Slack to the Future

I was always somewhat jealous of kids who had a clear vision with what they wanted to do with their lives.  I took on one of every subject in school, I participated in drama club, the school newspaper, student council, the chess team,  the wrestling team, and many more, all in the hopes that one day a skill would reveal itself and I could move forward in one direction.  After my initial fiasco in business school my university career took on the same pattern and by the fall of 92 when most of my friends had moved on with their lives I was left with a big collection of courses that didn’t add up to anything.  I went in to see a school councilor to find out the minimum requirements I needed to graduate with a degree.  The answer was two courses and at that moment I became a communications major.  My father was tapped out financially and having only worked sparingly the previous summer for City Directory, a junk mail address aggregator, I had to beg my maternal grandmother to pay for them.

Once I was no longer a full time student I qualified for a government sponsored wage subsidy program.  My first opportunity under this program was with a local OEM shop called Future Computer where I built custom 386/40 IBM clones.   This was a really good job.  I learned a lot, I was having fun and everything was going great until the day they found a broken processor chip.  Someone pointed the finger at me, which wasn’t true at all, but irregardless, suspicions were raised.  I would likely have been OK except, as luck would have it the very next day I did indeed break something.  I was powering up a completed system and I happened to dislodge one of the metal spacers that cover the card slots.  This caused an electrical short, which fried a video card and led to my immediate dismissal.

I rebounded immediately with a completely different assignment, working for a broker with AIC Investments.  My role was to update his customer database, which was in shambles as he was just getting his life back together after a long struggle with alcoholism.  He would regale me with his tales of former glory and lecture me on the horrors of substance abuse.  He in fact told me that he could tell by my blood shot eyes that I was obviously using something.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.   I was to be trained by his daughter, a hostess at a gentlemans club who really despised training her father’s assistants, a point she made abundantly clear during our one and only session together. I had had enough so I jumped shipped and landed in a whole different pile of crazy.

My final placement was at Champion Paper & Polybags, owned by the Sood brothers who were suddenly shorthanded as they were embroiled in a gruesome murder trial.  They had recently purchased a comprehensive accounting package called Business Visions II and because they were either unable or unwilling to put in the proper data their books were an absolute mess.  I spent two months updating inventory records and reconciling payments against invoices.  I enjoyed my time there and I was able to make a real difference however on the last day of my subsidy there was a newly subsidized hire ready to take my place.

The future has a way of happening regardless of your plans and some big rubicons cannot be avoided.  In the spring of 93 my paternal grandmother passed away.  On the morning before her funeral I wrote my final university exam and in an odd coincidence, it was also the day my girlfriend and I moved into an apartment together.  The suite was really cheap but it was also so small that it didn’t even have a sink in the bathroom.  Thanks to a tip from a friend I got a walk on job doing asbestos removal however there was some confusion over the fact that I was never actually hired so after a couple weeks they asked me not to come back.  At that point I seriously considered going to college and acquiring an actual skill.  I looked into becoming a lab tech, going as far as visiting a working lab and doing the orientation.   My girlfriend had us visit a friend of a friend who worked as a hair stylist but fancied herself a psychic.  The hairdresser suggested that I become a bookkeeper.  She also told my girlfriend that we would get married and have lots of kids.  She said it was inevitable, to which I responded, “Well I’m avoiding the inevitable as long as possible“.

In fairness it is one thing to procrastinate when an obvious task is at hand however I was stuck vacillating between several vague ideas.  I eventually decided against college because I had already been a full time student for nearly five years and I reached a point where I was just sick of being poor.  My focus then shifted to getting myself out of Windsor but I didn’t have any money and I didn’t have a cohesive plan.  At this point my mother stepped in with a temping offer, she would pay me $500 if I was willing to move 2500 miles west, to a suburb of Vancouver British Columbia.   I didn’t know anyone out there and even her proposed relocation was still several months away but with no other offers and nothing to lose, I accepted.   I didn’t think I would be gone for very long and my good byes were very casual, all except the one I had with my 87 yr old paternal grandfather.  He was very serous, perhaps sensing that he would never see me again or perhaps recalling his own youth when at my age he embarked on a similar journey.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Have a nice life.”


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