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I Never Again Had Friends Like When I was Twelve…Does Anyone?

August 18, 2014

I turned twelve years old this weekend. It was completely unexpected. Not the least because my birthday is not until December, and I’ll be fifty this year. But for a couple of days in August I was twelve. When I was twelve I lived at mother’s house with my older brother. I spent last weekend at Mom’s house. I was in one bedroom he was in the other. But, I’ve spent time at my mother’s place over the years and it didn’t transport me back in time. But, as you can imagine, this weekend was not like other weekends.

When I was twelve my brother and I travelled from Seattle to Fairbanks , AK. This was before September 11th. Travel was different. Like us , it was more innocent. Innocent enough that two boys could freely roam the trains that link the terminals at Sea Tac airport for hours without a care and without a parent.

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Yesterday I flew home to Salt Lake City on Alaska Airlines out of Sea Tac. My 8:10 PM flight left from gate N10. To get to the N gates you have to take the train.

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The same trains I roamed when I was twelve. This time I wasn’t as interested in getting the first car and staring into the abyss of the tunnel as the train’s headlights stabbed holes in the darkness. But for just a moment I remembered being twelve. But, it wasn’t the train that took me on a journey through time and space back to the summer of 1977. That had happened days earlier.

The Good Old Days Really Were Better. Nothing is ever as sweet as a first kiss. Nothing ever tastes as good as the first bite of ice cream. Nothing ever matches the first trip to Disneyland (Better Than Disneyland.) We do the same thing in business. The programming language we learn first is eventually replaced by languages that are more powerful, more feature rich, more intuitive. But nothing really matches your first program. (Good Thing I Didn’t Test It First.)

I have a friend who is a social media expert. He’s brilliant. His job is to work with the leadership of some of the largest Fortune 500 technology companies and help the executives master social media. He meets some resistance at times. He explains to the executives

If you cannot master 21st century technology, people will question whether you can run a 21st Century technology company. Now, do you have a Twitter account?

Sure. It’s installed on my phone. It is right here.

It’s asking for a password. What’s your Twitter password?

I don’t know. I’ve never clicked on it before.

It’s tempting to rely on the adage “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Didn’t these executives show competence? Didn’t they build their companies, often technology companies into some of the biggest companies in the world? And they did it without knowing their Twitter password, or logging into The Google. (Okay, that last one might have been a president.)

I was the Messaging Team manager at a 30,000 employee non profit corporation. After upgrading from Novell GroupWise to Microsoft Exchange, we decided to install Microsoft Lync. This was in 2010 and my company did not have an instant messaging solution.

The program manager had to go to the highest levels of the company to get approval for this new IM application.

I’m not seeing it Bruce. Our organization has been around for over a hundred years. Why do we need this program?

Employees will be able to instantly communicate with anyone else in the organization.

But, doesn’t email do that already?

Email is “store and forward” technology. That means the messages are copied to a disk and then forwarded to the recipient. It is not instant.

Seems pretty fast to me.

Instant messaging is more like a text version of a live conversation.

You mean like my grandkids do with their text messaging nonsense? I don’t think we want our employees texting people all day or chatting, or whatever you call it. We want them to focus on actually doing work!

Bruce knew that he wasn’t going to win using a direct approach.

So, what are we going to do?

Do? Stealth. We can certainly roll it out to the IT department. Watch, in a month other departments will be begging to get it too. In six months we will have all the tech teams and a year from now, people will scream bloody murder if you try to take it away.

Bruce, was wrong. It only took four months for the entire company to insist on having it. And the following year when our data center crashed, Lync was the product the tech teams wanted brought back online first.

Twenty first century tools for a twenty first century company. My friend got his execs to embrace social media. It doesn’t matter if they understand why they need to be on Twitter and LinkedIn, and Instagram, and the rest. It’s enough that they trusted the marketing guys to be good at their jobs.

Programmers might look to COBOL or Pascal or BASIC with a certain amount of nostalgia, but they couldn’t get a job with the languages they learned when they were twelve. Twenty first century languages for twenty first century programs.

I would have never remembered the Sea Tac train rides from my childhood had I not spent the weekend reliving it.

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So, what transported me back in time to my childhood? A unique combination of events and people.

First the people. I was sleeping at my mother’s house because she was holding a family reunion. All my aunts and uncles were there. My mom’s cousins were there. But what really took me back were my own cousins. And my second cousins. These were kids I had grown up with. Our family was fairly close. We held lots of get togethers at my grandmother’s house growing up. Granny and Papa are long gone. Gran twenty years ago, and Papa about nine years before that. But the people were there.

And this was more than a reunion, which we typically only have when someone dies. This get together was to go through some boxes of pictures and mementoes from my grandparents. So, while they may not have been there in body, they were there in spirit.

And I was twelve. And so were my cousins. We picked up like it hadn’t been twenty years since we had last seen each other. Of course we all have kids now, but somehow it seemed okay for a group of twelve year olds to have grown children of their own. My two adult daughters attended, and the oldest brought my grandchild. But, it was okay for a twelve year old to have a grandchild. The most surreal moment was when I got a text message from a women that said,

I hope you’re having a great time. The kids are doing fine, but they really miss you.

And just like that I was no longer a happy twelve year old hanging out with his cousins and having a good time. I was so much more and so much happier.

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

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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2 Comments
  1. Kristin Murray permalink

    That was totally awesome.

    • As a writer, an event never really happened for me until I’ve written about it. Yeah, it was awesome. (The reunion.)

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