I subscribe to a belief that the leadership of our movements come from the masses. Leaders don’t create movements, movements create leaders. At each critical juncture, the people propel the individual that they need forward. Yesterday, our community lost such a person: Steve Pingry. Steve left this plane yesterday after a defiant battle with cancer. However, his memory will never leave those whom he met. I can’t say that we super close, but we always had the time of day for each other.
Steve served Union Cab as President during a particularly difficult time in our history. He also served with me on the first years of our strategic planning efforts and was committed to changing our culture to a benevolent, accountable and happy workplace. He transitioned into running the dispatch office until he left for the US Post Office. He wasn’t a calming influence, he was a joyful influence. He became president after a particularly quarrelsome year in our co-operative. As we know, co-ops aren’t always worker paradises and it is that trait, that freedom to dissent, that makes our co-ops able to imagine and work towards being such great workplaces. Steve’s demeanor, intellect and sense of humor was the perfect qualities for the leadership of that day. He oversaw a co-operative at war with itself and he kept us together, he helped us be our better selves.
During his time off the board, the troubles boiled as they tend to do, but he provided an oasis in the dispatch office. He made space for our happiness and joy. He always had a quip, a funny place name (a great tradition in the taxi industry that is being erased by computer technology)– the bowling alley behind East Towne was Eastownbul, the University Hospital at the corner of Marsh Rd and Highland Ave was the “Martian Highlands” and many, many others.
I can’t say that I know if Steve drafted some important policy or if he fundamentally changed the dispatch office, but he does have a legacy. He did create a sense of humor in Union Cab–a “We’re laughing together” sense of humor. He created a positive attitude. Since he left us for the Post Office, I can certainly say that when a difficult point developed in a meeting or an interaction, I have tried to find the humor in it. I have tried to find the positive in it. His leadership in our co-op was a very special thing and one that our membership truly needed at that time.
Since Steve left Union, I only saw him sporadically as our social paths did not always cross; however, it was always an entertaining event. In one of the best, he played an old cabbie trick on me–I was at home during a driving shift on an extended break and he had walked by my cab (picking his kids up at the school). He turned on my meter and went on his way. By the time I came out, about $40 dollars had run up. I had no idea who did it, but a few months later I ran into him and he asked me about my write-offs–with a cackle, a grin and a glitter in his eyes. We don’t always talk about our movement in this sense, but we need to enjoy each other, we need to have fun and we need to laugh. Otherwise, we might as well be miserly, miserable corporatists.
It is almost hard to grieve for his loss as it seems more of a gift to have known him at all; however, my heart goes out to his family and friends who were much, much closer than I. He was a great co-operator in the very spirit of co-operation.
Stephen Pingry ¡Presenté!