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by Amy S. Wilensky, 1990

Note: This was written by Joel’s oldest daughter in 1990, when she was a college sophmore.

“We’ll leave early today, it’s the slowest time of the year,” my dad had said to me. You’re telling me, I had thought to myself, but wisely refrained from saying aloud. He was not the one, after all, who had just washed all of the iced tea glasses in the office and sorted the drawer of cleaning products, and I knew he would not take kindly to my wholehearted assessment of the day. I freely admit that my summer job in my father’s office had “materialized” directly out of my need, and not at all from his. To be honest, I was beginning to think that he needed me like a hole in the head, or, more appropriately, a twenty-five year old defensive specialist at the lunchtime basketball game. I had spent the previous week alphabetizing everything in the office with a name, and although to his credit he kept saying things like, “Gee, it will be such a big help to have that tan file cabinet alphabetized, Amy,” I could not shake the disturbing image of the cobwebs and half inch of dust that I wiped off the files before the oh-so-challenging alphabetical order job. I was at this point waiting anxiously for my father to ask me for a blue pen so I could tell him to look between black and green in his desk drawer, and I knew for sure it was bad when I realized I was starting to think of myself as Wilensky, Amy, before Joel and Sandra, but after Alison.

That was why I had been surprised, even momentarily stunned, when he had assigned me, just before he left at lunchtime, to write up a history of his business. This was a different kind of job than everything else I had done for him so far all summer--it did not fit into the category of mindless, menial, irrelevant filler task. I looked at the file he had left me with; it was labeled: Modus Operandi. I took a mental trip back to eighth grade Latin. Realizing almost immediately that all I had retained from eighth grade Latin was how to say, “Greetings, teacher” and vague memories of a tale involving two young boys in Pompei, I mentally returned to 1990, and relied on common sense. Modus would mean mode or style, I decided, and operende would mean operation or work. It made sense--style of operation. I went through the file. I went through it again. It consisted mostly of articles about people my father admired. He had, as usual, highlighted certain phrases and sections in the articles that he especially liked. The most interesting article in the file was about people who needed less than five hours of sleep. I could have made a lovely color coded sleeping pattern graph; my dad certainly didn’t sleep very much, and of course I knew exactly where all the colored pens were located (black before blue before green), but even in my semi-frozen state, due to an extreme difference of opinion in regard to air conditioning, I knew my dad was looking for more.

I got up and filed the last two resumes left in my stack from the morning’s sorting. I sat back down on my swivel chair. I swiveled. I unbent and then reshaped four plastic covered paper clips. I turned off Sally Jesse Raphael; she was distracting me. I got myself a soda from the refrigerator. Desperate, I turned Sally Jesse Raphael back on. This was definitely the low point of my summer career so far; one would have hoped dim inspiration would have hit me now, when there weren’t even any entertaining transvestite judges on television, and all of the staplers were already dusted so beautifully. I was, I could see as I shut the file, despite the intriguing European element I felt the Latin added to my otherwise mundane workday, left to my own devices on this one.

My earliest memory connecting to my father with work is of the huge blue-silver glass building where the company he worked for when I was very young was based. I also remember, and this memory is probably triggered by the recent rediscovery of these “old friends” in the garage attic, the Bradlee’s bears, a gift from someone that my father had worked with at Bradlees. Their names were Bruff, Pruff, and Truff, someone a little “off” who worked behind the scenes at Bradlees with delusions of cleverness was responsible, my sister and I decided. Later, my father started his own business, which meant that although no more chain store bears were forthcoming, my future was to hold a better class of bear without advertising logos for names sewed on their stomachs, and moved to his own office in Sudbury. This office was decorated in early Joel-rebels-from-Sandra’s-decorating-influence which, in layman’s terms, means the absence of my mother’s opinions and suggestions in terms of decor was noticeable, and if you were not a checkerboard, unfortunate. The color scheme was almost entirely black and red with black leather couches and an enormous mirrored table in the center of the room. I remember the sign in the window that could be seen as one drove down Route 20, and pointed out proudly to accompanying friends.

By this time I knew what my father did, in name anyway. He was a personnel consultant, I would tell my friends and anyone else who would ask. My mom was a teacher, a good, solid, self-explanatory job, but I don’t know how many times I had to explain to people and not just my peers, exactly what my father did in that office, what those two important sounding words meant. When I asked my father what a personnel consultant did, he said that his job was to match the right job with the right person. I pictured my father sitting behind his big desk with an electric board in his lap, one metal tipped wire in each hand as he placed the tips to metal knobs on the board matching pictures of firemen, doctors, and garbage collectors with respective pictures of hoses, stethoscopes and trash cans. A red light at the top of the board would turn on when he made a correct match. I had seen something like it once at my cousin’s house. At that time, my most pressing concern about Joel H. Wilensky Associates was, who exactly were the associates? I asked him what associates meant, and he said it meant friends. The bottom line seemed to me to be that my father sat around in his mod office with a bunch of his friends watching soap operas and playing electronic matching games. This would, needless to say, have been an opportune time for my father to trap me into some sort of contractual thing to force me into eventually joining tile business.

I got older and acquired a more accurate although still somewhat shaky concept of what my father did for a living, and my father moved into his new, bigger and tastefully decorated (in post grudgingly-letting Sandra-have-some-input) office. It was around this time that my father’s business began to seem important and even relevant, and I established, on my own, a connection between what he did and what I had. The arrival of the computer, the fax machine, and the car telephone gave his business legitimacy and even prestige in my middle school eyes, but the presence of a paper shredder in the work room gave the final, perfect, mysterious, James Bondesque touch, and I was undeniably impressed.

Now I am nearly twenty, and I have worked in the office enough to, well, still be on shaky ground when trying to explain what my father’s business entails. For some reason my father likes to describe his business and indeed even himself with cliché words and catch phrases. His self-defined business strengths are the words “persistent,” “organized” and “ethical.” Although I personally have never seen the word “persistent” in as favorable a light as my father does, instead associating it with words such as annoying, pesky and nagging, I realize that this is probably because these negative words have been my personal experience with my dad’s persistence rather than any sort of professional experience. Organized requires no commentary; only a fool would touch disputing that in any relation to my dad with a ten foot pole. I have always found the word ethical to be ambiguous at best, but one doesn’t want to pick too large a bone of contention with the person who’s providing one’s meals, if you know what I mean.

My dad tells me, often, that he is proud of me. I have the distinct impression that either he read that this was a good idea in one of his relating-to-your-teen books or that my mother suggested it. I think he’s been throwing pride around a little loosely, to tell you the truth. I haven’t done much of anything... yet. You, dad, have built a successful business entirely on your own, with integrity, sheer grit, hours and hours of hard work, honesty, ambition, and a sense of humor that perhaps has had greater benefits that even you are aware of. You’ve done it your way, as the song, some song goes; I am too curious and distractable not to read the files I have been sorting. What I do know about the history of your business is that you have dealt with dishonest people. You have been disappointed by associates. You have made some people and some companies exceptionally happy--I do not think it is exaggerating to say that you have launched hundreds of talented men and women into successful careers. Through it all, from the beginning when you established the business relationships that stand you so well today in the tiny office by Mormor’s house and eliminated clients who were unprofessional and dishonest, you never have once, and I didn’t have to read the many words of praise I uncovered in your files to know this, wavered in your approach to Joel H. Wilensky Associates.

The title personnel consultant does not even begin to describe what my dad’s Job, with a capital J, consists of, and the words organized, ethical and persistent sell him short. My dad is a man who wears many hats, and not just in order to conceal his graying hair. He dabbles in lawn care, housecleaning with a specialty in dishwashing, unsolicited stand up comedy, and organizing his family’s social schedules. These other pursuits have not proved to be as successful as J.H.W. Associates, Inc., however, and as an employee (am I an associate yet?) and daughter, I feel obligated to say: Keep your day job, dad. The lawn’s not looking too good, and you might as well take full advantage of your new alphabetized system. And by the way, and I’ve never been one to throw words around loosely, am I old enough yet to be proud of you?


Joel H. Wilensky Associates, Inc.

P.O. Box 155 • Sudbury, MA 01776-0155
Phone (978) 443-5176 • E-mail
Fax (978) 443-3009