This is part three in my ongoing Friday feature to regale the story of how I came to live here and why I decided to stay. If you've just joined us, I've posted two links to the previous two parts below if you'd like to catch up. I have been asked if this is a true story or if there've been any embellishments, and I'd like to make it very clear that every part of this story is in fact true with the exception of some of the names.
Moving is no fun, and trying to move an entire two lives' worth of possessions in a small Japanese sedan as opposed to a moving van was no easy task. suffice to say it took several trips, but I made it out before the deadline and collapsed at my sisters house after almost 72 hours of no sleep. Those of you familiar with the geography of Florida, will know that my upcoming permanent commute to work was going to take me from central Lake County to Tampa and back every day. But my managers were sympathetic, and I had the next three days to recover from what had just happened. I loved working with the Geek Squad, it was very rewarding and I got to meet a lot of really cool people as well as work with them. But with gas at the price it was at, it soon occurred to me that a good third of my day would be spent driving to and from work, not a very cost-effective prospect at all...
So on my second day off, I decided to go shopping for some supplies as well as possibly find a job locally. And while pigging out at Long John Silvers, I had somewhat of an epiphany. I was free. As much as I loved Megan, and as much is our lives were intertwined, and as genuinely sad and confused as I was, there was a weight lifted from me. I remember feeling guilty for feeling that way... But she never let me eat Long John Silvers, and all that deep fried fishy goodness was almost trumpeting a new era in my life!
The town where my sister lives was incredibly small, maybe about 1000 people. But the single strip mall that populated the main boulevard also had a computer repair store. So I wiped the tartar sauce from my face, and walked over there to see if I can try my luck. The owner was a very and rotund large man named Gary, and I introduced myself and rattled off my various certifications and asked him if he was looking for any new systems engineers. As it turns out, he had just fired his last one not two days ago and was swamped with work. He was pretty vague when I asked what he was fired for, but that wasn't important. Here was a cool opportunity, and when he asked what my salary requirements were, I figured I would further test my luck and quoted him a figure of about 50% more than what I made with the geek squad. His response, "is that all?" was like music to my ears.
So my next month was spent being the only person in the only computer store in this tiny little town repairing PCs. Gary and I had become pretty decent friends and shared a lot of the same interests. There is something really strange about him though that I could never really put my finger on at the time. But I always just chalked it up to being a part of nerd culture. We "Otakus" are a strange breed in that a lot of times we prefer the sanctity of our computers over human contact and I figured this was just the case. And after doing some great work for this guy, he hinted at me more than once that he was tired of running this shop and would like to retire soon. He had several other businesses that he was running at the same time which kept him busy in his office while I took care of affairs computer wise. I never asked what those businesses were, but he did say that he had a call center in Costa Rica that did a lot of the leg work for him. He further hinted that he would like to someday retire down there and leave "someone like me" in charge of the store. So I really felt that I was making progress in my life despite the fact that every night when I would go home I would get depressed over what transpired between Megan and I.
About a month and a half into the job, Gary told me that he was about to go on a cruise through the Caribbean and that his ship would be docked in Costa Rica. Which was slowly becoming one of his favorite places in the world. I was going to be in charge while he was gone. This was incredibly exciting as it was a sign that things were really starting to look up and that maybe I would find myself running the only computer store in an adorable little town completely free from bosses and untethered to any other policy except my own. He treated me to an overly expensive lunch at a country club restaurant and handed me the keys to the building.
I did it. I had gone from a depressed and almost broken man to a quasi-business owner in the span of only two months. This was to be my test, Gary told me. And if nothing screwed up, I would even be allowed to change the name of the store if I wanted to. Plus, he asked for only 10% of the total profits. The rest was mine, even the existing inventory. I only had to prove that I could do this for the length of time it took him to go on his cruise and come back.
That night, I was doing the 'happy dance' all over my sister's house. What an incredible stroke of luck! Soon I would be able to get a better car, a better place to live, and even make up for lost time with my son who was living in Orlando with his mother. I remember this as being one of the happiest moments of 2006 for me. So I went to bed early, got up early, in started the day feeling like a new man.
I parked my car in Gary's spot, and was literally dancing all the way to the door, keys in hand. I thought to myself, how I had come so far in such a short period of time. And as this key goes into that door, I'm opening the door to a new life and unlocking the halfway decent luck everybody else seems to have. What kind of new services was I going to provide? What kind of discounts? What kind of contracts could I look for, like wiring the local trailer parks up with Wi-Fi? I was as giddy as a school kid, I was as happy as a clam, and I felt like I had finally found my place in this world. It was such a warm fulfilling sensation, and one that I had never known before. And I grabbed hold of that sensation and kept it close to me to savor it.
Right up to the second when the federal agents tackled me, and put me face-first into the pavement while putting on the cuffs....