This is a somewhat-rambling documentary of my life and jobs:
I was born in 1969 in the Upstate of South Carolina in a fairly big mill town known as Anderson. To this date, regardless of where I go, I have to say that Anderson was a great town to grow up in and was the best place I've ever lived. I remember most of my early childhood (all the way back to two years old, although I hear from people that such a thing is rare) and the thing that sticks out the most from my time there is that I had a lot of friends that I enjoyed playing around with. Also the nice hilly country of the upstate was a great place to take your Hot Wheels out on the road and scare the hell out of your mother :).
However when I was seven years old we moved away. Due to job concerns with my dad, the family relocated to Georgetown, SC (a coastal town between Myrtle Beach and Charleston) where I lived for the next sixteen years. I didn't take the adjustment of moving from the Upstate to the Lowcountry all that well. I was a young kid who lacked the emotional maturity to cope with the usual teasing that outsiders get from young children, so it was difficult for the first couple of years. However as the newness wore off I found a way to get by and make some friends amongst the new crop of kids I'd been thrown in with at Maryville Elementary.
I attended public school until the seventh grade then willingly entered private school at Winyah Academy. Being a student at that school was one of the most personally fulfilling experiences of my life. Any time that I think about the Academy it still brings a smile to my face. It was small enough that the teachers could provide individual attention to each student, which was something this (as yet undiagnosed) ADHD kid desperately needed. When the school closed down due to financial problems I cried my eyes out because it was less a school and more like a family.
The Academy closed at the end of my Junior year, so I was forced to spend my Senior year at Georgetown High School. Not much can be said about my year there, I'm afraid. I recognized a few people from my days at Maryville Elementary, but I'd lost touch with so many of them that it was always an awkward moment when I'd interact with any of them (with Susan Rogers being the one notable exception). Several students from Winyah Academy had attended G'town high as well, but the increased number of students altered friendships as people suddenly found themselves moving in different social circles. Basically outside of friendships I had with faculty/staff such as Mr. Bob Insley, Harold Oberg, and Paula Monovasitis (yes, I still remember how to spell that name after all these years!) I was pretty much by myself in a student body of over 750.
After I graduated from Georgetown High in 1987 I moved up to Florence, SC and attended Francis Marion College (now Francis Marion University). After telling someone this I usually have to add that FMC was not an all-girls Catholic school. Those familiar with Revolutionary War history will recognize the name of the infamous 'Swamp Fox,' who defended the Pee Dee and Lowcountry regions of South Carolina from the Redcoats. I stayed at FMC for five years initially intent on becoming a Math teacher in high school. I changed my major in my Junior year after my first brush with student teaching (shudder) and eventually graduated with a BS in Mathematics and a BS in Computer Science.
Outside of educational advancement at the college, one other thing happened that this classic nerd had never expected. In fact I got blindsided by it on some random weekend at home from school. I got a girlfriend. ^_^;; Laura has the dubious distinction of being the first real girlfriend I've ever had in my life. The night we first met I wound up poaching her from my sister's birthday party and hung out together all night long on the couch in my parents' den (much to my sister's dismay :). After a fair bit of talking and watching TV together we were an official item. For awhile, anyway. The vagaries of college love life being what they are, relationships based on love/lust at first sight don't always last and the one I had with my sister's best friend was no exception. After an on-again/off-again period of about three years, Laura wound up marrying one of my roommates and shortly thereafter a son, Rowan, was born. My involvement in the whole thing ended in a flash of drama worthy of the worst soap opera writing anyone could come up with. Looking back on it, I came through the ordeal relatively unscathed and thankful that my single status (and my parental status) remained as they had been prior to meeting Laura. ^_^;;;
Anyway, returning to my scholastic and employment growth, while I was still in my fourth year at Francis Marion one of my instructors pointed out a help wanted flyer that had been circulating throughout the classrooms of upper level CS courses. The local DuPont plant (Florence Mylar/Cronar) was looking for an intern to do work as a late-shift mainframe operator. I whipped a resume together and was interviewed on-campus. I didn't get the job but the head of the systems department, Russ Barrett, was sufficiently impressed with my qualifications to offer me an intern position for the systems department as a PC hardware and software repair guy. I was lucky because I was offered the position full-time after I graduated and I wound up staying for close three years.
Then came the day that most DuPonter's referred to as "Black Tuesday." At the time I was too young and inexperienced to understand the impact of the word 'downsizing.' Therefore it was quite a shock to me when I heard that I was being laid-off with no possibility of ever returning. I'd worked at the plant feeling as if I'd been part of a family, and quite frankly I'd invested too much of myself personally in the job. I loved working there and had grown quite comfortable in my role as PC fix-it man and unofficial mascot for some of the guys in the Maintenance crew. It was there that I had made quite a lot of friends in the 'grey shirt' areas and the layoff was taking all of that away.
It was a very intense experience and was the cause of a lot of stress for everyone at the plant. George Thrower had been the husband of one of my math instructors at FMC and he was a pretty charismatic guy to work with. I liked working with him and knew that he was feeling the stress the same as I. Tragically he wound up dying of a heart-attack at his desk a month before the layoffs were finalized. The whole thing was pretty chilling and it underscored just how bad the situation was at the plant.
The news that everyone had been fearing for a month was finally announced when E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co. Inc gave its affected employees sixty days to find new work before they actually lost their jobs. That gave me from the beginning of June '93 to the end of August to find one before I was out on the street.
I tried for a month to find a job in Florence to no avail and soon realized that after living there for seven years I was going to have to move away and leave my friends behind. The day I gave up looking for a job locally I called a lead about a job on the other end of the state. After a simple ten-minute phone conversation I was hired by Computer Consulting Group to work as a contractor for Procter and Gamble. The site, located in Greenville SC, had the less-than-glamorous distinction of being one of the major producers of Pepto-Bismol for the entire northern hemisphere of the planet.
I was hired on a six month contract to take over the PC maintenance duties for someone who had quit his job. During that time a person was pulled from the manufacturing lines and trained (by me) to carry on those PC duties once my contract had expired. By the time my six months were up, P&G decided to extend the contract an additional month because they needed me to help out on some minor things.
When February '94 rolled around the contract expired without renewal and I was jobless again. Milliken was my next stop. It was only a two-month contract but I sure learned a lot about corporate behavior and networking during that time. I was at the world corporate headquarters, located in Spartanburg, SC. It was a huge office complex! (The damn place had its own exit ramp off of the interstate for crissakes!) I met the owner and CEO, Roger Milliken, on several occasions as he gave personal tours to bigwigs from Nissan, Toyota, etc (Milliken makes the carpeting that goes into cars and offices, as well as the 'Visa' line of clothing). He's an interesting person and makes for a great storyteller if you can keep him still for very long. ^_^
After that I headed off to the state capital, Columbia, SC. (Home of Joe Pinner, USC, and Hootie and the Blowfish).