“Honor is better than honors.” – Abraham Lincoln

To enlarge photograph of electrical substation, click on it: A 115 kV to 41.6/12.47 kV 5 MVA 60 Hz substation with circuit switcher, regulators, reclosers and control building at Warren, Minnesota in the US. From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_substation

To enlarge photograph of electrical substation, click on it: A distribution substation in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada disguised as a house, complete with a driveway, front walk and a mowed lawn and shrubs in the front yard. A warning notice can be clearly seen on the “front door.” Photographs from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_substation …………………………………………………………………………………………….

They called him “Mr. Integrity”

My Dad, James Collins Meek II, worked for West Kootenay Power & Light Company (WKP&L) in British Columbia (BC), CANADA, for 42 years. Ultimately he became the supervisor for WKP&L in the Kelowna District. The company men in Kelowna dubbed him “Mr. Integrity.” They had many reasons for doing this.

One of the reasons they called him “Mr. Integrity” was that he always made sure that he spent company money as if it were his own money. And he was very responsible with his own money. One of the results was that the “integrity disease” became contagious and the men who worked for him caught the “disease” as well. This made for an honest and frugal operation, which the company greatly appreciated of course.

Dad also made sure that he gave value for his own personal labor dollar. It was important to him not to “waste time” on the job. Over time, his men followed suit. It became part of the culture of the company group.

What’s this got to do with learning?

Even respect and integrity can be learned.

The Retirement Celebration Joke

Karl Wolfe worked for my Dad in the Kelowna office of WKP&L, right up until the time my Dad retired. Karl had built a miniature electrical substation switchboard to be used to play a retirement celebration joke on my Dad.

The plan was to have Dad try to figure out how to make the correct critical sequence of electrical switching moves for several hypothetical high-voltage lines. This switching job was supposed to get the electrical power back on to an area whose high-line power source was down and out.

Then, because it was a very complex sequence of switching moves, the  joke idea was to have him surely fail, sounding a big alarm buzzer. Whereupon one of “the boys” was going to pull the main switch for power to the hall we were in for the retirement party, plunge everything into darkness, and blame my Dad for the ensuing chaos.

“You’ve made a big mistake in the power switching!” they were going to yell. “You’ve made the power fail–all the way back to the hydroelectric dam power source!”

“Region-wide failure!”

All in “good fun” of course.

So the trap was set

Here’s where the integrity comes in. In multiple forms. Watch.

My Dad got up to face the challenge of this miniature switching panel. He could see this was a complex matter. He felt it would be a personal embarrassment if he failed in both his electrical knowledge and in his duty to protect the power delivery, even in this purely hypothetical case.

He knew nothing about the planned joke of course. He figured his men were simply giving him his “final test” in the power industry, prior to his retirement.

[Aside to the reader: power industry people see themselves as having an almost sacred duty to keep the power flowing, no matter what.]

My Dad looked at the complex switching task facing him, and knowing Karl Wolfe was a man of integrity, silently reasoned, “Karl built this switchboard, so I know he would not design it so as to guarantee failure and embarrassment. There is a way through, complex though it may be.”

To enlarge photograph of electrical substation, click on it: A 50 Hz electrical substation in Melbourne, Australia. This is showing 3 of the 5 220 kV/66 kV transformers each with a capacity of 185 MVA. From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_substation …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Failure is not an option

My Dad just could not bring himself to fail in the power industry, even in this hypothetical case.

So he put his knowledge and experience to the test, worked methodically through the complex switching sequences, and wow! He got through it successfully without creating any massive power failures. Or little ones either. Bingo! The switchboard gave the “power restored” signal and Dad sat down satisfied.

All the men sat around dumbstruck.

The guy had succeeded, against all odds! They couldn’t play out the joke because he hadn’t failed!

[Personally, I would have just sounded the buzzer anyway, pulled the switch on the hall power, plunged the place into darkness, and played out the big “power failure” joke on my Dad anyway! :o]

The men had too much integrity for that. They had too much respect for my Dad.

The joke was based on Dad’s failing and he did not fail.

They honored his success.

To integrity!

Doc Meek, Sunday, June 6, 2010

At Sherwood Park, Alberta, CANADA

P.S. Contrasting News Item:

The money and valuables found in [this one drug lord’s house] would be enough to pay for health insurance for every man, woman and child in the USA for 12 years! There are believed to be approximately 27 more [drug lord houses in this particular country] not to mention the ones in other countries who are enriching themselves in the drug trade. These people have so much money, they make the Arab oil sheiks look like welfare recipients. Their money can buy the best politicians, the best cops, the best judges, whatever they need they just throw down stacks of cash and it is theirs! This is why the drug problem is so difficult to fight.

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