"Make a contribution and you'll get a better seat." -Metallica, "Leper Messiah"

Latest Tweets

Dinner and Memories

Last Tuesday Susan and I were able to have dinner with Susan Wood-Butorac, a person who directly changed the course of both of our lives.

In the winter of 1995 I was twenty-two years old. I had been working as a contractor at the FAA for eight months, and had only been married to Susan for four. Beginning that fall, I started travelling all over the country, performing hardware upgrades on workstations and servers. If you really want to date this story, the objective of those trips was to make sure every 386 computer met a “minimum baseline” of 8MB of RAM and a 540 MB hard drive. The RAM and hard drives were so expensive back then that we weren’t even allowed to travel with them; they were shipped directly to the sites we visited, and inventoried both before we arrived and after we left.

For several months, I flew around the country performing these upgrades. I’d be gone for a week and then home for a week or two before heading back out. In just a few months I visited Phoenix, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Boise, none of which I’d visited before. On each trip I stayed in a nice hotel, got a generous per diem, and had access to a rental car. I ate like a king, drank like a fish, and met many people that I am still friends today. Life was good.

Sometime that winter, I visited Spokane, Washington. It was freezing cold, and the roads were covered in ice. On normal trips we traveled in packs of two but on this trip they sent four of us. When we got there, I discovered why. The office had recently expanded, and several of the employees weren’t even connected to the network. That was the trip I learned how to make network cables by hand. I spent a lot of that week climbing ladders and standing on desks, running cable through a drop ceiling — a task made more difficult by the fact that the building was built in the 1920s. Brick and cinder block barriers turned what would have normally been 10′ cable runs into 80′ mazes.

I loved it. I loved the work, the old building (which sat on the edge of a runway), the people who worked in the office, and the town itself. Back then Spokane was only a satellite office, and not fully staffed. When we left, I said (in a typical twenty-two-year-old cocky manner), “whenever you’re ready to hire a computer specialist, give me a call.”

A few months later in the summer of 1996, they did.

It was Susan Wood-Butorac who convinced the manager of the office (Art Jones) to give that goofy kid from Oklahoma a chance. Of course there’s never a guarantee that you’ll get a government job when you apply for it — in fact, the odds are kind of against you — but I went ahead and applied, Susan Wood-Butorac put in a good word for me, and the rest is history.

In September 1996, I packed my Dodge Neon full of computers and CDs and drove the 1,800 miles from El Reno, Oklahoma to Spokane, Washington. I distinctly remember arriving in town the day Weird Al was performing live in Spokane, which according to his website was September 10, 1996. A few months later, my wife also landed a job working at the Spokane Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). The two of us worked there until the spring of 1998, when we decided we’d had enough of being away from friends and family in Oklahoma and returned home. The time we worked in Spokane gave us reinstatement rights, which helped us later get our foot back into the door, eventually leading to the careers we have today.

And so this past week Susan Wood-Butorac was in town, and one night, over Mexican food and drinks, we shared a bunch of fun stories and memories of working in Spokane. Good times, then and now.

Similar Posts:

1 comment to Dinner and Memories

  • Paul in AZ

    Lots of great detail in the “then we moved to Spokane, and then we moved back” folklore that surrounds Rob O’Hara.

    I enjoyed reading this one.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>