A Tribute to Mike Bennett (by Doug McBride)
Mike Bennett was a staple in the circuit board industry for many years, and he and I became good friends at some point along the way. We started out many years ago as casual friends, back when we both still had a full head of hair, and even though we were almost always competitors, we never let that get in the way of our friendship. Heck, lots of times we helped each other out even though we were competitors...just because.
No one ever just sat down and had a short conversation with Mike...
There were always lots of tangents to go off on and lots of trivial issues to debate. There was not much trivia that was too trivial for Mike to talk about.
Mike and I had some common interests that we were pretty passionate about; music, anything technical, and "Living the dream" we call circuit boards.
To explain what kind of guy Mike was, you need to understand his mind a little. One late afternoon, probably about 10 years ago, Mike called and said, "Let's go get a beer Dougie." I've always hated it when people call me that, and Mike knew that, but when he called me that I just took it as a symbol of our friendship. I told him I couldn't because I needed to get down to Austin the next morning and he said, "I've been needing to go down too... how about you drive and I'll buy the gas."
So the next morning we headed down really early and we were flipping through tons of CDs (this was before iPods), we always had music in the background. We were talking about politics, technology, complaining about suppliers, arguing about anything and everything. The drives never seemed as long as they really were because there was never any silence or gap in the conversation.
Anyway...we were at this customer's facility and, I'll skip the boring details, the subject of Pi comes up in some calculation he's doing...Pi as in 3.141592654, not the fruity kind.
Mike was typing it into his calculator and saying the digits out loud. I couldn't help myself and mockingly asked him why the heck he felt he needed to calculate Pi out to 9 decimal places. You see, I do the exact same thing...9 places, not 8, not 10...9, but I'm still going to give him crap about it.
I casually mention that he's not calculating NASA flight capsule trajectories here and 3.14 is really good enough. His response was "I know, that's just the way I do it."
Not wanting to let him off the hook I asked why he didn't take it out to 10 decimal places, and he said quite matter-of-factly "Are you serious? That'd be overkill."
That was kind of a watershed moment for us. I had never met anyone that had memorized Pi out to 9 decimal places, let alone actually use all of them in stupid calculations where 2 decimal places would be more than adequate. As a side note, this past March 14th (Pi Day) was kind of like a special anniversary for both of us.
Then there were those goat cook-offs we so faithfully attended for years. Every Labor Day weekend, Mike and I loaded up enough stuff to support a small army and drove down to Brady, Texas for the annual World Championship BBQ Goat Cook-off. We were there for the friendships, the music, the food, and the beer. Our duties were making sure everyone got fed for breakfast, making sure we offered up a lot of unneeded meat-smoking tips, and making sure there was always music to listen to (both live and recorded). We let the professionals actually take care of the goat.
One year we were expecting quite a few friends that all like to jam around the campfire. Along with all the usual camping gear, I brought about four guitars and a couple amps instead of the usual one. And even though Mike always gave me crap about this cheap Mexican Strat I have, I took it along with some of my good gear. Well into the evening, it started to rain a little. We packed up all the instruments, put them in their cases and put them in our tent. Then the drizzle turned into a steady rain, the party broke up and we decided to ride out the night in what we thought would be a dry spot. Pretty soon that little rain turned into what could best be described as a torrential downpour. Thank God we had our sleeping bags up on cots that year, as all of the sudden, water started running through the tent. I panicked because I had a few thousand dollars in guitars and amps that were about to get soaked. Mike grabbed three guitars, including that old Mexican Strat he gave me so much crap about, and stacked them on his chest while laying flat on his back to keep them out of the water that was running through the bottom of the tent. I grabbed the other guitar and my amps and stacked them around me to keep them as dry as possible.
A couple hours later, it was still pouring down and we were both laying there soaking wet, freezing our butts off, but holding my gear up out of the water and both of us just started laughing. He looked at me and asked what I was laughing about. My response, "Probably the same thing you are". He just said, "Yep...sure glad you didn't try to convince your princess to come this year either" (not that either of the girls ever wanted to make that trip anyway). As miserable as we were at that moment, we must have laughed for a good 15 minutes. His laugh was contagious.
That was a really long night, but there he was sacrificing any real comfort he might have been able to enjoy out of a horrible night, to keep those guitars (even that cheap Mexican Strat) safe and dry all night. That was Mike. Going above and beyond to do something for somebody else.
I could go on, but I won't. It won't be the same walking into a circuit board shop without running into Mike and listening to him tell somebody in excruciating detail about one of our trips, or just sitting around arguing about the viability of some new technology, or debating the most soul stirring live music we had experienced. Mike truly loved supporting the local music scene. My vote was always Buddy's rendition of Zeppelin's What Is And What Should Never Be. Mike could never decide on just one; he had 20 different favorites and was able to tell you the exact date and location of each performance. He had an amazing ability to remember details most of us would consider trivial; it was just one of his gifts.
Besides all of the good times, I'm going to miss him telling me he was "Living the dream" each time I'd call him.
His wife Terri and his daughters Melissa and Kristi lost a great dad. As for his mother Sally, no mother should have to bury a son, especially just a few weeks after we said goodbye to Mike's Dad, Ken.
As for me, I lost a buddy...and until we meet again Mike Bennett, I will try to keep living that dream amigo.