2019 was not a good year for me, being marked by the deaths of a coworker and friend and a workplace contractor and friend. Yesterday, it got even worse- my boss emailed us to tell us that a former subordinate of mine, who left the organization because a promotion on his other job rendered him unavailable, had died in November. His sister contacted our HR department to inform them, but didn’t offer any details, besides the fact that it was unexpected.
Ron Elliott was, to put it in TV Tropes terms, the quintessential ’deadpan snarked’... he was normally laconic, with a bit of a curmudgeonly streak, but if he liked you, his bone dry sense of humor would become apparent. One of his favorite sports was jocularly busting my chops, maintaining an almost impenetrable serious demeanor. Very rarely would he break character with a chuckle and murmur, “I’m just busting’ ‘em.” He wasn’t the kind of guy who liked novelty, unlike myself he had no patience for puzzling out solutions to whacky situations, but he was rock-steady when he knew what to expect, even if it was arduous. On several occasions, he worked overnight shifts during hurricanes or blizzards. Throw him a curveball and he’d get vexed, but confront him with a marathon, and he was a lion.
For a guy who wasn’t keen on novelty, Ron had the inconvenient trait of being a magnet for weirdness. If something off the wall was going to happen, it would happen on his watch. For example, one night, at shift change, he told me that two young bros in muscle cars were gunning their engines in the parking lot, and I thought he was pulling my leg yet again... then I checked out the pavement of the street outside the parking lot, and there were two sets of tire tracks where they had peeled out. It wasn’t always easy to divine truth from ribbing, but even the crazy stories usually turned out to have a kernel of fact. I’m still skeptical about the time he told me he’d seen Bigfoot on the grounds...
When he started working with me, Ron had a primary job as the manager of the local VFW hall bar. He lived in town, and both of his jobs were in town. If some drunk passed out on the sidewalk outside the site, Ron would be the guy to identify him. He all the local scuttlebutt, and would occasionally editorialize about the local scene, whereupon I would tell him to move out of the one-horse town, perhaps to Yonkers. He eventually got a more steady primary job with Metro North, which eventually led to the promotion which made him unable to work for us, it was the classic offer he couldn’t refuse. Even at Metro North, he tended to have run-ins with eccentrics.
The one thing that Ron would rhapsodize about was his youth in the suburbs of Chicago, and the adventures he had in his boyhood environs. In the back of his mind, he always had a notion that the inhabitants of his current hilly home weren’t exactly on the level... maybe that’s why he was a magnet for weirdness.
Tonight, to honor Ron, I think I will open up the parking lot and see if any wannabe drag racers drive in for a pre-race engine revving. Even though he always said he had no patience for weirdness, I don’t think he would have had things otherwise.