By Michael Aun
I consciously quit something once in my life. I was a teenager and not the most mature 19-year old at that.
I had a number of part time jobs, writing for the Lexington Dispatch News as Sports Editor and a handful of other weekly and daily publications as a “sports stringer.”
By the age of 19, I already had a plethora of job experiences. I worked in the men’s department of Tapp’s Department Store in Columbia, SC. I worked at night as a bartender at the Knights of Columbus Hall, also in Columbia after putting in a full day of work with my father in his construction company.
One summer I worked as a member of the survey crew that helped build I-20. The only reason I got that job was because I knew how to type. As a result, the paperwork ended up on my desk.
I changed oil, serviced cars, rotated tires and performed other tasks from washing cars to pumping gas at Ralph Corley’s Esso Station at the corner of Main Street and U.S. Highway One in Lexington.
In those days, almost all the Maine to Florida traffic came through the town of Lexington, SC because I-95 was still under construction. Every year we pumped millions of gallons of gas from two pumps stations out front.
I would open the service station at 6 a.m. in the summer and close it at midnight, earning a dollar an hour which was pretty good money in the sixties. None of these were career paths for me but just a way to earn some money to help support a family with 11 children.
One summer I was asked by Mr. Carroll Day, a candidate for Sheriff of Lexington County, to help with his campaign. I walked from door-to-door handing out his brochure and asking the homeowner for support.
Unbeknownst to me, one of the doors I knocked on was Mr. Day’s. When his wife answered, she assured me she would be voting for Carroll Day. “I’m his wife.” Things like this happen to you when your 19 and dumb as a box of rocks.
After helping with his campaign, Carroll asked me to become a Deputy Sheriff. I was 19 and not even old enough to carry a gun, so he made me a night time jailer. You got it… more paperwork.
I had the privilege of booking all the new business into the jail. In those days, we logged the info in by hand. I also ran the radio (call signal KIE-909), if I recall correctly.
On the evening of August 21, 1970, I was working the graveyard shift and dispatched Deputy Tommy Fox to a nightclub in Batesburg, SC at 1:30 a.m. While on the scene, the suspect was able to gain control of another officer’s .38 caliber service weapon. He opened fire and Deputy Fox was struck four times in the torso and head, killing him instantly.
I have never quit anything in my life, but that night, I made a conscious decision that I would quit this job. Tommy Fox left a wife, five children and four grandchildren. He would never see any of them again.
In the immature mind of a 19-year old kid I was having trouble processing Tommy’s death and I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights that followed. I somehow felt responsible for putting Tommy into harm’s way.
There is a difference between quitting and knowing you have had enough. If you quit something that is slowly killing you, you must then find something that will enrich you with new life.
Perhaps my own lack of maturity was the major contributing reason to me walking away from this career. The last official act I did was to write a tribute to Tommy Fox in the Lexington Dispatch-News.
It was my way of saying goodbye to a friend and colleague … and to a career. It was the first and last time I quit anything in my life.
Michael Aun, CSP®, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® won the World Championship of Public Speaking for Toastmasters International® in 1978.