I worked for a small startup software company that existed because a good Mormon housewife, mother of eight, well her baby swallowed a penny which resulted in medical complications that exceeded the lifetime maximum benefits for one person; this was back when Insurance companies were allowed to pull that shit. So this woman, Brenda, wrote a piece of software back before Windows or maybe Windows existed as a bad idea (it did) in a language called Btrieve although maybe language isn’t the right word. Betrieve is or was a transactional or navigational database product based on indexed sequential access method which was a neat way of storing data for fast retrieval. The only issue I had with Btrieve were the unholy screamin’ bright nested screens but not much you could do about that and the INsurance agents seemed to like them just fine. Oh, the platform was DOS, by the way. In case I wasn’t clear.
So I worked for this small software startup that really wasn’t all that small anymore. They were based out of Scottsdale and they were doing well enough to have a good size two story building full of developers and support staff which was good. There were trainers and sales managers and administrators. The only thing they didn’t have was anything other than fully commissioned sales people which meant I was on straight commission which motivated the shit out of me but was also extraordinarily uncomfortable. I was happy though. It was fun selling software to INsurance people even if they weren’t really INsurance people in the Northeast. I had my share of good times and way too many adventures and embarrassed myself and my poor mother (never go to work in any industry where a close relative is prominent).
As happens with small software startups eventually the big bad established agency automation company came along with an offer Brenda’s husband just couldn’t refuse and every single sales person was on the block. I had to find another job for about 8 weeks so there was at least some cash flowing into the household. That’s another story entirely, how I went to work for Josephson Bag & Canvas, built a database in Filemaker Pro (had never seen it before and hoped to never see it again once I was done), re-engineered their assembly line, adjusted their billing system, got the owner/manager stoned behind a bar one night and talked him out of being such a dick during his divorce (I think it worked) all for $12 an hour.
Eventually I got the phone call. The Northeast Regional Sales Manager would like to meet with you at the Pittsburgh airport next Wednesday at 1 PM. His name is Patrick H and you’ll be flying out of Westchester. Hey, Adam, do you mind if I take off out of here at about 10 AM next Wednesday? I have an interview at the Pittsburgh airport.
Twenty minutes of temper tantrum ensued while Adam threatened to fire me for not showing up to work without requesting a vacation day far enough in advance.
I’m not requesting a vacation day, I’m telling you I’m not going to be here most of the day because I’m going to the Pittsburgh Airport for an interview and if you want to fire me that’s ok. I could stand to keep the $12 and hour for a little while longer but I’m intending to start selling the same old software I’ve been selling but I’m going to be selling it for Delphi. I just kind of have to get to the interview to do that and I thought it would be good if I let you know in advance.
Twenty more minutes of thrashing.
It’s good to be patient with Adam.
This was right about the time when the Westchester airport was having an overhaul and I don’t mean little overhaul, I mean major overhaul. When I first started flying out of that airport back in maybe ’91 it was a Quonset hut and you parked in the field, carried your stuff in, went through some sort of screening (there might have been a wand), got your ticket and then walked out onto the tarmac when they said it was your turn to 1, 2, or 3. Just get on the right plane, asshole. There was a pretty damn good bar too; maybe the last of the good old airport bars ever. Not the kind you see now, not the kind you’ve probably ever seen in your life. The kind you’re only ever going to see if it’s a combination commercial private airport and it’s been around forever and it’s got red vinyl bench seats and the framed photos on the wall are from WWI and WWII and they’re local and all you’re going to get in there is whatever’s on tap and maybe a martini if the bartender’s feeling frisky.
I was driving a 1983 RX7. It’s the last good year. Ask anybody knows anything about that car or got any love for it at all and they’ll tell you; it’s the last good year. It’s another story, that one, how I came to be in possession of not only that car but the parts car that went with it. I loved that car. I drove that thing to hell and back and while I understand the desire to put your fanny on a quarter million of precision something or other (pick your poison), most of the people around here driving those things are navigating them like they just learned to drive but I can’t say I don’t understand a high performance vehicle (I do, just not an automatic transmission but my GOD am I digressing) but there’s something about having your ass 12 inches off the road with a rotary engine roaring upward of 110 mph on an incline and that chassis feels fine and you are driving that car. It is not driving you.
Let me really tell you how I felt about my car.
I get to the airport and I’m a little late but this is Westchester and it really does not matter because I have no luggage and I’m gonna dump my car in the field and just make a run for it. What the hell’s the big deal? This is before even identification is required. I have a freaking ticket. All I have to do is get there five minutes before my flight takes off, run through security, kiss somebody and skid onto the tarmac, ah, yeah, pick the right puddle jumper.
I make a left and a left and a HOLY SHIT WHAT IN FRESH HELL IS THAT?!
I don’t know whether to react to the two story parking garage under construction in my field or the line for valet parking.
I get in line and look at my watch. I have 15 minutes.
I have 15 minutes before my flight departs.
I sit there for 5 minutes because I’m a good girl. That’s what I do. I wait in line. I don’t cut, I don’t take short cuts, I follow the fucking dotted lines.
Right up until I don’t.
8 minutes. I got out of my car and locked it. I walked VERY quickly to the front of the line. I looked the guy handing out tickets dead in the eye and said approximately this:
About 15 cars back is a silver 1983 RX-7 with Burgundy leather interior. It is the love of my life. In maybe 7 minutes there’s a flight to Pittsburgh that I intend to be on because there’s a job that’s mine unless I screw up and don’t make that flight. Here are the keys to that silver 1983 RX-7 with Burgundy leather interior about 15 cars back. Here is $40. It’s all I have right now. I would really love to have my car back when I get back in about 6 hours but I’ll probably understand if I don’t.
And then I started running.
This was back in the day when you didn’t need identification and a paper ticket was good enough and as long as a wand was waved in your general direction and you were wearing a suit and looked like a pretty blond wasp on a mission you could go tearing onto that tarmac with a flight attendant yelling behind you, NO, IT’S NUMBER 2, NOT 3, NUMBER 2, TURN AROUND AND GET ON NUMBER 2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I got on number 2 and I flew to Pittsburgh and I interviewed with Patrick H who turned out to be a first class asshole but that was OK, I still sold software and then later didn’t feel very good about that and started teaching instead which is how I managed to talk my way into The Castle.
I did fly back 6 hours later and when I went to the information desk, mostly expecting to have to call my husband to come get me all the way from Oxford (that’s a good long way off from Westchester) it turns out they were holding my keys.
I still don’t much care for what’s happened to that airport. The bar stayed open for a while sort of the same way those old houses stay up while new buildings grow up around them but eventually they get swallowed whole until almost no one sees them anymore and finally they just cease to exist. When the bar stopped existing so did the airport. Now it’s just another small town international airport with only the first sort of deicer which means if the weather is bad you’re going to sit on the ground a very long time.
And you’d never see a security guy pull out a double ended dildo, hold it up in the air and honestly ask, hey, what the hell is this? That shit just doesn’t happen anymore. Travel used to be so much more, um, accommodating? Or maybe that's interesting. I don't know, wasn't my toy.