As I wait for him to finish a pour, George, the bartender at my favorite hangout, is notably less cranky.
Usually, there is much on his mind. And most of it annoys him.
From world politics to Scottish Premier League soccer (George is originally from Scotland), he can (and will) find an objection. Which is part of his considerable charm.
But this day the subject is engines. And George is contemplative. Almost mellow.
"We'rrr beldin' damn gud ones these deys," he says, in his nearly indecipherable brogue.
By "we," he meansMotor Co. And the damn-good engine to which he refers is the Blue Oval's new 5.0L V-8, voted one of Ward's 10 Best for 2011.
Developed under the code-name Coyote, the engine powers the Mustang GT and is destined for the F-150.
Funny thing is, George has never laid his hands on one.
The last time he left his fingerprints on aengine, Donald Peterson was the auto maker's chairman and CEO.
George has been retired from Ford for 22 years, a fact one might deduce from his shock of white hair. But in his heart and mind, he is still punching the clock to make sure the head line stays up.
Nobody asks, but with an authoritative air found only in Webster's, he declares the best engine he ever worked on was the 289.
"Tha' engine has neverrrr seen th' scrrapyarrd," he says before throwing a bar towel over his shoulder, folding his arms and firmly setting his wide jaw in defiant anticipation of anyone who would disagree.
Such is the emotional pull of this business.
Despite marketplace tribulations and contentious contract talks and the vagaries of daily production, the industry bores its way into the souls of committed workers.
Seemingly, they never draw a breath without first worrying about overspray or panel gaps.
George and the tens of thousands like him are stakeholders in every sense of the word.
Their passion belies the egregious notion put forth by misguided analysts and ill-informed commentators that auto plants are the domain of dullards and malcontents.
So, on the cusp of another challenging year, I raise my glass. Here's to you, George.