The Legend of Dinty Moore

Several years ago, I found myself in a rather comical situation as a junior accountant at a mid-size suburban Chicago manufacturing company. It was a lesson in the peculiar behaviors that can unfold in a supposedly professional office environment.

This company, which I will call Acme Manufacturing, kept manual accounting ledgers in addition to the computerized system. These ledgers were locked in a storage room with a combination lock on its heavy steel door. A long-time employee named Carl gathered the books on a movable cart each morning. At the end of the day, he routinely returned the ledgers to the storage room.

Another employee, known as “Dinty” Moore, sat at a desk in front of the storage room.  I was in my twenties, and Dinty was “middle-aged.” His role was a mystery to me, as he seemed to do very little. Rumors circulated that he was related to the Vice President of Finance, but the truth was unclear.  He often appeared lost in thought, and I could only assume that his nickname was a nod to the famous Dinty Moore canned beef stew.

One day, Carl went on a fishing vacation in Northern Wisconsin.  That morning, the Controller, Art, noticed nobody had removed the ledger cart from the locked storage room.  He asked several people if they knew the combination of the storage room.  All he asked responded that they did not know it.  So, Art told his assistant, Karen, to track down Carl at the fishing lodge.  This was before there were cell phones.  Karen went back to her desk and called the lodge.

The lodge receptionist rang Carl’s room, but there was no answer. Karen told the receptionist that it was an emergency and needed to reach Carl. The receptionist told Karen she would try to find Carl. After about twenty minutes, she told Karen that Carl was fishing from a boat in the middle of the lake. Karen told Art this, and Art insisted they send a boat out to Carl to obtain the lock’s combination code.  The receptionist told Karen there would be a $200 charge to send someone out to Carl.  Art, who was very frustrated and upset, told her to proceed.

The lodge brought Carl back on a motorboat. When he connected with Art on the telephone, Art asked him why he hadn’t left the combination code with anybody in the accounting department. Carl responded that Dinty Moore had the combination.  Art, who was clearly exasperated, walked over to Dinty’s desk, just behind mine and asked Dinty why he didn’t tell him that he knew the combination.

Dinty’s reply was, “You didn’t ask me.”

I don’t recall Art’s exact reply, but I think it was a series of swear words.

I left the company shortly after they told me I could not read the company newsletter during company time.  This was the same company that timed my visits to the restroom, which I have previously discussed.

I think of this incident whenever I see Dinty Moore canned beef stew at the grocery store.