A "Man Friday" is an all-around helper or assistant. He's an efficient and devoted aide or employee. He's the right-hand man, who does what the boss needs. That was my role, and I enjoyed the job.
I became a man Friday when we were near Tifton, Georgia. It started as a very casual property caretaking job. It turned into short-term employment and a long-term friendship.
We were dealing with a new travel trailer. We were moving from the old one to our new one. That meant switching solar panels, building battery boxes, installing hooks and hangers, and putting shelves and partitions in the closets. We were doing all the things that make a trailer livable and make it our home. We had arranged to do this on a lot where they were building a set of mini-storage units. We'd met the property owner at the RV dealership, where he was also buying a new trailer.
In addition to the mini-storage units, the owner had a small fleet of trucks. The trucks would come and go, sometimes parking on the lot overnight. We could stay and do our thing, and in return, we would be a presence on the property.
Soon, I did an errand for the owner. Then, I would catch a driver to relay a message. Then, I would shuttle a driver back to the peanut warehouse to pick up a truck. The owner saw I was handy. Soon I was doing odd jobs and getting paid for them.
The mini storage was finished, but they hadn't yet built the fence. It became even more important for someone to show a presence on the grounds.
They were putting in water and electric on the property. They were paying me to do it. The owner also paid me to dig water and electric over to our trailer -- I guess he wanted to keep the help happy.
He decided to build a shop on the property for his trucking business. I helped do site work, did the plumbing, and wired the building. I did a lot of the work on the semis and trailers. Many times, the drivers came to me instead of the boss, because that was the fastest way to get repairs done and get back on the road. I evolved into the tire man, repairing the flats and mounting new tires for the trucks. I was also welding on the trailers, fixing air leaks, doing oil changes, and regular maintenance.
In my spare time, I built a portable bar-b-que smoker from a 125-gallon propane tank. It turned out beautiful and worked great. Everyone in the community wanted to barrow it. So, the boss had me build a second one, just to lend out.
Down in southern Georgia, having a fishpond is a status symbol. The boss, being a successful business owner, thought he should have one. He arranged for a bulldozer. Next thing I knew, I was digging a pond. It was on some other property he owned, adjacent to his home place.
That led to him having me do home repairs and Bush Hog weeds, brush, and grass.
I was his man Friday. There was always work to do. He kept me busier than I really wanted to be, but, I liked the owner, it was a good mix of work, and he was paying me. Sometimes, I worked on my own schedule, and sometimes, when things needed to be done now, I worked at his schedule.
If I needed something for a job, I could buy it. Oftentimes, I could charge it to the company account. If I had to pay for it, there was never a question of being reimbursed. We trusted each other.
We became good friends and did things together. It eventually came time to move on down the road. It was hard to leave a good job, a good boss, and a good friend.
It started as a few favors, but evolved into much more. We all knew my being his man Friday was temporary. But when we left, I almost felt I was letting him down, and he felt he was holding us back. Sometimes leaving a job is like leaving home.
Coleen's comments: My husband, Bob Nilles, wrote this article about working as a man Friday. He enjoyed the position very much. He did a variety of tasks, met many people in the community, learned about the peanut industry, and his boss turned into a life-long friend. When our RV travels took us back to that part of the country again, we stopped in to visit. If it had worked with our travel plans, Bob could have went right back to work.