Ordinarily, it is my wont to deal with financial matters promptly. This accounts for calling contractors before their bill for work at the Carr-Chicka residence has often been composed.

And so my head is shaking over my failure to write an essay about Craig Jordan, a Lab Technician who works for the Summit Medical Group in Summit, New Jersey. This essay has been in my “Come Up File” for perhaps two years now. That’s far too long, so as soon as a few essay preliminaries are observed, there will be a short essay about a most accomplished professional phlebotomist, Craig Jordan.

Professionalism has always seemed like a most desirable characteristic in earthly endeavors. Perhaps we ought to start with the Great Depression of 1929-1942 which meant that workers and executives had to make do with what they had. As a matter of fact, World War II was fought by children of the Great Depression.

For many years, it fell to me to be acquainted with Al Goebel, a fellow AT&T employee. Putting it succinctly, Al Goebel was in many respects, the most pompous fellow it has been my misfortune to know. But in between all the pomposity, Goebel had some wisdom that greatly appealed to me. Goebel was a B-29 pilot in the Pacific in World War II. Al had been shot at and there were occasions when he feared his B-29 bomber would not make it off the hastily constructed wartime runways in the islands of the Pacific.

Goebel contended that for our generation, the strongest influences in our lives were the Great Depression and World War II. That had my full endorsement. Then Goebel would say we were the right generation to fight the war because growing up during the Depression, taught us the value of things and to improvise where the right tool or right part was unavailable. In short, it was Al Goebel’s point that if we did not have a part or a tool, the Depression generation was accustomed to doing whatever was necessary to get the job done. From that experience flows practical expertise and, if you will, a sense of professionalism. There were no schools to teach grace under fire. It had to be done regardless of the drawbacks. Professionals can handle those kinds of do or die situations.

And so in my experience, people who show professionalism acquired largely on the job, have my complete admiration. Al Goebel may have been pompous, but in this case he made eminent sense.

Carl Schroth was a professional of that sort. Carl ran a Mobilgas station in Clayton, Missouri. Many of his clientele were uncommonly wealthy people who lived in Clayton, a prosperous suburb of St. Louis. In 1937 when this essayist had reached his 15th birthday, Carl hired me to work in his filling station. The elder statesman under Carl Schroth was good old Charlie Kosta, who could make an engine start after everyone else had given up.

Carl had a 1927 Packard coupe that he had converted into a tow truck because it had a powerful engine. About one mile from Carl’s station was a fancy subdivision that offered houses built as though they were European castles. During the Christmas holidays every year, these wealthy people would have some boisterous parties. When the parties ended, it seemed that at least two or three celebrants would drive their cars off the icy private roadways and would find themselves mired in a ditch. And so Carl Schroth’s filling station was called to set the stricken cars back on the roadway.

On the Packard converted tow truck, there was no top to cover the driver and his helpers. There was a windshield but nothing else. Heaters at that time were unheard of. So the exposed tow truck ride made us anxious to get the stricken cars out of the ditch so that we could return to the warmth of the filling station.

The people who had driven their cars off the road were assumed to be wealthy people visiting other wealthy people. Once a car was winched out of a ditch, the owner would be reminded the charges would be something like $10 or $15 for an ordinary pullout. On New Year’s Eve, the price would creep more toward $20 if the hour was late and if the rain and snow were still at it.

On this evening, Carl Schroth and Charlie Kosta were working with me on rescuing wealthy drivers. In this case, after the car was restored to the icy roadway, Carl or Charlie again told the owner that the cost of our services would be $15. This amount had been agreed to by the car owner before winching work started. Here, after his car was pulled out of the ditch, this fellow told Carl and Charlie that he did not want to pay the agreed upon price for the pullout. It was cold and from my wrestling with the stricken car to get the winch chains attached to the bumper or the axle, my clothing was pretty well soaked. Charlie and Carl and your old essayist were in no mood to bargain at 2AM, even if there was a depression on.

Carl and Charlie listened to the owner of the car as he said $15 was simply too much. Now comes my introduction to professionalism in pulling people out of ditches. As soon as the owner said for the second time that he was not going to be held up by filling station grease monkeys, Carl and Charlie stood on opposite sides of the car – and silently pushed it back into the same hole that it had occupied before.

From this experience, it became clear that customers ought to be treated courteously, but if they intended to put down men who wore work clothes, there would be a price to be paid. As soon as the three of us climbed aboard our Packard tow truck and started to leave, good common sense came over the owner of the ditched car who now wanted to pay the agreed upon rate. Charlie Kosta who was driving the Packard never stopped, so this story has no end as far as the three of us were concerned. But the point was made in my young mind. People who perform a vital service on a night filled with snow and sleet deserve to be paid. Failing such payment, professionalism dictates that there should be no more investment in the venture.

The impression left in my mind is only half of the conclusion of that early morning trip. It must be assumed that the owner of the car must also have derived a lesson from what Carl Schroth and Charlie Kosta did on that occasion. For my part, it was resolved in my mind that messing with Carl and Charlie was not a profitable proposition. They were first class professionals.


As time went on, St. Louis Cardinal ballplayers, Enos Slaughter, Pepper Martin and Stan Musial were professionals who gained my admiration. They were something like Franklin Roosevelt, that is someone to be admired from afar. Closer to home were some of the other GI’s with whom this old soldier served. Many of these people became professionals in the military sense. One was Mike Molinari who was in charge of combat aircraft electrical problems. Mike worked for a newspaper in civilian life, but once he joined the Air Force, he became a professional electrician in charge of our early stage electronic equipment.

Working for AT&T led me to the vast numbers of women employed in the traffic operations in St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and in New York. These women were tough as nails if they concluded they were being cheated or being run over. But from my long association with them, they were people of unshakeable loyalty. They were not as well paid as many of us would have preferred, but when a call had to go through or when a party had to be found, the AT&T traffic women were without parallel. No greater professionalism may be found in all of AT&T’s many thousands of employees.

When there were physical problems that hospitalized me in the Army, the professionalism of the Corps of Nurses was immediately apparent. Now in later life as hospitalization is required, the professionalism of civilian nurses earns my admiration.

For several years, it was my pleasure to be a friend of Charles Lee Brown, the Chairman of the Board of AT&T. Charlie’s brain put him in the genius class. His position as the head of America’s largest corporation did not affect his dedication to doing the right thing. Charlie was a bargainer on two of my bargaining teams in negotiation with the Communication Workers of America. Even under duress, Charlie never put down any of the union people even if some of their proposals were bizarre. Charlie was a good man in my estimation and he performed all his AT&T jobs with distinction and professionalism.

There are literally hundreds of cases where people have displayed expertise and professionalism. This week, Matt Pepe and his sons laid a new driveway at this house. Matt Pepe has performed work for me for more than 40 years. There are no schools that teach concrete and paving work as far as can be determined. Matt Pepe learned on the job and his two sons have profited from the expertise he has learned. If anyone needs concrete or paving work to be done, members of the Pepe clan are first class professionals who appear on time and who do not dawdle about the job. It is completed with dispatch.

One more case of professionalism out of thousands, now comes to mind because we see him twice a week. Daniel Commodore, an immigrant from Ghana, has established himself as a first class fish monger in a large Whole Foods grocery store near us. Only a professional could skin a fish as Daniel does. He comes by his craft naturally, it may be supposed, as his father was a fisherman in Ghana which used to be called The Gold Coast. Daniel is not only an excellent fish monger, but he is a bright and friendly person. It is a pleasure for my wife and for me to count old Daniel as our friend. His cohorts at the Whole Foods fish counter are Janice Williamson and Robert Lopresti. They are also professionals in dealing with fish.

It was obvious that undertaking an essay about professionalism would mean that it would be impossible to cite every such case. To all those cases which are not included in this essay about professionalism, this old essayist extends his apology. If we were to write of every case of professionalism that has happened to me, this essay would be unending. It is hoped that the reader will understand. And besides, this was supposed to be a salute to the honorable Craig Jordan in a tribute that has been put off for more than two years.

Craig works in the Lab at the Summit Medical Group. For many years, cardiologists at the Summit Medical Group have been watching the composition of my blood. If it gets too thick, there is a possibility of severe coronary problems. If it gets too thin, some of the same problems may also arise. What is being offered here is my interpretation of a cardiac procedure which will never be included in a medical textbook.

Now to see that my blood is the proper fluidity, the medics have devised a method called a Protime reading which measures how Coumadin has affected my blood and its consistency. This is all well and good to measure the consistency of my blood, but to do so requires the efforts of a phlebotomist who draws the blood to be submitted to the Protime procedure.

Drawing blood from a patient is not necessarily a happy procedure. When a phlebotomist is encountered, an arm is extended and the needle to withdraw the blood goes in around the elbow. Every time a Protime reading is required, blood must be withdrawn. Because the reading must be taken sometime at weekly intervals, the arm develops scar tissue which tells the phlebotomist that he must go someplace else to insert the needle. Most often if the elbow area is foreclosed to the phlebotomist, he or she will then go to the large veins on top of the hands.

From the patient’s point of view, only a masochist would enjoy blood being drawn. Some phlebotomists are more skilled than others and some are more dedicated to their craft. The objective for both the patient and the phlebotomist is to make the procedure as painless as possible and to get the work finished as quickly as possible.

Because it has been necessary to draw blood for repeated Protime readings, it has become clear that some phlebotomists are better at their craft than others. And that, dear readers, brings us at last to the consummate pro of all phlebotomists. Today, there is a procedure to take a small amount of blood from one of the fingers, which obviates the need to draw blood from the arm. But in former days, it was a case of drawing blood from the arm every week or two weeks. Whenever possible, it was my intention to ask that my blood be drawn by Craig Jordan because he did the work as pain free as possible and he did not dawdle in getting the test tube filled. This may be hard to believe, but there have been occasions when Craig released the rubber band on my arm and started to put a small bandage on the puncture, and this old patient would ask, “How is it coming along?” The Craig Jordan answer was, “It’s all over.”

Where Craig Jordan learned his craft is unknown to me. Aside form being a first class professional phlebotomist, Craig is a thoroughly pleasant person who would always be welcome in our home. A week or two ago, the cardiologist ordered blood to be drawn. It had been some time since it was necessary to visit the Labs. In passing, the receptionist Monica was asked if Craig would happen to be around. Monica said he was still at work at the Labs and would it please me to have the work performed by Mr. Jordan. My reply was an enthusiastic “yes” and soon old Craig showed up and went to work.

In a short while, this ancient patient wanted to know how the work was going, and Mr. Jordan said he was finished. As always, it was as close to painless as it could possibly be.

As you can see, professionalism has my highest regard whether it is pouring concrete, or skinning a fish or a big shot such as Charlie Brown being decent to the little people he had to deal with. And so it is that Craig Jordan has my vote and my endorsement for the Phlebotomists Hall of Fame because of his complete professionalism. That is only the half of it because Craig is a most pleasant man who would be called a good guy.

It has taken me two years to get this essay written, but all along, my view of Craig has not changed at all. The encounter last week, simply confirmed the view that Craig Jordan belongs in the top tier of his craft.

In a way, it is regrettable that Al Goebel, the old B-29 pilot, did not live long enough to be a patient in the hands of Craig Jordan. My bet is that pompous old Al would say that Mr. Jordan can do his phlebotomist thing on him at any time. And Goebel might even agree to tell Craig a Depression tale or a B-29 story from the Pacific. Al clearly was pomposity personified, but he was a fine story teller. Perhaps Craig would be interested in what Al Goebel had to say as long as the story was completed by the time Craig had done his phlebotomist thing.

May 20, 2004


Kevin’s commentary: Phlebotomy has come a long way since the days of leeching, it sounds like. I had no idea that the veins in ones hands would make good targets for taking blood. I guess it’s pretty easy to find them, though, so why not?

Thanks to the magic of Google, I was able to track ol’ Craig down pretty quickly. He’s a motivational speaker now, which is pretty cool. I think I’ll send him a link to this essay, to let him know that his talent stood out to Pop so much that he wrote an essay about it. Who knows if he’ll remember an old patient from fifteen years ago, but I think it’d be fun to read this even if he doesn’t.


UPDATE: Craig responded right away! He wrote:

Hello all. I am Craig Jordan. Mr. Carr was a great man who made everyone smile when he came to the lab. I had the pleasure of being chosen by Mr. Carr to perform his phlebotomy procedure when he came to the lab and it was an honor and a pleasure to do so. Mr. Carr always put a smile on my face and laughter in my voice. Mr. Carr was an inspiration to us and a joy to be around. Although he is not here, he has not left my heart and thoughts. Mr. Carr motivated me then and is motivating me now. This essay is moving and heartfelt. It will live with me for as long as I live. Rest in Heaven Mr. Carr.
-Craig Jordan



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