Meet Frank (Call me Shirley)

Working for an engineering firm means that you must get used to being a minority as a woman, and it also means you need to become comfortable with engineers. At times I feel like my workplace could inspire a long running sitcom. When I share my workplace stories with family and friends they think at times I must be making this stuff up. But I swear I’m not. I just work with an extremely colourful cast of people. So just to give you a glimpse of my work life, I’m going to introduce you all to Frank.

Part of my job involves working very closely with the company’s president Frank. Frank was born in Liverpool in the 1930s and has a very intriguing, international history. Before coming to Canada and founding a severe service valve company in the 80s, Frank began his career as an engineer in the British army. For a time he was in the Suez and I’m pretty sure he saw active battle (though I may have to fact-check that one).

He’s worked for British conglomerate companies with nuclear reactors all over the world and happened to fall in love with a Canadian gal back in the 1950s and married her. He’s worked and raised his family for extended periods of time in Singapore and Kenya before deciding to settle in Canada for the sake of his wife. He’s chaired the Olympic committee for the Pentathlon and in his own words “made and lost a fortune three times.” He’s lucky this valve business panned out or apparently that would have been the final straw for his wife.

At nearly 80 Frank still comes into the office at least 3 to 4 times a week and has been talking about retiring for 10 years. He’s definitely an engineer, is very particular, and likes to have all his “ducks in a row” before he can start working on something. When I first started working with Frank I think he mistakenly thought I was his personal secretary and called me Shirley for a period of time. I had to learn how to decipher his handwriting because he’s “no good at those computer things” and he once spent two minutes looking all over his desk when I told him I saved a file to his desktop.

Cartoon which appeared in our company newsletter

I don’t take the name mix-up personally however, and several of my co-workers have not only accepted their new Frank-given names but embraced them. Maurice is now Mortinique after Frank mistakingly introduced him as Mortimer, but then remembered he had a French name.

He’s a true entrepreneur at heart and can’t stand “bloody bureaucrats” because “they’ve never created a shilling of wealth in their lives.” He has the most priceless anecdotes and is an absolute jaw-dropping delight when he comes along on important client dinners. He’s not a big fan of utensils at the company lunches and prefers to choose what deli meat to place on his sandwich with his hands.  My personal favourite Frank-isms are:

“At my age you can’t see as well, can’t hear as well and sometimes you forget to zip up your fly. What’s even worse is when you forget to zip it down.”


“I like a woman with big mahguffies.” (Which he claims is a Swahili term, your guess as to  what mahguffies are is as good as mine).

In his spare time he breeds horses on his beautiful rolling farm. His favourite horse is the great big Shire horses he used to see as a boy working on the Liverpool docks. Many of us would know these as Clydesdales but you NEVER call them Clydesdales in Frank’s presence because according to him “the bloody Scots took English Shires, brought them over to Scotland and started calling them Clydesdales.”  When my little sister desperately needed a summer job Frank hired her to pull out all the “bloody thistles” in his horse fields. She asked him why he kept a llama with the goats and he told her it keeps the coyotes away. She asked if that was true, he said “Well that’s what the bloody llama salesman told me.”

Frank is the kind of man that adds a lot of character to a company. You can’t help but love the guy. When I told him I was taking three weeks off to get married he was shocked and asked if I was sure I loved the guy. I told him I most definitely did and he replied, “Well make sure that you do. Because that’s the one thing in life you don’t want to muck up.”


7 thoughts on “Meet Frank (Call me Shirley)

  1. He sounds like an interesting old man. I used to work at a nursing home and have met quite a few characters myself. I should have written a blog during that hellish nightmare of a job. (Love that cartoon!)

    xo L.

  2. Of course we’d both have crazy bosses! My boss will probably never retire either and while he’d like to think he’s tech savvy, though he does have an iphone (it’s clear he doesn’t completely know how to use it since he sends half written emails sometimes and other times thinks he’s sent you something and hasn’t). My favorite thing of his that he does is asking me to create an event on our google calendar and to send him an invite so that it shows up on his calendar – most of the time I don’t even have involvement in these meetings… Have you seen the movie Horrible Bosses? Cause if you haven’t you must! I almost peed my pants! 🙂

    • Heehee… oh the similarities continue!

      I have seen the movie and yes, it’s quite hilarious! Though I must say I wouldn’t classify Frank as a horrible boss – he just keeps things very interesting! lol

  3. I love Frank. I’ve never met the man, yet the endless entertainment that comes from his stories will keep me laughing for days on end!

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