Saturday, March 11, 2006

A slow but steady start. . .

Over the course of the next year, I continued to crank out work for Beck’s at around 20 hours a week, well below his $2K monthly threshold, yet high enough to make an actual difference in the household budget, as well as to keep Glenda (and therefore Bill) happy with the speed with which her ‘wish list’ was getting filled.

I also picked up 4 or five additional clients, the Pillsbury Corporation, a Waterbed Chain store (Master Bedroom), and started sub-contracting for at least three of the local computer stores for their smaller projects. My expertise with dBASE, and my reputation as a consultant who delivered, was growing.

Things were going well at school too, I’d started teaching an evening class every semester on the nights I wasn’t going to MBA classes and had become pretty good friends with the “Evening Dean”, Gary McGinnis. He and I would go out after work on the nights I taught, have a beer or two and plot our futures.

Me, I was having dreams of my own software ‘empire’, and Gary wanted a nice comfortable ‘corporate slot’ to fill.

In January of 1984, things really started to change, and quickly. Gary left for a job as a trainer at “Omnifax” a local computer store; I was appointed Evening Dean in his place along with a nice salary bump (a couple thousand a year as I recall).

I had a run in with an instructor from my undergrad days that was now teaching (as a side job) in the grad program I was in… It seems that when he found out I was “Evening Dean” it ruffled his feathers in the wrong direction, or, at least that’s what I thought at the time. It became obvious, and he admitted to it, that he was expecting more from me, than from the other students… and to me, it seemed no matter how hard I tried, it wasn’t enough. I dropped his class, and decided to put the graduate degree ‘on hold’ for a semester.

Despite the set back in the grad program, things were still very busy. My phone was ringing at least twice a week with someone wanting me to meet with them and discuss writing an application or two, and I was usually too busy with my existing customers to even think about taking on more work.

Then, in early May of ’84 I got a surprising phone call from Rick Davis. Gary had left the training position at Omnifax, and had suggested to Rick (the owner) that I might be someone he should talk to.

So we talked on the phone a couple of times and agreed to meet the following Tuesday and see if we could find a mutually beneficial way for us to work together.

You see I remember it was a Tuesday, because on that morning, as I was getting ready for what I saw as the single most important interview of my life, I got “the” call.

It was my brother Jim, and my initial joy at hearing his voice quickly faded as the first words out of his mouth after “Hi” were: “Bill, Dad died last night.”

I remember I literally sank to the floor, all the strength gone from my legs, and heard myself asking “How, what, this isn’t funny!” and a hundred other inarticulate syllables.. as I tried to hang on to my sanity. Dad hadn’t been ill, he’d just had a physical, I’d talked to him Sunday night… everything was fine… and now it wasn’t.

I hung up the phone, booked the first flight I could get out of Syracuse to Chicago, called Omnifax and left a message that I wouldn’t be in for the interview, that there had been a death in the family, that they should just go ahead and do whatever they had to do. I also called the school, claimed some personal time, packed for the trip and then called my wife.

I explained what had happened, that I needed to get to Chicago and help Mom sort out her financial affairs ASAP, and then bring her home for the wake and funeral. She offered to meet me at the airport and go, but, I felt this was one of those things I needed to do, alone.

The next week, maybe 10 days was a blur. I flew to Chicago, we got her financial affairs in order, then we drove back to Ilion for the funeral, and then we drove back to Chicago (Schaumberg actually) after the funeral so she could wrap up whatever else she needed to wrap up, get the house on the market, and so on.

I drove a rent-a-car back to Syracuse, as she’d given me so many of my Dad’s suits (we were virtually identical in size) that it was just simpler to drive. I may have driven home regardless, as I didn’t really want to be around people then; I wanted solitude, some time to just let it all sink in. Twelve hours pounding an interstate slab is just the ticket for me, when I’m feeling like that.

I got home, went back to work and just struggled to get through the day. When I was able I called Omnifax to follow up, but, Rick was out and I had to leave yet another message. I was feeling defeated, like a ship that had lost its sail or, maybe more to the point, its rudder… I was adrift…

A day or two later, when I got home from work, there was a message from Rick that said, essentially: “The job is yours if you want it, stop in any time tomorrow and we’ll talk details”

Three weeks later I moved myself, my clients, and what I thought was my future, into Omnifax Computer Stores. I was officially their “Systems Consultant”, me, who four years prior was making a living turning a wrench, was now an 'on-board' consultant for the largest, and fastest growing, computer store in the area!

Like most things in my life. . . it didn’t turn out exactly like I’d envisioned it would.

More on the Omnifax days… tomorrow.

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Kim said...

wow, what a story Bill. I am anxious to read the rest of the saga.

Zareba said...

You write very well. I am glad I came to visit. Recovery is slow, but I expect to be back to my old verbose self in the near future.


Bill said...

Kim - Thanks! It'll all unfold over the next few days.

Zareba - I glad to see you here, and I'm looking forward to your return to verbosity!

Thanks for the kudos as well!

Firehawk said...


This one certainly follows that rule that everything happens at once. Another good post.