Remember when it was fun? Yes, the good old days always seem a whole lot better than they really were, at least in the rear-view mirror. But, looking back from these too-serious times of today, they probably were a lot better than we remember.
Here are a few stories from that somehow seemingly lighter and more carefree past:
From the ‘70s: I worked as a program coordinator (a glorified name for expeditor) for Maine Electronics, in Lisbon, Maine. This was in the non-computer days when we had to track every single layer, of every single board, by hand and write down the status in a black notebook. There were six of us program coordinators getting to work at 5 am so that we could find and status all our parts for the big meeting at 7. At 7 sharp, the meeting would begin.
There were six large cafeteria tables put together in a big conference room, and there still wasn’t room for everyone: supervisors, process engineers (methodizers, we called them back in the day) quality engineers, and salespeople all quietly listening as each program coordinator read off the status, program after program, part number after part number—literally hundreds of them. We lived in fear of the division president, who sat at the head of the table, stopping the read of the status every so often to scream at one supervisor or another, because a part in the supervisor’s department had not moved in three days! Heads rolled, tables were pounded, accusations were made, fingers were pointed, and wild threats were made about the various things that would be done to the guilty party’s posterior, ranging from “getting a new one,” to chewing it, to making it a new place for his head, to frying it, while a giant Maalox bottle was passed around the table. Oh, the good old days!
Or from the ‘80s, as the New England regional sales manager for General Circuits out of Rochester, New York: In those pre-FedEx days, I drove 200 miles a day from my home office in Bedford, New Hampshire to Boston’s Logan airport to pick up boards that had been sent overnight via US Airways, and brought them to Computervision in Bedford, Massachusetts. I’d then drop them off, visit the buyer, an extremely salty old guy by the name of Lou Cardillo, who would threaten me with what he was going to do to my posterior if my boards were late again, and then give me more purchase orders (we got POs every single day!) and the artwork films. I took those back to Logan Airport to send overnight to Rochester and then picked up more boards that had come in for Digital Equipment. I drove those boards to Acton, Littleton, Chelmsford, or Andover, Massachusetts depending on where they were located at the time. I dropped off the boards, went in to see the buyers, got my posterior threatened again (what was it with posteriors back then?), got more orders and yes, more artwork, and took it back to Logan. Then I’d go back home. Unbelievably, we were doing so much business with these two companies that my company did not want me getting any new business…can you imagine? Ah, the good old days!
From the late ‘80s and early ‘90s: There is nothing more challenging than working for a company that is in Chapter 11, and as it turns out, heading to Chapter 7. I’ve done it twice. General Circuits was eventually bought by a 26-year old would-be Michael Milken, who in true Milken fashion, milked it dry and then destroyed that once great company. I was the director of sales and marketing at the time and my biggest issue was, as you can imagine, keeping my sales guys invested and motivated. The second biggest issue was hoping that my company credit card would work at business dinners and checking into hotels when I was on the road; more times than I care to count it did not.
The very worst day of that entire sordid experience was the last day (which I didn’t know at the time) with the company—it was everyone’s last day with the company. I was leaving Rochester. I had a middle seat on the flight back to Boston and wanted to change it, so I called the travel agency (remember them?) and asked if they could call the airline for me and change my seat. Here is what the nice lady at the travel agency told me: “Do not change anything, do not talk to anyone, just take your ticket, and go straight onto the plane; if you stop and talk to any airline official, they will pull your ticket. Your credit card payment was just cancelled, in fact your company card has been cancelled!” So, I did what she said, and gladly sat in the middle seat all the way to Boston. Once I landed, my beeper (remember those) was going off like crazy. Every one of my sales guys was paging me. So, I had to find a pay phone (remember those?) to call each of my remaining sales guys, who all informed me their pay checks had bounced that afternoon and asking what I was going to do about it? Oh, the good old days!
Maybe they weren’t as good as all that!
Oh, one last thing. remember that Computervision buyer I talked about, Lou Cardillo? That crusty old buyer from the ‘80s? Well, I spoke to him on the phone last Sunday on his 98th birthday. We’ve known each other for over 30 years, and he’s still my best friend.
It’s only common sense.