, I tried to make conversation.
I cleared my throat. “I heard something about 3M on the radio this morning. Sounds like they’re laying off another 50,000” I said, ominously and in some effort to sound like I was identifying with his working-class bonafides. It was during the recession in the early 90’s. Layoffs were coming hot and heavy.
Millard just grunted. He looked at me in silence. I turned to change drill bits, deciding to abandon this particular attempt at small talk.
Then he let loose with a gem of wisdom, from the depths:
“If you want to work, you’ll always do fine” he said.
It probably sounded more like “Ef yah wanna wahrk, yahll alwuz doo fahn”, but the wisdom contained in that one remark overwhelmed my memory of his accent.
And I nodded.
Since then, that phrase has proven so truthful, so reliable that I’ve extended it.
If you want to work, you’ll always do fine.
If you want to work and you have an education, you’ll do even better
If you want to work and you have an idea, the world is your oyster
So yahhll cape in mahnd what ol’ Millard had to say on thuh subjec, willyah?