On the road again.

My Job at Motorola taught me a great deal about organizational structure and process. A skill that would come in handy a few jobs down the road. I happened to be working there when the company started focusing on implementing service quality measurements.  They won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award of excellence.

My position was the kind that people would die for, great benefits, growth, free training and 5 minutes from home. What else could you ask for at my age?  I was felling good enough to start playing soccer again. I played for the company in an industrial league. I did it for social reasons; there was not much soccer involved.

We played 5 or 6 games and I scored close to 20 goals, I could not help myself thinking that the glory days were back. Kidding.

I had been working there about a year and a half when this position in the costing area became available. I applied for it. I saw it as a way to get to the management offices. I found out that was not the way things worked. Being a supervisor meant I was rated at a high grade and the costing position was below my level.  I was not allowed to go backwards.

That was a problem.

My path was upward to management.  I analyzed the situation. There were four management positions that I could have potentially moved to in the future. There were lots of competition. Those jobs where traditionally filled by graduates, also not one the managers was ever a supervisor in the company.  The company recruited managers into those positions from outside.  What were the chances of me getting there? I was good but it would take a miracle almost.

Without a realistic goal to aspire to I get miserable. I am very impatient

So I started looking around.

Around the same time my boss, one of the manager left and tried to take me with him. But the company was too small although there was more money involved. I was starting to be choosey. I was not qualified for his position so I did not even apply.

Sad note, my wife and I were not getting along and parted ways. Together we raised Poppy, despite some difficult times, into a fine young lady.

About six months after I started to look around I landed a job with Calgon a subsidiary of Merck pharmaceuticals. I mention that because the parent company provided all the benefits, I started thinking about retirement. This job was intriguing; the company was in the process of implementing IBM’s new mini computer with IBM ERP software. Before I took the job I was able to chat with the IBM implementer. They were looking for a reference for the software solution. This was a great opportunity and once again more money. 

There was a downside; the company was about 45 minutes drive away on Canada’s busiest highway. In winter it was a nightmare.

But what a move.

I was in charge of the whole kitnkaboodle. I managed the entire staff in accounting, IT including programming in RPG, I had to learn that, warehouse personnel, import and transportation. Someone else managed Purchasing.  

Oh and as you might suspect, almost no training, I had to learn the hard way, lots of late nights, frustrations, screw ups. But I met Jo. Then as usual I figured it out.  We were a great IBM reference.

This was my longest job tenure to date.

I met Jo my wife and we started a long working relationship. This was the first of 3 companies that we worked at together. Years later we decided to hook-up. Our relationship started out strictly business, then friendship then marriage with3 kids. It has been quite a journey.

Before Jo, I lived alone for a while then with my sister. As you probably know already I am not a good cook, so I would eat out often. I lived next to a KFC and ate chicken often. Whenever I met a potential partner my first question was. ‘Can you cook West Indian food? ‘  It was a deal breaker.

Around the corner on Eglinton and Kennedy in Scarborough was a popular West Indian restaurant/night club, but the cost of the food there was very high, I was only able to eat there maybe once a week.

 When I moved to the west end of the city with my sister, I ate at this Jamaican restaurant on Kipling north of Rexdale 3 or 4 times a week. The other times I would eat bread and cheese or Kraft Dinner, The Original. The couple that owned the restaurant adopted me; sometimes I did not have to pay, probably because I may have looked extra hungry on those days.  I also brought them quite a few new customers.

Four years into my bachelorship, Jo and I decided to ‘co-habitate’. Jo is a really good cook, but she is French Canadian. I had to decide if I was going to give up my good West Indian food 3 or 4 times a week. The restaurant was also my second home, a place to hang out at night.

Actually it was an easy decision, Jo and I became inseparable. I am still the boss.

My life was settling down again. Sometimes we would go to Quebec to visit her family which was always a good change of pace. The first time I met them I promised that I would learn to speak French by the next time I saw them. It has been over 30 years, I am still trying. Can someone be language deaf?

It was also a time when I started to get involved in sports again, this time on a volunteer basis. One of the guys that I worked with coached his son hockey team in a house league. He would invite me out to see the team play and I would sometimes go into the dressing room to help him tie the kid’s skates. For a kid with lots of hockey gear, that can be quite a challenge. After a while he asked me to be his assistant coach. The job included one practise and one game a week, mostly tying skates.

I’ll let you in on a little secret; you don’t have to be a skater to coach a hockey team. You just have to be a good screamer and not fight with the other teams’ parents. When the kids got hurt on the ice, I was not able to help. But I did that for two years. I am good with kids.

Also my neighbours, Gary, a friend for life, was also a volunteer coach, but the sport was soccer, my specialty. Our team did really well two years in a row. What was our secret? We had the best player in the league, a little tiny guy name Myles, who could score when he wanted to.  I’ve always wondered what happened to him, he would have made a great YouTube video, skills.

Gary came with other benefits, he is Trinidadian and he is a really good cook. We hung out a lot at his house to the point where I think we were annoying them. Gary and his wife had little kids, a magnate for Jo.

Two things happened that forced us to change our life. Jo got pregnant; someone forgot to tell me how that works. Also one day Poppy called me and told me she was scared to be home alone. She was a latch key child. Do they still use that term? Her school was right across the road from her house and she would always call me when she got home. That day, I don’t recall what triggered it but she told me she was scared. You know me right; I don’t take long to make decisions. We put the house up for sale.  It was time to move again.

It took us a little while but we moved across the city to a street just behind her school, I think a little recap is important here.

I worked at Motorola and lived 5 minutes away. I then went to work for Calgon, which was a 45 minutes drive away from my home.  So then I moved to within a five minutes drive away from that job. Circumstances caused me I moved again, 45 minutes away from my job to be with my daughter.  No I don’t own a moving company.  We lived in that house for 26 years. Jo’s dad referred to it as our white elephant as it was very expensive to maintain.

Now what was the next logical step? I needed to find a new job close to home. I had lots of experience and had a great reference from IBM.

Jo had a baby, yaaaaaa and she stayed home for 12 weeks.  We decided that I should stay put in the job until she was over with the maternity leave. When it was time to go back to work, we found a babysitter a couple blocks from work, just in case. We were still travelling 45 minutes to work. The first day back on the job, Jo in her wisdom decided to call the sitter to check on the baby.

J the baby was a screamer. A neighbour 6 houses down the road told us she could hear her cry. In fact someone actually called the child protective services; they thought we were mistreating her.

J was quite a tiny baby; we recently compared her daughter records with hers and at 5 years old, J was still smaller then her 3 year old baby is today. J attended ballet classes, yesterday she told us that her daughter tried to put on the ballet shoes she was wearing at 6, way too small. My son in law is 6’4”.

J was also a mommy’s girl, I was that guy who fed her sometimes and played with her when she felt like it. I recalled one day, she was 3 or 4 and I took her to the park. When it was time to go home J thought otherwise and started to scream. A total stranger approached us and asked her if she needed help.  It was not pleasant.

Jo’s first day back at work and she wanted to call and make sure J was doing fine. I am thinking don’t call, there is a 100% chance that J is screaming. I was right. Jo quit her job and took the baby home. I had to drive her. Yes we fought.

After that, Jo stayed home for a while, long enough to have the second baby.  E The Red, is what I called him. Of course it would have been hard to do that financially. Over time we came up with ideas for her to stay at home and make money. Finally we started a bookkeeping service and it did quite well, but it was long hours.

What’s J doing now? She is a mommy with 2 babies a year apart. A great mom herself, she took after her mom.

Eventually I was able to switch jobs after about five years with Calgon. The drive was killing me. This job was a 7 minutes drive from home.  I went to work for one of IBM business partners, where I was able to use a lot of the skills that I acquired over the years to help their clients.

Jo went out to work after a few years, she needed to get out of the house and yes I got her a job where I worked, together again. Then there was a third baby. D the brat, we got him a live in nanny.

I decided four kids were enough, snip, snip.

It was all making sense, the journey.

The only Kittitian Couch potato in Calgary.

I called her Poppy, she called me Dada

We have been living in Calgary for just over five years now. I came here to make a new start, I like changes, sometimes. My wife works for big oil and they made us an offer we could not refuse so here we are. The kids hated us for a while, but they got over it. Well maybe not my daughter, but she will in time when she realizes her potentials, there are so many opportunities.

D my youngest son wrote on his bedroom wall “I fucking hate this place”.  Although we repainted the room if you look closely you can still see the words imbedded in the wall. His opinion forever recorded.

If you have heard this before, sorry I find myself repeating more and more, it’s just an age thing.

Travel is not new for me and my immediate family; I don’t think two generations have never lived in the same place of their birth going back four generations. This may be a good thing but it means starting over in a lot of cases. In one of the unconventional of moves, my grandfather, my mom’s dad was American born who had two kids with my grandmother in NY then moved to Nevis and had the other aunts and uncles. This happened back at the turn of the 20th century when migration was in the other direction. Damn makes it sound such a long time ago.

My first few months here in Calgary were quite painful. When we came to see the house, one of the things we noticed was the absent of cars on the street, we figured that everyone was at work as it was in the middle of the day. The truth was, all of the houses have a two car garage, no need to leave the cars outside. The people simply disappeared when they got home.  As I was always friendly with my neighbours this was quite a shock.

As I said my kids were not impressed. My young son D, was 15 at the time took it very hard. It was at the end of June and he was pretty much stuck at home all the time and miserable. He would skateboard for hours alone. You know what kids are like when they play in the street, they often have attitude, cars have to stop and wait for them. One day he was skateboarding outside and these very large big black SUV’s came down the road. As they were going by the driver of the first vehicle shouted at him to get off the road. Big bad D gave him the finger. The vehicle stopped and the driver took out his cop badge, that scared the crap out of him. They were the RCMP security detail for the Prime Minister; we found out that day that he lives in the community.

The start of my life here has been quite interesting.  I have had four jobs. The first one was a bit over my head. I was hired as a programmer using tools I had no experience with. I downloaded the application from the web and decided to do a crash course. When I was younger this would have been a slam dunk. The job was paying over $100/hr on contract, it was worth it. My plan was not to bill them for the first two weeks as I learned. After a few days the owner realized I was in over my head and asks me not to come back. I billed him for a week. Like I said, what did I have to lose? It was his loss, I think, makes me feel better to think that.

A few months later I landed a great job with a Canada Telecom giant. I was there for two years. One day I was at a customer site not far from my office, delivering some training. I had to make a quick stop at my desk to get something. As I got there the phone rang, it was my boss, who asked me to go to room X and call her. While I was there this overweight guy, looks like a bouncer joined me and they read me my rights and then escorted me from the building. I was packaged.  That was quite an experience, nothing could prepare you for that.

Not long after Canada Telecom giant sold the business unit.

One of the separation rules was that I was not allowed to contact the customer I was in the middle of training. Eventually the customer found me, asked me to go and finish the job.  I really could not, I didn’t want to be sued. To make a long story short, I found a company that offered the same services and went to work with them and was able to convince the customer to join me.

That job lasted a year. The drive was killing me, so I did what I do best, I found another job, this time with Canada’s second largest Telecom company.

My plan on coming to Calgary was to work no more than 7 years then retire and go look at the mountains. Four years into it and I had only worked almost 3 years in total. Right on queue, this job lasted 11 months, the entire business unit along with quite a few others (2500 people) were axed, ooops packaged. This time it was funny.

Those of you who live in North America probably seen the IKEA commercial where this lady thought she had taken advantage of the store, because the bill was low, ran out of the store shouting to her husband, ‘start the car’, ‘start the car’. Well when they gave me the package, I was told to take the weekend to think about it, not like I had choices. Anyway I looked at it and I felt like that woman. Go figure.

So here I am, writing, not looking for a job. I still need to work 3 years or so. That’s my plan. I’ll wait until the economy changes a bit. Calgary is probably the best place on the entire continent for making money. I still have some to make.

If the St Kitts\Nevis government is looking for an ambassador I am available. I have lots of life experiences with salt and pepper moustache, quite impressive.

I get carried away writing about myself, I forget what I wanted to say in the first place. Remember that job I talked about in my last post, the Accounting and IT supervisor? I’ll call the company Mississauga Company for simplicity. Two years into the job, surprise, I was fired. But a lot happened between the start and the end. I was fired because the controller, my boss thought I was telling the Auditors things that I should not have been. I would go out for lunch with the junior Auditors, they were the doers, no power and they were my age, so why not. One day I came back from lunch and JP, that was his name, called me into his office, accused me of being a blabber mouth and fired me, right on the spot.

Ok what just happened there? Who the hell does that? First he made me manager of three women twice my age, then he fired me almost 2 years later when I was doing really well, for what?

The job had been going extremely well. I had completely mastered it, even the supervisor role, getting lots of praises, producing Financial Statements on time, payroll was always up to date and the Vendors were never paid, it’s a Canadian tradition. Humour. The owner loved me, he gave me a nice raise after 8 months.

I was the man, little Tony from Trafalgar.

Then I was fired. If I lived in St Kitts I’d say it was the ‘duppy’ man following me around, but I had not seen him in Toronto.

 Fast forward 3 days.

The owner called me and asked me if I wanted my job back. The controller and one of the managers were fired for stealing. Ah he thought I knew, all he had to do was ask me. They were ordering construction supplies and delivering to their houses. I said no thanks, I had a job already, 5 minutes drive from home, I could walk there. I’ll tell you later how that came about.

In between all this excitement, school, travels, hires, fires, I had time to get married, buy a house and had a baby girl. I called her Poppy. Awwwww.

Her mom named her something else, but that’s beside the point.

Back in the 70’s there was this television show, can’t remember the name that featured a Mexican family. The kids called the dad Poppy and I thought that was cool. I wanted my daughter to call me Poppy. You know what parents are like, they want their kid to say dada or momma first.  Our ‘conversations’ would go something like this:

Me. Pointing at me , ‘Poppy’

Me. Pointing at her , ‘Bebe.’

J. looking at her mother ‘mama’, I think she was getting it.

Me. Yes that’s ‘mama’, me ‘Poppy’, you ‘bebe’

J. ‘Dada’, damn I had to start again.

As you can probably tell, these conversations were futile. I was confident that in time it would work so I tried daily to brainwash the innocent baby. Today it would probably be seen as child abuse, you know how we like big brother in our lives.

I think she knew she was pissing me off, for she would up the ante sometimes. I would say:

Me. ‘Poppy’ , ‘Poppy’ , ‘Poppy’, pointing at me.

J.  ‘Dada’, ‘Dada’, ‘Dada’, pointing at me.

I think her mom was working behind my back.

But I did not give up even when as she got older. Today she is Poppy and I am Daddy. You would think that after 30+ years she would get it.

J now has a daughter AJ, I tried to get the baby to call me ‘Grand Poppy’, she calls me ‘Grand Pappy’.  Jo coached her, sounds better in French she says. I won’t give up, hopefully I will live long enough for a great granddaughter. I’ll keep trying.

 Maybe by then I’ll remember the name of the TV show.

Would you believe I am a very quiet person? I try to talk as little as I possibly can, I don’t know why, I live in my head. Sometimes out of the blue I’ll say something profound then go back to my thoughts.  People around me look at me like I am crazy. It takes them a while to figure out what I am talking about.  It is like a game for me.

On the other hand when I sit down to write I go on and on without stopping. I think it is because I don’t say much and I need to get it out.

My life is so simple.

On my way home that last day from the Mississauga Company, I stopped to get a newspaper, after all I had no time to lose, I needed a job, I had responsibilities. Remember the TV I rented to own? I was still paying for that, my car, a house and my Poppy.  This house was a condo, the fees were a killer.

When I got home, I opened the Toronto Sun to the want ads, went right past the Sunshine Girl, back then she was on page two, I did not have time to admire her as I was on a mission.

‘Accounting Supervisor with IT experience………Motorola Canada’.  I got really excited, this company is right around the corner, I applied that same afternoon and got the job.  What a life, one door closes another open and more money.  

The lesson here is to be excited.

See how it works? Screw promotions, get hired, get fired, get more money.  It’s that simple.

I realized for the first time that my life was destined to be different from the norm, I was in for quite a ride.

In the accounting area where I worked for Motorola, there were two blacks, both supervisors and we were both good at our jobs. She had eight people to manage, I had five. I often wondered if I got the job because of her.

Just another short pause in my travels.

The only Kittitian couch potato in Calgary.

A chip off the old block

My oldest son E and my youngest daughter J2 are getting upset that I don’t mention them in my blog. I tell them that they are not interesting enough.

My son E is a lot like me, until very recently he was not sure where he was going with his life. He is very talented in so many areas, which can sometimes be a problem. Like me he also wanted to be a professional soccer player, actually he says it was my dream. Unfortunately, he is cursed with soft ankles, he definitely fell off this tree.

When he is ‘healthy’ and playing soccer, he dances with the ball, really fun to watch.  He was the last of my kids to get involved in soccer. When he finally put the boots on, he was only interested in meeting the other kids and chatting. He would sometimes stand in the middle of the field, picking dandelions, until the coach would yell at him.  He would then take off in the direction of the ball, steal it and score. Maybe he was bored. He was really quick. I was the coach.

Soccer has been good to him, he did quite well in the Toronto soccer league, won championships, has travelled as far away as Italy to play in soccer tournaments and he had some interest from two US Universities, but as I said, he fell off this tree.

E and two of his siblings attended the French School system in Toronto where English is only spoken in the bathroom and in English classes. He was there from Kindergarten to grade 8. In grade 9 he wanted out so he transferred to Dante Alighieri Academy, which was quite a distance away,  but where there was a soccer program integrated into the curriculum. He got injured often and as a result made the long travel to and from school not worth the sacrifice so he decided to switch to a self directed school in Scarborough ON for grades 10 to 12. That was not a good decision.

One day we were on our way home from a soccer game in which he had played really well. I decided a treat was in order, so we went to McD. Nice parent eh, kill him with fat burgers. Anyway while he was stuffing his face, he looked at me and said, ‘dad I failed French and Math’. The Math I could understand, you have to pay attention, but how does someone who speaks French fluently, fail French.

 So I asked. ‘How could someone who speaks French fluently fail French in an English school?’

Remember he was attending a self directed school? He just simply did not go to classes. I found out that he was extremely popular with the other students and his time was in great demand. He had to make some tough decisions, classes or hanging out with his friends.

Before the final year of High School he decided that he would not graduate if he continued going to that school. He attended summer school to improve his grades then transferred to a school famous for its rowdy kids which was close to some interesting neighbourhoods. He had no other choice; it was the closest public high school to our house and he had run out of options. 

He was the right age for the grade he was in which also included older kids from the interesting neighbourhoods and of course those were the kids he choose to be friends with. One day he asked me if it was ok to go to the mall with his friends. I asked how was he going to get there and he said they were going to pick him up. I reluctantly agreed. The car showed up and he ran out the house. You know me right; I was a helicopter parent so I rushed to the window and all I saw were his shoes as he disappeared into this car with windows so dark you could not see if there were others in there.

What to do, what to do.

My kids all had cell phones from the time they could dial, so I calling him as I got my car keys and took off at full speed following them. I wanted to know which mall they were going to.  He said the flea market on Birchmount and Sheppard in Scarborough. After he told me, I changed course, I had to get there before they did.

I know what you are thinking, but I don’t care.

I got there first, I knew all the shortcuts. I parked the car and waited. As soon as they got there and parked I called again and told him where I was parked and asked him to join me. Of course he wanted to know what I was doing there and how I got there so fast. As a parent what would you have done?

Yes, I straightened him out.

 No I did not beat him although I thought about it, he probably would have called the cops.

Would you like to know how I straightened him out?  

 I told him I loved him and I wanted him to be safe then I took him home. He did not talk to me for a while and in time I got over it. He will be graduating from University in June.

I suspect my kids with my guidance will achieve goals way beyond my wildest dreams. Sounds familiar? You can only hope.

At E’s current age I had just started the job at MAI, were my Kittitian friend Ivan worked.

In my new job, I had a manager and a supervisor and a co-worker Brook who keyed transactions into a database. Brook was married to a programmer who worked with Ivan. Most of my days at work were quite busy and of course I was doing a great job.  Ivan would come by once a day and we would chit chat. I had asked him to assist me as I was learning to write interactive programs, we would talk about programming techniques.

Sometimes I would look at Brook enter data in the computer and would ask a lot of question about the process. She was also a programmer. Slowly I began to figure it out.

My job at the company was to insure that minimum inventories were always in the warehouse, also retrieve and package and ship spare parts. After a while it became boring and I started to look for a new adventure. In addition to learning to program computers, I was taking the accounting courses. A great combination in the 70’s.

As I write this I was reflecting on how I got into the CGA program in the first place, so I will tell you. After I lost my job at the university, I spent a lot of time scouring the newspapers for a job. As I became more and more frustrated I would allow myself to look at the want ads in the professional sections. I noticed that Accounting students enrolled in the CGA program was in much demand so I decided I could do that, viola.

When I first started at MAI, the manager had promised me that when a job became available in the accounting office I would be considered for the position.  With one year of accounting courses under my belt I was ready for a new challenge. Nothing was becoming available and I was becoming increasingly impatient, so I began to look outside the company.  About the same time, I met this Egyptian guy Sol through Ivan, who had a software company. He supported the applications for the MAI computers and he had a customer that needed someone with experience in Accounting (funny eh) and computers to manage their automated cost accounting system. In those days the combination of those two skill sets was not easy to find. I applied for the job.

I won’t tell you the name of the company but I just Goggled it and they are still in business.  Why I can’t tell you? I got fired. Long story and I will write about it.

 So I was impatient, with computer knowledge and some accounting experience, what would you have done? The money was really good, one and a half times what I was making. Only two problems, I had never actually seen, much less worked with the computer the company had, it was different from the ones that I had been monkeying around with. I also knew nothing about Cost Accounting, that course was offered in the second year of the CGA program.  

Why let details get in the way.

I was single, had nothing to lose, yes I had a couple of bills, but I could always go back delivering laundry or pizza. So why not I was thinking, just another chapter in my life story, what could go wrong?

I took the job but resigning from MAI was difficult, another new experience. I had not voluntarily left a job in Toronto plus the company was good to me. I was actually told that if things did not work out I could always return.  You may recall from previous posts that I was always lead out of buildings, fired. One of my uncles was really mad at me.  He thought I was unstable.

The little guy from Trafalgar was going places, I had to wear a jacket and a tie.  I had found a belt that fitted me. Would you believe I was still weighed less than 120lbs, back then Canada still used the imperial measuring system.

 The first day in my new job, the controller showed me around the office and where the computer was located and that was pretty much my training. Damn I forgot something, he told me that since the Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and Payroll applications were all on the computer; the one in this air conditioned room behind a glass window, my job also included managing the people that did those jobs.  My title was Accounting and IT Supervisor.  I did recall we had talked about the supervisor job during the interview, but managing people?  I figured that would come in time, not day one.

 Just another chapter in my life.

You can’t make this up.

I was working for 16 hours a day. The first few weeks I actually slept there some nights, too tired to drive home.

Slowly I began to figure out the Job. The AP lady and I became good friends, she was quite helpful, the AR lady resented me, she wanted my job, and the Payroll lady was secretly involved with the boss so I stayed away from her. They were all quite a bit older than I was.

 Imagine the skills I was picking up although managing people was proving to be very difficult.

In the second month of my travels back and forth, my car broke down on Canada’s busiest highway. I had no cash, no credit card. I had to take a few days off to get it repaired and I had to borrow money to pay for the repairs, yikes.  There was no way for me to get to work except by car. A few days later I ‘traded’ it for a Mercury Cougar (actually took on more debt). That would have so disappointed my dad. He took great pride in buying his cars with cash.  Now that was once sexy car, chicks here I come. Ah, I am just bragging.

I’ll leave the firing for another blog post. That time I didn’t cry, after all I was then 25 years old with major responsibilities, I called her Poppy.

The only Kittitian couch potato in Calgary

I almost smoked Marijuana once….honest

Last week I ended with my new job and this week I fully intended to continue along that journey but as it always happens with me life has gotten in the way.

My daughter has gone back to work. She has been home looking after her babies for 3 years and I have been what she called a pain in the butt. Ok I call regularly, shoot me. She would say that if I asked a different question when I called it may make a difference. I always ask, ‘how are the babes’.  Sometimes I would not call and guess what she would call me and ask me why I didn’t call her. So I would just call 3 or 4 times a day, just in case I forgot something.

Generally I would talk the my granddaughter K the 3 year old.  Our conversations like my question to J would be the same, and would be something like this:

K. ‘hi Granpappy, where are you?’

Me. ‘Im home’

K. ‘im home too’. Where is grandmammy?’

Me. ‘she is at work’

K. ‘why?’

Me. ‘cause’

And this could go on for 5 minutes or so, most of the rest of the conversation would go over my head. I would then ask to talk to P her two year old brother and if he is in the mood he would come on the phone and as always the conversation would go like this.

Me. ‘hey Buddy’, we called him Buddy.

P. ‘what’

Me.’ How are you’

P. ‘what’

Me. ‘what’

P. ‘what’.

This could go on for 20 or so ‘whats’, then I would say push the red button. Click.

How could you not like that?  God I miss them. I think I will get K a cell phone.

You probably know I also have a 2 year old granddaughter AJ in Toronto.  My ‘relationship’ with her is different. When I get her on the phone, she tells me a quick story, generally I have no clue what she is talking about and they she puts down the phone and disappear, with me going ‘hello’ ‘hello’. These sessions lasts about 30 seconds. AJ is quite precocious and she comes out with the amazing insights, so my daughter texts me regular ‘AJ sayings’.

On Friday on her way home from daycare they were caught in a huge traffic backup caused by an accident. As they were driving by the accident she looked over and said, ‘Yes that is so crazy’.  Simple words, makes my day.

Ok enough about my offspring.

One of the most important things about becoming a programmer back in the 70’s was you had to have good access to a computer. Today you can program on your cell phone.  The courses I was taking for the most part were introductory courses, where you punch some holes on a card and sent the cards to the computer ‘in the big sky’.  If you were lucky it would comeback with something like ‘hello world’ on a long role of paper. Taking the next step in understanding what the computer could be used for or how you could interact with it meant that you needed a mentor and access to a computer.

At York I had both, a mentor and access to a computer. After I got fired I lost both. I needed to get close to a computer.

In the mean time I made another decision about my career; just in case the programming thing did not work out, after all computers could have been a fad.  I needed a back up career so I registered in the CGA (Certified General Accounting) program. See how confused I was. I wanted to be a psychologist, but in case that did not work I stared taking computer courses and just in case that did not work I started taking accounting courses, confused? So was I.

Do you know that at age 23 some people already have kids? They say a man does not mature sufficiently until age 25 to make big decisions. Good excuse eh, I can be excused for constantly changing my mind, I had research on my side.

So here I was at ages 20 to 23 and 5000km away from home muddling through life without any real plan. I had some support. My sister was around, but she was dealing with her own life, my dad really protected his daughters and now she had to fend for herself.  I also had two uncles in Toronto, both had girls and although I love them to death, they are girls and they had lots of boundaries.

My dad had reluctantly seen me off to get an education. I had no clue what that would be like, remember I wanted to play soccer, that was my first choice. My dad had great expectation for his children. I felt like I was failing him. Growing up he would always tell me, ‘get an education’, ‘do not work for anyone’, ‘never go into debt’ and his examples were from his own life experiences. With very little education and even less material things, he travelled to St Kitts and built his little ‘empire’ with his sweat and blood.

Three years in Canada and I had broken all the rules he set for me. I had several jobs and was fired ‘by the guy I should not be working for’ and was in debt.  I thought about chucking it but I really could not go home, that was my past.

I was going in the wrong direction and fast.

In addition to my career and job indecisions there was tremendous peer pressure. Being in Toronto was like being in a candy store, so many options. What to do?

I grew up in a rum shop. I don’t recall my dad ever giving me a drink of alcohol and he preached never to drink. But it was in front of you all the time. You may recall from one of my earlier posts that I had to work in the backroom in my dad’s business bottling wine and duke from a really early age.  I would ‘sample’ the alcohol to the point of being wobbly when I was done. What is duke anyway?  I remember it tasted awfully good.

As I got older I would drink rum and scotch on the weekend when I hung out with my buddies and I do remember the first time I got drunk. I was at a dance and had too much to drink, well perhaps too much variety. In those days when we were out late at night, me and my siblings had a ‘move the key’ system to indicate that you were the last one out, so make sure you bring the key in the house.  We only had one key, passed down from the oldest to the youngest.

That night when I got home drunk I forgot the key rule and could not get into the house and a good thing to. I started to vomit as I sat on the front step. My mom heard me and came and got me.  She was such a gentle soul. She assisted me to get rid of my stomach contents and then said simply, ‘now you know what it feels like, please don’t do it again’.

I found out that night that mixing drinks is not the smartest thing to do and I should try to vomit before I get home.  It took a while but I got back on that horse.

Buying alcohol in Toronto was not cheap affair, so that was my control, plus I was so busy. When I was with my homies, we did not drink much. I had a good friend at the university that knew everyone on campus. He knew where all the residence parties were and he would invite me along. Sometimes I would tag along but I must admit they were not my favourite hangouts.

This was back in the early 70’s and I was still trying to get used to a lot of things especially being on my own. I had no limits really except my conscious and proper upbringing. At these parties there would always be marijuana and other drugs mostly in the form of pills. In those days I smoked cigarettes and I hate to say this but it was my saviour. Whenever it was my turn to take the weed I would show my cigarette so they would pass me. I lied about not being able to swallow pills.

I have to thank my parents and educators for my restraints.  Whenever I was tempted, I would think of Miss Williams Strap, Mr Ribeiro Rod, my mom fish tail and my dad’s strap. If my temptations were really compelling, I would think of the little red guy with horns, I grew up in the church.

Do you know what I remember most about those parties? How lonely I was for home, it was a culture shock.  I would have to listen to music by singers like Janis Joplin, Cat Stevens and others. While everyone was having fun I was feeling alone.

Ok the truth about the marijuana? I am a bit of a Germaphobe.  (Any person who is obsessed with cleanliness and defeating bacteria).

The people pass the pipe or weed from mouth to mouth. I was totally disgusted.

But still I want to try this thing. One day I was telling this friend of my sister that I had been smoking weed for years and I was never affected by it. I lied, must be the Trafalgar thing. He suggested that we try his ‘good stuff’ together. So one Saturday we sat in his car and he rolled and lit the weed. Immediately my thoughts turned to  Miss Williams Strap, Mr Ribeiro Rod, my mom fish tail and my dad’s strap. Oh and the red guy with horns and if I am not mistaken he was holding a pitch fork.

Then, he put the thing in his mouth first.  I saw some spittle. Damn what do I do now? That did it. I needed a way out. Ah my cigarette, I lit one and told him I was feeling a sudden urge to smoke and stepped out of the car. Phew that was close.

Maybe one day when they make it legal ill buy some.

Haha maybe not.

The only Kittitian Couch Potato in Calgary

Déjà vu all over again

My last blog post ended with a job offer from York University, thanks to the recommended of a Kittitian. I was really looking forward to it. The university was in the process of upgrading the central library system and my computer programming training would come in handy. Unfortunately I had to give them a start date of two weeks later although I was just sitting around not doing anything. I had a schedule medical operation pending.

 When I was a baby my parents thought I was too beautiful to be circumcised, they did not want to ‘hurt’ me.  For years I thought I was special because of it, you know my parents favourite. When you are 11 of 13 siblings you take what you can get.  As I found out later, they were actually tired of all the bawling by my older sister, she was a cryer and needed a brake.  I took one for the team.

Oh by the way getting circumcised at that age is like being kicked in your private over and over for 3 days.

I was home for a week and a half enjoying my rent-to-own TV that I had purchased (see 3 postings ago) for the first time. I told everyone I had a bad cold so that I could be alone, it was really hard to explain the exaggerated limp. I took the time to think about my future.  I had one visitor though, my cousin Annette, I sat on the couch the entire time.

As a kid growing up in St Kitts I had lots of family tradition from which to pattern my life.  My mom’s dad was an electrician and she had brothers who followed that path. For two summers in a row she sent me to work at the electric company hoping I would like it. My days involved stringing wire to homes in the rural area and holding ladders. The only good thing I got from it was not having to spend the days working with my dad.

One of her brothers was George Ward who I was very close to, he was an economist and held an important position in the Bradshaw government.  My uncle, the Honourable JNF would ask me about my future plans every time we had a conversation, although my contact with him was limited. My dad came from a long line of successful Anguillan boat builders and fishermen. All admirable but you know how it is; you have to follow your own path.

In the 1970’s, computers were playing a larger role in everyday business and I thought it would be a good place to be, career wise.

Although I have a bit of shyness in me and do tend to stutter when flustered, I can walk up to total strangers and have a long conversation with them before they realize they have told me too much about themselves. I don’t do it to be nosy, well maybe a little but mostly because I like to know about people. I am a very friendly person and quite often I get in trouble because of it.

I remember shortly after I arrived in Calgary the first people I met was this couple that lived just behind us across the pathway. They were out walking one afternoon and I stopped them to say hi. There was something about them that said ‘we are pregnant’. So after about 5 minutes of chip chat, I had to ask, ‘when is the baby due?’ It freaked the lady out but the man started talking about his unborn baby. It was quite interesting. It has been five years, they have a toddler and a new baby, and she totally avoids me.

No I am not psychic, just observant.

I decided that since I was so good with people I was going to be a psychologist. Yaaaaaa.

In 1973 I started my job at York University. I can’t remember the rules but I was not allowed to register for courses right away. It was really inexpensive for employees to take courses.  My plan was to take some part time courses while I worked full time then after a while switch to a full time student and work part time. Good plan eh.

Because I had to wait before I was allowed to register for the subsidized courses and not wanting to waste time I continued taking computer courses. I had switched from CDC to York University night program where I took a course in Assembler computer language.

 It was fun working there, met lots of students my age from every corner of the earth. Still I kept close to my two homies, Jay Franks and Joseph Esdaille. During the week I would hang out with JF and on the weekend JE.  JF was really cool. He had this really nice apartment downtown with a bar, beautiful car and nice lifestyle, he even smoked a cigar, the things a young man dream about. I liked being with him.  We had gone to Grammar school together, even back then he was cool.

Once the weekend came around JE and I were inseparable. He is a Trafalgar man like me. We would get together and look at wrestling, often while eating some soup with lots of provisions that his older brother cooked, I cannot cook. At night we would go to the clubs.

Clubbing had its limitations for us as we did not drive. We relied completely on the transportation system that pretty much shut down its north/south routes at 1AM in the morning.  I recalled one night I caught the last bus at Dufferin St subway in Toronto going north. What I did not know was that the last bus did not go the full length of the route. I was dropped off at Lawrence Ave, which is approximately 6 or 7 km from my house and it was winter time.  I had to walk the rest of the way. When I got home my hands were completely frozen with no feeling in my fingers, I was unable to open the door. To get attention I had to knock on the door with my head, it was a good thing that my roommate was home. Bet you always wondered why my head is so hard.

Sometime in 1973, JE had gotten his driver’s license. It was on his 3rd attempt and being the competitive person I am, I made a bet that I can do it on my first try. I was 22 years old and had no previous interest in driving a car. Now for the first time I am thinking of getting a license.

I could not afford to pay too much for a driving course plus I did not think I needed them.  I had seen my dad drive a thousand times. I contacted a driving school and made two appointments, total of 4 hours then booked my test.  I bet I made some parents with teenage children cringe after reading that; I made my kids take full driving courses. Remember I had a bet with JE.

Test day, I showed up at the testing center at Wilson and Keele in Toronto. My test included a very short road test and driving around pylons in the parking lot. I did quite well in the road test but ploughed down every pylon in the parking lot. Not good at all.

Sometime during the road test, the tester had asked me where I was from and I told him St Kitts. He replied that he had honeymooned a couple years ago in St Kitts and how he totally enjoyed it, ‘really nice people’, he said. We were now best friends.  He wrote up his report, advising me that although he had given me a pass, I should get some additional driving lessons before I decide to go out on the road alone. He then added with a smirk of his face, that I was a really bad driver. I bet he enjoyed saying that.

I won the bet. Being a Kittitian has its privileges.

And, I went out and ‘bought’ a car a few weeks later, I needed to learn to drive. Zero down, and no payments for 60 days, can’t get any easier. It’s funny how you think that 60 days will never end.

This was quite a unique car, it was a Ford Something, and on the front of the car it says Falcon, on the back, Torino. It was probably in an accident and they replace the back or the front and forgot to change the name on the part. Also it was quite a big car, someone actually took the time to write and tell my mom that I must have been selling drugs to afford to buy such a big car. It was the cheapest one on the lot.

A few weeks later I took a few days vacation and drove for 12 hours to New York City alone, don’t ask. I had youth on my side.

My job was going really well, the boss saw a lot of potential and one day asked me to go in the copying area and recommend ways to improve the processes that were in place. After I couple of days I went back to him with my recommendations. I was then told to go ahead and make the changes.

I did. I simply moved the point at which money was changing hands from the copy centre to the front desk. The students would then get a receipt and presented it to the copy center. It sped up the process and made it more transparent.  I was expecting a raise.

I forgot to mention that the lady who ran the copy centre was on vacation when I implemented the improvements. I was expecting her to be so happy when she returned.

I was wrong, she was not.

I found out that my boss was afraid of her and had made several failed attempts in the past to get her to improve the system.

I also found out that she was the wife of the Big Guy upstairs. No, not that big guy, just a few floors up from me.

I was used.  

 I was not thinking when I was given the task other than here is an opportunity to prove myself. Sometimes you have to ask questions. I recalled as a teenager living in St Kitts, I once got involved in a conflict between two people that lived together just across the alley way. He was beating up on her and she was screaming for help, so I did the right thing. Well as you might have guessed, they both turned on me. I was running for my life screaming for help with these two lunatics behind me throwing bottles at my head. My dad heard my cry for help and came out in the yard, I ran right past him and hid. He later gave me a life lesson lecture about when to intervene.

 How could I know that this lady and my boss had a contentious past?

The fallout out was not pretty and yes I was looking for a new job and no I did not start on my path to becoming  a psychologist and yes I cried like a baby. I was getting good at that.

My buddy at the University suggested that I hire a lawyer, he would be my witness, in hindsight I should have. Back then the Workers Union at York was just getting a foot in the door, but that is a whole other story.

Déjà vu all over again as I drifted around. I found a part time job delivering laundry for this old guy who owned a small laundry store on the corner of Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto. He told me that his sons had abandoned him. Sounds like what I did with my dad. He was getting old and wanted to stop working.  After some time he asked me if I was interested in buying the business. I would often go back in the production area and my thoughts were always, ‘how can they stand this heat’, plus I had no money.

Years later I read a story in the Toronto Star where his kids had sold the tiny building that housed the Laundromat to developers for millions of dollars, it was in the way of progress.

About 6 months after getting fired, I received a call from the hiring manager of a computer manufacturing company (MAI) in Markham ON. I had applied for an entry position. I wanted to get close to the computers.

During the interview, the manager told me that they had a Kittitian working as a programmer there and since I was from St Kitts I would probably have a great work ethic like him. I was hired as an inventory clerk.

The programmer was a very good friend of mine,  Ivan Brookes.

As I said, being Kittitian has its privileges.

The only Kittitian Couch potato in Calgary.