Early one morning, Mark Hemerson left his house and started his drive to work on a tilt-up warehouse job. But first, the concrete superintendent for American Constructors of Austin, Texas, stopped at the local market for a cup of coffee.

He really needed the jolt because he had worked late the night before, getting the slab ready for the early morning deliveries from the ready-mixed producer. It wouldn't be the first time, as he had a habit of stacking the empty coffee cups at the jobsite near the water cooler station. And the superintendent always gave him grief about drinking too much coffee.

When he arrived at the jobsite, there were already three ready-mix trucks ready to unload. The only problem was there were no finishers. They had to travel from quite some distance away and were running late.

So Hemerson and another assistant superintendent put on their tool belts, grabbed their hardhats, and started motioning the trucks onto the slab. The finishing contractor called and asked them to start unloading the trucks, as he and the crew would be there in about half an hour.

Break time

By the time they got the third truck unloaded, more were arriving at the site, and about this time the finishers arrived. After the fifth truck, there were enough laborers on hand, so Hemerson took a break. He took off his tool belt and walked over to the water cooler, and as usual, the cup holder was empty.

So he unlocked his truck and got a couple of the used coffee cups and used them again. From the time Hemerson arrived at work, until he got to take his first break, the superintendent had been inside the jobsite trailer. Hemerson wondered what he could have been doing all of this time, but until now, had been too busy to check on him.

After making sure the placement was proceeding, he walked to the trailer and went inside. There to his surprise sat the superintendent behind his desk, with seven empty coffee cups on top of the desk.

When Hemerson asked the superintendent if he was okay, he told him that he had bought the coffee on the way to work that morning. When he realized the concrete was there and the finishers were not, he got nervous and drank all seven cups.

The superintendent shocked him when he said he planned to rinse the cups out and keep them for emergencies. “And I'll never make fun of the amount of coffee you drink again,” he said.

Shortly after he finished that job, Hemerson was promoted to superintendent and since then has finished several projects of his own. He still stops every morning and gets a cup of coffee. But only one. And now, every time he sees an empty cup sitting on a jobsite office desk, he thinks of the seven cups that one memorable morning and simply smiles.