Last night, I had the good fortune of having a long phone chat with my old (and once upon a time) very good friend Don. The last time we’d spoken was in December 2012; the time before that was when we met up for dinner in the summer of 2009, and the time before that was in 2007, for lunch. He’d just turned 55 and told me he was quitting his IT job with PNC Bank in pursuit of early retirement.
My former office at UPMC
I first met Don way back in 1990, when I landed my first IT job as a computer consultant for the Dept of Aging. We were put on the same project, but I was fresh out of school and a complete newbie; Don was 11 years older and forced to deal with someone with a lot of questions.
But we seemed to hit it off right away. We were both loners of sorts and enjoyed, worried & fumed about the same things. (We’d often sit in Arby’s or Roy Rogers yelling at each other—“this isn’t healthy!”) Besides lunches and chats in the office, we’d get together every couple weeks, see a movie, have a late dinner and rant to one anther on what was wrong with our company, the government, society, ourselves…. man those were some good times!
Don pays me a visit in my new apartment in Bellevue, 1995
Our get-togethers got less often after Don met & married his wonderful wife Patti in 2000, by then we were on different contracts and different companies. But we still managed to meet for lunch once or twice a week during our workdays to complain about our respective out-of-shape selves & catch each other up on the latest.
(It just occurred to me that we were never big on email… haha)
So last night, after giving Don a brief run-down on what’s been going on in my neck of the woods, he said “Doug—wait ‘till you hear what’s been happening with me!” He told me his early retirement was just that—too early. “Doug the first year was great! But I don’t play golf, I don’t have any hobbies… there’s only so much tv you can watch or walks you can take… after the second year I was so bored, I’d had it!” I sat here nodding my head, I got it. He then went on to tell me about finding some part-time work: a bookstore, department store, even one where he drove to various supermarkets to set up cookie displays! But they were all minimum wage & too physically demanding, and after a year he was back to his old retired self.
I told Don I was sorry things didn’t work out, and he said “well… it took awhile, but they did. Guess what I’m doing now—I’m back to computer programming!” After he gave me the run-down on his current gig, he said “I think you’re on the same path I was on, and if you don’t mind me giving you some advice… I know you’re dealing with that TMJ, so get yourself better. Then I’d suggest you get back to Pittsburgh. I think it’s where you belong. If you don’t want to work and don’t have to, that’s your choice, but I think you could easily find another IT job downtown.”
I thanked Don for our long chat and his words of wisdom, and we promised to talk again in two weeks. (I really hope we do.) The truth is, as I’ve recently told others, I’ve been feeling out-of-sorts and homesick for my former life in the city. I’m not sorry I moved back to my hometown… at the time it felt right. But I left nearly 30 years ago and I’m not the same Doug I was then. I’d like to think I’m the one in that picture at the top. I need to find him again.