One honest accountant


I grew up on the west side of Chicago.  We lived in a modest home in a modest neighborhood.  My dad was an accountant and my mom a teacher.  It was probably exactly what you envision when you picture what a middle-class youth in the 80s looked like: safe, wholesome, fulfilling, gathering the neighborhood kids up after school to play street hockey.  My dad was an honest guy, probably the most honest man I have ever or will ever meet.  It was almost like a genetic defect how honest he was.  Let me expound with a short story… Every fall, we would go apple picking.  The system at the time was: you’d go out to the orchards, pick apples, throw them in your trunk, and then as you drove out, you’d open the trunk for the attendant to weigh what you picked and charge you based on that.  One year, we inadvertently put one of our baskets full of apples in the back seat such that when we rolled up to the attendant, there was one basket that he did not account for.  We didn’t discover our “crime” until we returned home later that night.  So, put yourself in the scenario: you drive 3 hours up to an apple orchard, pick a bunch of apples, buy a lunch, buy some pumpkins and some donuts too (the fresh cinnamon sugar donuts were always the highlight for me).  Then, you drive three hours back home and you realize there are like 20 apples you took back with you that you haven’t paid for.  What would you do?  Keep in mind this is like 1987 – no email, no texting, no internet.  I think most of us would chalk it up to an honest mistake and carry on with life…right?  Not my dad, Jim.  That guy sat down, wrote an apology letter to the company, slipped a twenty-dollar bill in the envelope, and mailed it off to the orchard.  Again, this was 1987.  Those 20 apples probably cost 87 cents back then.  A twenty-dollar bill got you a full tank of gas…and then some.  It was my paperboy wages for an entire month.  But this was my dad.  This was the guy who wrote to the builder of his home and told him he thought he underpaid for his water heater.  You read that correctly: my dad wrote to the builder and told him that he was afraid he didn’t pay the builder enough.  And he wrote that letter seven years after he moved out of the house!


Needless to say, my dad shaped my upbringing.  Also needless to say, there is no way I am or will ever be anywhere near the level of honesty of that man.  If there was such a thing as too honest, I think he might have been the poster child for it.  And this is not a story to explain how righteous and just I was or am; not by any means.  It is instead an homage to the man that helped to shape who I am today.  And what I think I really inherited from my dad was this thing inside me that when I see when something is wrong, I can’t let it go.  I can’t shut it out and move on…I need to address it before it eats me up.  This trait has no doubt been the source of much consternation for me in the past as I have always teetered on the line between persistence and rumination.  However, in the matter of the DIA case, my stick-to-it-iveness most definitely paid dividends.