There are events that can have profound effects on your life, in ways you cannot not possible see while they are happening. It is only the perspective that time gives you that allows you to see their significance.
Looking over my life, one of the things that affected me most seems a little mundane. I’m thinking of a job I held in the late 70’s, working mostly in a warehouse. Sounds trivial, I know, but working there I learned a lot of social skills, I was introduced to computers, made relationships that affected me deeply, learned to take charge of my life, and set the stage for meeting the woman that I would marry, have two children with, and spend the next 27 years.
Of course, I didn’t know that when I went to the job interview. I might have asked for more money.
This warehouse was part of a large electronics distribution company. Let’s just refer to it as Electro Inc., so as not to get sued. Especially since I would find out that it was also a great place to get all manner of drugs and trendy chemical amusements aids, as well as a great place to get laid. Seriously, I think there was something in the Employee Handbook that said you had to have sex with at least two co-workers to qualify as a full-time employee. I used to think of our company as the East Coast’s largest distributor of electronic components, micro-switches, and chlamydia.
I was 19 years old when I went to apply. When I think back on that now, 40 years later, it seems like an incredibly young age. If there was a way to get a message back to that version of me, I honestly have no idea what I would say. How to you figure out what was a good move, what was a bad move? Looking back, it seems like life is a series of random events, each one sending interlocking waves into the future to mix and interact, bouncing us from crest to trough, with no clear path through the tempest.
Oh yeah, I was also stoned. Not baked or anything, but I did have a few hits off a pipe before I went in for my interview. Should my future self shout back, “Bad career move!”? Probably not, as it turns out. I walked into the office, and told the receptionist I had an appointment with the Warehouse Manager. It was 1pm, and he had just returned from lunch.
I walked into his office just behind him, closed the door and we both sat down and looked across the desk at each other. The second we made eye contact, we each had the same thought – “he’s stoned!”
We both smiled and became very relaxed. He leaned back in his chair and said, “Let me tell you about your new job”.
And the rest is history.
This manager was to go on to be my best instructor of social skills. Not intentionally, of course. What he did was provide access to a wide variety of truly incredible drugs. I don’t mean just pot or hash, which he seemed to be spilling out of every orifice, even varieties like Hawaiian or Thai stick. I mean things like mushrooms, peyote buds, LSD, cocaine (my goodness, the cocaine in the late 70’s!), opium, opiated-black hash, hash oil, even crystal mescaline on a couple of memorable occasions.
Unfortunately, he was also bat-shit crazy. I mean, a fun guy most of the time, but he had a serious paranoid streak, and you never knew what would set it off. The fact that he also had a couple of handguns in the house made it more interesting. So I and my best friend had to become very skilled at social interactions just learning how to deal with this guy without getting shot.
A valuable learning tool. I learned how to make small talk, how to deflect conversations if they got too intense, and how to flatter and compliment someone without it sounding like sucking up. It might be hard to convince your local school board, but I highly recommend an armed, paranoid druggie for teaching manners.
And that is just the beginning. So much of where I am now, and who I am now, can be traced back to those few years I spent at Electro Inc. We will return to this seminal place of employment many times, as part of our Travels Through Time and Space.