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I’m Going To Need A Bigger Hint

January 16, 2014

Hey Rodney, how’s it going?

Ah. . .fine. . .

Are you working here now?

Yeah. . .first day. . .

You don’t recognize me, do you?

Ah. . .

I’m married to your niece!

I’m gonna need a bigger hint than that.

Okay, in my defense, it wasn’t entirely my fault. I was pretty wiped out. I was just starting as the manager of the Messaging Team for a large non profit organization in Utah. The company was doing a big migration from Novell GroupWise to Microsoft Exchange. The migration was scheduled for this weekend. I had really wanted to be there for the migration. The problem was that I had been working as a contractor with Microsoft in Washington and my contract ran through Thursday. And it was 1000 miles from Redmond, WA to Salt Lake City, UT.

I was a consultant with Caiman Consulting. They had placed me into the Microsoft Dynamics team where I worked as a Program Manager helping redesign Dynamics’ licensing. The initial contract was for three months but the understanding was that it would be extended in 3 to 6 month increments. I had applied for the Utah job prior to going back to Microsoft. It was a much better fit and while the money was less, it was fulltime, including health benefits. (That was a serious consideration when we had 13 kids.) Caiman had been great about letting me leave at the end of my contract. So, I really wanted to make sure I worked all the way through the end of the contract. That meant Thursday was my last day. And 1000 miles away a migration was going to start in less than 24 hours that would last all weekend.

The HR department at my new company agreed to let me kind of short-circuit the onboarding process so that I could be with my new team for the weekend. But, I had to be there before the HR department closed on Friday afternoon. I’ve driven that Salt Lake City to Seattle trip many times. It takes about 15 to 20 hours depending on road conditions and the number of stops you make. When you consider that Utah is an hour behind, I really had 23 hours to get there.

I packed my car the day before. The entire family was moving, but my wife would stay with the kids and finish packing. I had my Suburban and a tent trailer.

I finished work at Microsoft at 5:00pm and changed clothes. (I wear slacks to work, but no way I wanted to sit in them for an 18 hour drive.) And I left directly from work. I like road trips. And my Suburban is a great road car. Even pulling a trailer, it cruises great at 70 mph. I was making the trip at the end of June, so weather wasn’t going to be a concern.

If you’ve ever driven that route, it’s an interesting mix of gorgeous vistas and long stretches of boring plainness. After the first couple of hours none of that made any difference to me since it was the middle of the night. To keep myself awake, I would periodically calculate how many miles I had left and what time I would arrive. I estimated I would hit Salt Lake City between 3:00 and 4:00pm. That would be perfect, but if one of my six tires blew, or the pesky fuel pump went out, or if I found I just couldn’t keep my eyes open, I didn’t have much of a cushion.

In good weather there’s one nasty stretch of road in that 1000 mile trip. Mostly, you’re going 70-75 mph on a long straight stretch of road. However, as you roll across Eastern Oregon and go through Pendleton (they make the famous wool clothing there) you hit the Blue Mountains. And the 5 mile stretch of road to get from the valley floor to the top of the pass is one of the worst of any interstate. And with a loaded car, no way was I going 70 up that switch-backed road. In bad weather that pass is terrifying.

I don’t remember much about that trip. As I got closer and the day progressed at first I was sure I was going to make it. Then I was sure I wasn’t going to make it. Then, I was sure I would make it.

Finally, I got to the Wasatch Front, and realized it was 3:00 and I was 45 minutes away barring an accident, I had made it. I had to make one final stop before I rolled into Salt Lake City. I pulled into a McDonalds in Farmington, UT and went in and changed into a suit. This company I was going to work for had a dress code and it wasn’t the jeans and t-shirt I had just spent the night in.

Finally, I pulled into the company parking lot about 4:00. I quickly found the HR person who was waiting for me. She rushed me from one spot to another. We signed the employment agreement. I showed them my Social Security card and birth certificate. I got a parking pass. We barely got there in time to get my photo ID. For the next five years, my official company photo had me with 5 o’clock shadow and I looked like I’d spent the night in my clothes. Which was wrong, but strangely accurate. We were at times running to the various departments.

It was at this point that my niece’s husband stopped me.

I’m going to need a bigger hint than that.


Oh yeah, Eric! Great to see you. Sorry, but I have to go with this HR person right now. Talk to you later.

You might think that no matter how tired you are, it’s hard to miss recognizing a relative. In my defense, my wife is the 13th of 15 children. While none of her siblings have families as large as our 13, there are still a lot of them. My mother-in-law has over 100 grandchildren. So, just telling me you’re married to my niece doesn’t really narrow it down that much!

The migration went flawlessly. I had inherited a very talented team.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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