I am not an old man. I still consider myself a young man. I don't feel young in my bones, in the mornings, when I wake up and creak out of bed. But I feel young in the mind. In the spirit. I do young things. And I grant there might be some merit to the argument that cause becomes effect. Maybe doing young things makes one feel young. Maybe it's the other way around. All I know is that I didn't take the adult pill when I was twenty-three, driving off the Air Force Base with all my personal belongings stuffed in the trunk and backseat of my Cavalier. I grew up, sure. And now I had a job as a Software Engineer at a corporate web-hosting company. That's not a child's job. And I didn't make a child's wage. But in my head, I just chose to take…
It’s morning. You’ve just woken up. It looks warm outside, the sun is shining, but there’s a thick blanket of snow on the deck. A large mug of coffee sits on the window sill, sunlight illuminating the steam as it lazily escapes the heat of the mug. You may be cozied up with your chin on your knees, a thick blanket wrapped round you as you stare out the window from the overstuffed leather chair. But it’s not a happy time. It’s sad. You’ve just lost a friend, finished the final legal hoops of a failed marriage. It’s a pensive, reflective moment. All cried out. Alone. Relieved, at peace, but saddened and forlorn. A complex web of emotions hangs stagnant amidst the lingering aroma of the coffee. They’re all real. Every bit of it as real as the snow outside. The sun, too far away to melt it, serves as a reminder that it will warm someday. This ain’t the last rodeo. The fingerprints on the window also serve that hope. There is life. And when the bell rings and the kids come traipsing in the front door, your silent melancholy will be abruptly shattered.
I’ve come to find that winter is my favorite season. I do like that cold. But that’s not it. It’s like a hard reset for planet America. Or at least planet North Texas. My world. It gets cold, freezes off the trials of the summer and the first nine months of a year, drops the leaves in the street and starts over. Let’s give it another chance. Let’s see if we can get it right this time. A perpetual trial and error in small, annual runs, like caption bubbles popping, saying “Once more”. Every year I contemplate what I could have done differently to make it a better year. Have I achieved what I set out to achieve this year? Have I grown as a man? A husband? A father? Am I where I wanted to be in life? On that third-grade questionnaire, where it asked ‘where do you want to be at forty-five’ what did I answer? Rich with a mountain home and a private plane? Warm with a red-haired wife and a black dog in a small cottage? Alone with a television blaring nonsense at a sub-audible level while I play solitaire on a sticky TV tray?
Happy belated Columbus day! Anyone? Did everyone have a good one? Anyone? Anyone there? Is anyone there at all? I’ve been walking around the office this morning asking everyone I run into if they had a good Columbus Day. And all I get in response are variations of the standard grunt. No one seems to have a committed meaningful response. It’s almost, almost as if no one even celebrates it.
So apparently, as I see it, the story goes like this: some Italian dude sailed across some ocean, ran into some land, thinking it was some other land, sees a bunch of red-skinned people running out into the water to greet him and bring him gifts, whereupon he decides they would make good slaves, and sets about to slaughtering most of them, and therefore, some five hundred years later, our kids don’t have to go to school on that day. Have I got it about right?
My red-haired wife and I spent the last weekend in San Antonio (or as my daughter says, “Sanny Tonio”) at the ISTE conference. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a conference for the International Society for Technology in Education. And as you all know, my red-haired wife and I both work for an EdTech company. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know what the ISTE was. Neither did I, until I found myself working it.
Since I started working in Design, I’ve found myself in a lot of situations like this. Travel situations, that is. Design has already sent me to New York and Minnesota. And there’s a lot more to come. My boss and I were running the Lounge section of our booth, where we were demoing our new dashboard we’ve been designing. There were several other sections of our booth where other products were being shown, and my red-haired wife was working the welcome desk, as seen in the picture below. So let me tell you about this conference center.
When I was a child, my greatest fear was falling. I would dream about falling from a building, or a tight-wire stretched between buildings. I don’t know why I should have these dreams. I would never consider actually walking a tight-wire, but there you are. Now that I’ve grown up, my greatest fear has evolved. It’s no longer a selfish fear – a fear for myself. It’s now a fear for the safety of my children. I guess that’s every good parent’s greatest fear though. It makes me shaky and sick to think of something happening to them. I am, therefore, necessarily opposed to taking my children to New York.
It’s not that I think it’s that much more dangerous than anywhere else. Right now I live in one of the top five safest cities in the United States. So yeah, I feel pretty comfortable where I am. But it’s just that I don’t feel like I have control of anything when I’m in New York. Number one, I don’t drive a car, and probably never would in Manhattan. It seems to me to be a place where you live close to work and either walk or take public transit to get there. There aren’t a lot of parks and playgrounds for the kids. At least not where I was. It just doesn’t seem like a very kid-friendly environment. I guess maybe Queens or The Bronx would be better than Manhattan.
I like to pronounce it co – in – `SIDE – ence. I think it sounds a little more swass. Kind of like saying “shed-yule” instead of schedule makes you sound intelligent and business-like. See, saying certain words a certain way keeps people on their toes. ASS – per – AG – us is a rich way to say asparagus, for instance. See? Try them out. See what works best for you.
But speaking of coincidences, I have another couple to add to the list of weird, almost impossible coincidences I’ve experienced. Check this out. You remember the column where I talked about a couple of the crazy things that happened to me? Well here’s another one. When I first moved into this house, my washer went out. See? Crazy, huh? No seriously. It went out, so I got on craigslist, blah blah, met the woman at a storage place that ends up being RIGHT BEHIND WHERE ONE OF MY BUDDIES LIVES TODAY.
Seriously. Well, that’s not the cool coincidence part though. So I brought it home, hooked it up, and of course it doesn’t come anywhere close to matching my dryer. But who gives a shit, right? I like buying used because it helps a brother out when he needs to get rid of something. And as long as it works, and you get a good price, why the hell not? Am i rite?
Minnesota Chronicles, Vol. 3
No seriously. It has been made clear to me that alls I have to do is leave my towels on the rack instead of the floor, and it will save the planet. Well, friends, I am happy to announce: the planet is SAVED. You can thank me later.
I’ve done many things for you guys over the years, but none of them probably had the impact that this one single event did. I’m just wondering though… instead of printing up this cute little sign and going through all that trouble, couldn’t the person who placed the sign just left the towels on the rack? He could have saved the planet back when he hung the sign. Oh well, it’s really no sweat to me, and I’m happy (and honored) to have gotten the opportunity to perform such a magnanimous, philanthropic detail.
For the last 18 years I’ve been working on computers in some capacity. About eight of those years were server engineering and data center operations, but the rest has been help desk. I’ve always preferred the help desk because it’s more hands-on with people. I have the great privilege to make people happy, one person at a time.
Help desk obviously doesn’t pay near as well as the server side of things, but it’s always been enough to support my family and me. And you know me – I’m not greedy. I only want to make enough to cover what I need, plus a little allowance for toys and beer. I have no desire to drive a fifty-thousand-dollar luxury automobile, or have a summer cabin in the mountains. Though that does sound quite nice now that I think about it.
I’m finally changing career paths. At almost forty years old. But they say it’s never too late to learn something new, right? I’m tired of fixing computers for a living. I’m pretty good at it, and I’m almost never stumped by a problem for too long anymore. I mean, there are perhaps an infinite number of things that can go wrong with a computer or a piece of software, or a printer… But a lot of them start to look alike – and certainly have the same solution. And I’ve been doing this a really long time. Yeah, it’s time for a change. So my company sent me to a three-day training course in New York City. So this is it, huh? I finally get to go to New York. Well let’s do it!
You see, all my friends have been. Well, most of my friends anyway. My red-haired wife has been. My dad has been. And everyone says you have to experience it firsthand to really get the full drift of what it’s like down on the street. Well, I’ve been here for four days now, and let me just say this about it: you have to experience it firsthand to really get the full drift of what it’s like down on the street.
Part One: Man Versus Murphy
As our tour guide for the Panama Canal said, “Murphy isn’t just a part of our daily lives here in Panama, but he was also born here.” He spoke of Edward Murphy, the Panamanian native who coined the phrase we all know today as Murphy’s Law. Well, we met Mr. Murphy before we even got to the airport.
State Highway 121, which is perpetually in a state of construction, almost caused us to miss our flight. They had blocked the exit to the airport. I don’t know who ‘they’ is, but I’d sure like to have a little chat with them. Yes, they blocked the exit. How can they do that when there are literally thousands of people every day who depend on that exit to get to the airport? Well, you’ll have to ask ‘them’.