I’m in sunny California, doing a bit of tech work.
The job is interesting; I’m doing some investigative work on a body of code that was written over time, then the original authors disappeared. It’s mainly written in Perl.
Some sixteen or so years ago, I was working at IKEA North America and decided to move on. I’ve forgotten why, exactly; IKEA treated me well and the work was interesting. But I’d decided it was time to go.
I spoke with a recruiter; they found me an interview with the corporate IT department of another large retailer; Burlington Coat Factory. I don’t recall if I had a phone interview or not; in any event, I was set up with a face-to-face interview with the development manager at the corporate HQ in Burlington, NJ.
It seemed that the process was doomed to failure. I got the day off from IKEA with no problems. My bus to Burlington, though, was significantly delayed by a church steeple falling off a church in a major storm onto the Ben Franklin Bridge. Then the bus driver helpfully directed me off at store #1 rather than at the unmarked corporate HQ, two miles up the road. I hoofed it up the road to the HQ in my suit and foofy shoes, arriving drenched something like two hours late. The development manager was nice to me, though, and saw me anyway. I arrived back in Philadelphia after the interview to find a message from my recruiter, telling me that BCF wanted to make me an offer. I was surprised.
(Interestingly, BCF had/has an IT office in Lebanon, NH, twenty or so miles north of where I now live. BCF sent me to the NH office twice for a total of a month; I was in NH when Rabid and Bistet arrived at my NJ home to feed the cats and found that my house had been robbed and my Smith & Wesson 645 stolen.
One particular winter day, I drove to Okemo, passing right by the fire station where I would, twelve years hence, volunteer, within a mile of my present home, and right by the future scenes of countless car accidents, house fires, and medical emergencies that I would eventually respond to. But I digress.
Life’s coincidences amaze.)
This time, I dealt with a UK-based recruiter who only places IT staff with a subsidiary of a particular UK global financial services company with the subsidiary based in San Francisco. I was looking for a short-term bit of contract work; I’ve been out of heavy-duty programming for a year and a half and wanted to get current again on my core technologies. The recruiter was very precise; the interview would be a phone screen, if that went well then the company would fly me to SF for a face-to-face. The recruiter gave me a list of questions I could expect to be asked. I studied the list, of course.
I had the phone screen. It was twenty-six minutes; none of the questions were from the list but were focused on what I had done at the Red Menace and what I had done since leaving there. I thought it went well, all in all. I was looking forward to the subsidized boondoggle of a F2F in SF at someone else’s expense.
It took a few days for the recruiter to get back to me with the results. The client didn’t care for a face-to-face; they wanted me to start on Monday. Surprised, I was. I agreed.
I had to find a place to stay quickly. Craig’s List was the obvious place to start; I sent mails to a number of short-term sublets and share-rentals but none were interested in having me move-in, even as a part-time telecommuter, without meeting me. I can certainly understand.
I’m not exactly unfamiliar with San Francisco; in fact, I have a long history with the city. I originally visited SF in 1982 when I went to spend spring vacation with a friend from high school who’s dad lived in SF. I had a great time; we went to Alcatraz, we went to the (now defunct) punk-rock Mabuhay Lounge; we did a lot of things. I visited the city the following year with the same friend. In 1987, I was sent by the Navy to Mare Island, a base in Vallejo, California, about a half-hour north of the city. While stationed there, I spent a lot of time in SF and six months later took my discharge from the Navy at Mare Island and settled in SF for another year. I was down and out that year for the most part and saw some rough things. I credit that year’s experiences for a lot of the resolve and drive to be successful that has helped me since that time.
Later, the Red Menace sent me to SF a few times for training. When Rabid and I were living in Santa Cruz, I got up to the city a few times a month to volunteer or to ride my GoPed in traffic.
After we moved back east, I maintained a room in the Mission District for another five years. As a telecommuter, I spent between a week a month at the beginning and a week a quarter towards the end in San Francisco for that period of time.
I had lived over a rough bar in the Mission for a few months in 1988. After it became clear that Craig’s List would not pan out, I called the bar and asked if they had any rooms. The person I spoke to suggested that there was no space until I stated that I had lived there in 1988; she then put me in touch with the manager. There was a room and I could have it for cheap.
So, for the moment, I have a room above the bar again. It’s very ‘punk-rock’; I’m not sure they’ve cleaned since 1988. The bar downstairs is noisy. The room is fine for my needs, though.
Speaking of punk rock, on the day I moved in, I ran into another tenant who recognized me from Philadelphia. We had friends in common in Philly in the early 90’s; my previous Philly warehouse roommates, the goateed young men referred to in the previous item.