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
Sometimes all I could do was step in and keep swinging.
Reply to
Bob La Londe
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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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