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Friday, March 16, 2012

It was 20 years ago today

And so it goes, “The ides of March”, and an abrupt change.  It was a long time ago, in a galaxy far away.  Let’s face it, things are so much different than they were just 20 years ago.  We have cell phones, GPS, high speed Internet, and luckily for me, the technology to work from home when I need to.

Twenty years ago, I started my first day of employment at a company called Reuters.  Sure, they had been around well over a hundred years when I started working there.  But to me, it was fresh and new…a technology company, a news company, an innovative company.  Not a household name back then, and in America, still not a famous brand, which is now a merged giant called ThomsonReuters.

The decision to work at Reuters, and stay there for the past 20 years is one worth telling.  It all started when I was working for a company called Digital Equipment Corp (DEC), perhaps the greatest hardware and software company the world had ever seen, well before Apple became the giant it is today.  While working for DEC as a software/network consultant, I was asked to take a one year or so assignment at a company called Reuters.  Being a city boy, who grew up in Queens, lived in Manhattan for a year, and then found home in Brooklyn, Reuters was like the other side of the world.

Ok, maybe not the other side of the world, but in those days, I had only be as far east on Long Island as the “Huntington Townhouse” where I had gone to a bar-mitvah, and wedding.  Not having MapQuest, or tom-tom in those days, I resorted to a map…yes a map, probably had to buy a Hagstrom to find my way to this place called Hauppauge.

Once settled in at my assignment at Reuters in Hauppauge, Long Island, I started marveling at the laid back attitude, the lunch hours that included a walk at Hoyt Farm, or Blydenburg Park, or just a spot at the table in the cafeteria.  A far cry from the hustle and bustle I was used to on Wall Street or Midtown., where lunch consisted of a ten minute wait for an elevator, a hurried walk thru the crowds, to grab a slice of pizza, and then the mad dash back to be on time.

I could get used to this I thought, and since the 50 mile drive from Marine Park Brooklyn was about the same hour (most day) a day as the bus and train to NYC, it became sort of routine.  Gas was a lot cheaper in those days.   Sure, when the beach traffic, an accident, rain, snow, or sun glare came, the car drive to and from Brooklyn was a bit more burdensome.  Well, my time there flew by, and DEC was not doing so well, and decided to lay me off…Luckily for me, I interviewed at Reuters and was hired full time without missing a beat. 

Date of Hire March 16, 1992.

A year later and some 30,000 miles run up on the odometer, another abrupt change occurs in my life.  While driving to work on March 16, 1993, my one year anniversary at Reuters, I get into a car accident.  I never made it work that day, and can still remember being in the hospital, with my beeper chiming in my briefcase. 

A colleague at work who knows I am punctual, was wondering why I was not there at the 930 breakfast club, when I usually started my day around 8am.  A nurse brings over a phone, and I call Gene Portente to tell him that I was in a car accident and would not be in for a while…I think my back is broken.  A while turns out to be about 3 months.

So, some more history is needed.  March 13th 1993 was the day the storm of the century made its way up the coast.

The Storm of the Century, also known as the ’93 Superstorm, or the (Great) Blizzard of 1993, was a large cyclonic storm that occurred on March 12–13, 1993, on the East Coast of North America. It is unique for its intensity, massive size and wide-reaching effect. At its height, the storm stretched from Canada towards Central America, but its main impact was on the Eastern United States and Cuba. The cyclone moved through the Gulf of Mexico, and then through the Eastern United States before moving into Canada.

March 13th was Saturday, and after spending Sunday digging out, it was back to work as usual. For Sue that meant, a commute via mass transit from Marine Park Brooklyn to Wall Street. I on the other hand, had a 50+ mile drive out to the suburbs of Long Island, Hauppauge NY.

Monday March 15th, the ides of March actually, was not too bad except for the sun glare against the snow. The roads were passable, although lanes were somewhat narrow with all the snow moved to the sides by plows.

So, why the ides of March, and the reference yesterday that things would abruptly change.

Seems that during the day, or early eve., the snow packed sides of the roads melted, and then overnight froze over in some spots. I managed to find a heavily frozen spot on the Southern State Pkwy...around exit 14 early in the morning on my way out to Hauppauge. Long story short, while driving in the left lane, my tire slipped on the ice and I ended up hitting the divider, careening across three lanes, going airborne like Evil Kineval, and coming to a crashing halt on the top of a mountain of snow on the right shoulder.

It was in the hospital or during a couple of months of physical therapy that I realized, if I am going to continue working at Reuters, we should move closer to my job.  Sue working on Wall Street, and pregnant with Gavin (found out the 2nd day in the hospital and the reason for  my tenacity to push to get better).  The search took us far and wide, until the day that Gene Portente asked us to look at his house in Holbrook.  Much further than we wanted to be from the city, but close enough to the Ronkonkoma line for Sue to get to the city, or so we thought.

We have been in our house in Holbrook since August 19th 1993 and the two events that transpired following the ides of march, are the reasons we and our family are here today.  I couldn't imagine being anywhere else.

So, celebrating my 20th Anniversary at Reuters, went largely unnoticed, some of my friends and colleagues there laid off over the past 7-10 years.  No cake in the front conference room as we did in the past at the Hauppauge Technical Center.  Two of the guys who work for me have heard me mention excitedly that I have almost made it to 20 years…they took me for Sushi.  Thanks Frank and Khary, that was very nice of your guys to treat me to a celebratory lunch.

My Lucite plaque is on the shelf, and the company catalogue of commemorative items is in my desk.  I decided to get the kayak instead of a watch.  A kayak seems fitting for me to paddle my way through the lakes, rivers, bays, or just through the waterways of life for the next 20 years.

Picture of the day “It was 20 years ago today”

P.S. I have been saying for years that the satellite pit at Reuters should be flooded, and a well drilled to tap into the fresh water spring running under Hauppauge.  Once flooded, we can stock it with trout, and get kayaks to fish in it during lunch.  The kayak is on the way.  The dream may become a reality as satellite dish communications is so yesterday......

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