I started working at Scharffen Berger just a little over two years ago. I lived in West Berkeley at the time, about a 20 minute walk from the factory, and discovered the magical red brick building one afternoon while walking my dog. (Typically, these walks constitute a great deal of Cassie, my dog, snuffling along, but this particular afternoon it was my curious nose that led the way.)
I never thought I would stay in the job long. For one, I was never even close to a chocoholic. But I started to get more and more interested in the details--from the vividly human element of the farmers, to the complex chemical interactions, to the social and monetary economies that evolved over thousands of years.. All from a fruit tree.
I blithely introduced myself to Robert, and started querying him in the hallway only a few weeks after I began working as a tour guide. He listened to my questions, but would interrupt and reframe the question when I was being too narrow in scope, neglecting important variables. He couldn't give a short answer. His grasp of the subject was too holistic. His answers were given with an evenness of tone, which made his occasional sarcastic asides droll, rather than cutting. He looked me in the eyes and pronounced my name correctly. He talked about food passionately. I liked him immediately.
While my interactions with him were only at the factory, in hallways or the retail store, they never felt businesslike. Usually he was with friends, eagerly showing them around. Even when he was alone, he brought an individuality and warmth with him. I wish I could have known him better, but I'm so glad to have had even these small moments.