Peppy Da Dog

By Lyle R. Hill

I cut his lawn, I shoveled his snow, and every morning, long before most people were even awake, I tossed a copy of the Chicago Tribune onto his front porch. Mr. Vitucchi was well into his 70s and even though I wasn’t yet a teenager, we were friends. Many a summer evening was spent sitting on his front porch sipping homemade lemonade and listening to his stories. He wasn’t a particularly good story-teller nor were his stories always original, but the world moved at a different pace then, and listening to the old Italian gentleman on those warm summer nights just seemed like the right thing to do. And sometimes, when I close my eyes and let my mind wander, I can still taste the lemonade … still smell the cherry blend tobacco burning in his pipe … still see his dog Peppy laying at his feet … still hear his voice …

“Kid,” he began one night, “whatta you gonna do whenna you grown up?”

“I’m going to be a professional baseball player, Mr. Vitucchi.”

“You know, kid, I sit here and watcha you play baseball in the street all the time and I gotta tell you one ting.”

“What’s that Mr. Vitucchi?”

“You maybe should tink about being a teacher, or a barber or maybe one of da guys that pull outta your teeth when they get bad.”

“But I’d rather be a baseball player. Don’t you think that would be better?”

“Sometimes kid, you don’t know what’s a good ting for you. Let me tell you a story about Peppy dat will help you know something. Is dat okay?”

“Sure, Mr. Vitucchi.”

“Well, you remember lasta year when Peppy she gotta real sick and couldn’t eat nothin’?”

“Yeah, I do. And you were very worried about her and took her to the veterinarian.”

“No, I took her to da dog doctor and he giva me dis bottle of medicine and he tella me to give Peppy one table-spoon of da medicine twice a day, but Peppy don’t want the medicine and no matter what I do, she not gonna take da medicine. I kept tinking, how do I get her to see it my way? Now I’m really worried. But all of the sudden, while I’m fighting wid her, I spilla da medicine on da floor and den you know what happens?”

“What, Mr. Vitucchi?”

“She licks da medicine up right offa da floor. So I no fight her no more. When medicine time comes, I put it on da floor and Peppy, she licks it right up. Whatta you tink about dat, kid?”

“I don’t know what to think, Mr. Vitucchi, and while I know there’s a lesson somewhere in the story, I’m not sure I know what it is.”

“Here’s da ting, kid. Sometimes, people don’t always know whatsa good for dem … somebodys gotta helpa dem out. Someday, a long time from now, you gonna remember dis story and you gonna do something cause I tell you about my dog Peppy when she gotta sick.”

That all took place so many years ago. No one in the old neighborhood had air conditioning, and sitting on the porch on a hot summer night and talking, telling stories and just hanging out was what people did. You got to know your neighbors, and the whole world moved at a different pace. And Mr. Vitucchi was right … some-day I would think about him and Peppy. And maybe I get it now. You see, sometimes we don’t re-ally understand what is best for us. Whether it’s ego, stubbornness or just an unwillingness to admit when we’re wrong, we often don’t get better because we can’t see or admit to our problems. Sometimes the shrewd manager will “trick” a subordinate into taking his or her medicine … learning the lesson that needs to be learned. But more often than not, there is not enough time to educate, to train or to motivate that person who could have achieved some level of greatness if they could have overcome their own unfortunate attitude and let some-one help. On the other side of the coin, most managers just don’t have the time to teach, to coach or are not trained well enough themselves to know what to do in certain situations. Recently, a business owner told me that the problem in our industry is a lack of good training and that bad training is not better than no training at all, because all we seem to do then is pass on bad habits and work practices. The lament of the day seems to be a lack of decent employees at ever y level of the industry.

I’ve heard complaints about the lack of talent in our industry, and especially so at the project manager level. I regularly hear complaints about the new generation of employees … the millennials … who lack motivation, focus and a desire to work. But who’s to blame? Them or us? We need to stop complaining and take some positive actions. What we’ve been doing, or not doing, hasn’t worked. So maybe it’s time to figure out a different way to “deliver da medicine.”

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