A Different Path

I've talked about my time with the phone company before so I won't cover that again here.

I will talk about other work experience. Its kind of how I wound up in the career where I spent most of my adult life. Richard Smith sort of inspire me to write this with his Crock of Sweet Potatoes thread. (I am not a fan of sweet potatoes.)

After my time with the phone company I spent a season running trap lines in the desert. Fox, coyote, bobcat and other critters. I had been running short lines after work and on weekends already. Hard work. Long hours. I was up every day while it was still dark and was often up long after dark skinning and stretching fur before cooking dinner over a fire or a small camp burner. I weathered cold blasting windy nights. I spent what seemed like whole days digging my truck out of the sand over and over again to get where I needed to go. It was the hardest I had ever worked before in my life, and I enjoyed it more than any other job I have ever had. I had a plan too. The price of fur was low, but I didn't have any other plan. I did the math. I had a line of credit at a local grocery store. I figured at the end of the season I could pay off my line of credit, and have a few thousand dollars in my pocket The price of fur dropped ten fold while I was spending weeks at a time in the desert. When I got my check from the fur auction and paid my bills I still owed the grocery store a couple hundred dollars.

I did what I had to do. I went to work at the grocery store and tried to save money to go to college. I didn't get paid much working at a country grocery store at the end of the 1980s. When I had about enough saved to pay for one semester in college somebody broke into my place and stole my coffee can that I didn't think anybody knew about. I kept working, borrowed some money and applied for some education grants I didn't expect to get. I just kept trying. I didn't want to die an old man sweeping floors and stocking groceries. (I can see doing that today though. It wouldn't be to bad.)

Amazingly I got the grants and they were pretty much open ended as long as I worked towards a specific degree, maintained a full class load, and kept a decent grade point average. That was the easy part.

I went back to college. Because I had qualified for the grants I was also automatically qualified for on campus jobs if they were open and the department heads approved. I tutored computer programming because instructors asked for me to do so. One instructor used to sit in the lab when I was working and listen to how I taught. I had a tremendous amount of respect for him when HE ASKED if he could use my methods and analogies for teaching some types of data structures to students. Another instructor asked me to tutor micro economics while I was stilled enrolled in the class. At the same time an old boss asked me to come work for a company he was working with to finish wiring up the telephone distribution for a several hundred unit RV park. I was doing well. And then some things happened that cost me my grants, the telephone job turned into other things but eventually ended, and I was unable to stay in college. (No fault of mine but that is a whole different story).

I am not to proud to work. I applied for a job as a dishwasher and was told they weren't interested because I wanted to continue taking college classes. They wanted somebody who would be there whenever they needed them. If I wasn't still trying to get a degree I might have just kept my mouth shut and taken the job until something better came along. I applied for a job doing computer maintenance work. Not tech work. Just scut work. The county CIS manager told me he wasn't going to give me the job (I felt I was perfectly qualified for), because he wanted me to apply for a systems analist job that would be opening in a few months. Not only did a I feel I was NOT qualified, but it wasn't going to pay my rent this month.

Finally I got a job doing sales for an alarm company. I did marginally ok. I paid the rent, just barely some months. I got almost no support from the company. Even when I asked for it. They closed my office to save money and my home became my office. My landlord was pretty cool with it. I always had a beater truck, beater car, and a couple motorcycles in various states out front.

Finally I caught a break and made a couple decent large project sales, and the alarm company changed their policy from paying my commission when I got the contract approved to when the job was fully paid. (After it was done). They did up my commission rate, but it meant I wouldn't see the money for those big sales for months. They had also changed my business card from sales associate to sales manager. That's when I discovered they were not licensed in Arizona. I setup a meeting to quit. I didn't want to be on the hook for all those unlicensed sales. They decided to terminate me when I said I was going to quit. I didn't mind actually. In Arizona you have 72 hrs to pay off an employee when you terminate them. If they quit you don't have to pay them until when they would ordinarily have been paid anyway.

They normally mailed me a check. After a week no check had arrived. I contacted them, and they refused to pay me. It sounded like they were refusing to pay me at all, so I turned them into the state department of labor. Finally I received a check that was much smaller than what they owed me. They had filed my previous payment schedule with the state, and not all of the jobs I had contracts on. I had copies of all the sales contracts in my home office file cabinet so there was no doubt. I didn't have the money for a fight so I cashed the check. It paid this month's rent anyway.

I started up a home based business upgrading XTs for people who couldn't afford to buy a brand new AT. None of the computer stores wanted to help those customers, but they were thrilled to sell me all their old XT garbage for pennies on the dollar rather than just throw it away. I had a huge inventory of memory, memory boards, RLL and MFM-A boards for increasing drive capacity. Just from word of mouth I started having people showing up at my door with a sad hopeful expression and sad tired XT hoping for a little more memory or a drive storage upgrade. I discovered Yokohama Telecom and the Computer Shopper. I started having a supply of new pats for those who made the move to ATs. I had a whole list of people who wanted me to call them anytime I newer bigger badder something came out, and the price of the previous generation (memory/drive/video card/Etc) dropped.

It was enough to pay the rent, but it wasn't enough. I got a job doing shipping and receiving in a tool store during he day, did computer service work in the evening, and picked up a job delivering pizzas on busy nights. I was starting to save a little money again.

Somewhere along the way I moved in with my future wife.

One day a buddy who owned another computer service company called me and said somebody wanted me to do some computer service for them at their home. I didn't ordinarily do on site service, but I knew my buddy had bad allergies so there was a reason he couldn't do it. It turned out to be the manager for a company I had sold one of those high dollar alarm systems to. One I never got paid for. I absolutely did not try to sell him. I had no intention of becoming a contractor. He said something that peaked my interest. He said my old company tried to get him to sign a new contract that totally changed the job and cut out a lot of the things he wanted. I knew what they were doing. They werer trying to invalidate the contract and get a new one so they wouldn't have to pay me if I sued them. I didn't say anything.

He asked me if I would do the job. I told him I was not a licensed contractor, and he said he didn't care. I told him I didn't have relationships with vendors in that trade. He said I had plenty of time. I left telling him, "No I do not want to do it." He called me later and asked again. Finally I relented and did the job. Yes as an unlicensed contractor. He was thrilled with it and I did lots of other work for him over the years. In fact when I shut down the contracting business 23 years later he was still a customer and still asking me to do new work. (I got my contractor's licenses shortly after completing his job.)

I still do not have a college degree. I have 117 credits mostly in business and computer information systems, but no degree. Not even an associates.

Sometimes all I could do was step in and keep swinging.

Reply to
Bob La Londe
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You leave me feeling I deserve a slapping. I'm saying nothing. Regards,

Reply to
Richard Smith

I'm am NOT saying my struggle was worse. We all have our own struggles. Each is hopefully not more than God has granted us the ability to deal with.

My biggest curse these days is people who want me to make parts that violate the laws of physics. That is an ability God has not seen fit to grace me with.

(I'm not a religious man.)

Reply to
Bob La Londe

I am not religious - but there are junctures where the best expression is "Only God knows that" (human affairs). Or you get managers who seem to think if they specify something enough they can coerce an outcome contrary to God's design.

Reply to
Richard Smith

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