Worship the Whale

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”

Mark Twain

January 2020.  The events of the last weeks of 2019 and the first few weeks of 2020 made that year memorable.  My contract with a large insurance company that shall not be named ended and I was terminated. I was with the client for nearly ten years.  When I tell people I was a  contractor with a single client for ten years, mouths drop open.  In the gig economy this is rare.  Who contracts with a single client for ten years?  Friday January 10th was my last day.  Two days later I was in Lynchburg, Virginia to begin a new contract engagement. Sometimes life moves quickly. As you get older you appreciate the little things.  This trip was special and I want to capture and share these memories before they fade away.  Every day is another opportunity to learn something new. Here’s what I learned from five days in Lynchburg.

It’s Nice to Get Out of the House

I’ve been working from home since 2006.  I don’t get out much and when I do I need to practice my social skills.  Working alone at home erodes your social skills.  Having your face buried in your computer screen or smartphone makes you dumb.  Social isolation with technology as your sole companion will  erode social interaction skills.  The Boss knows this all too well.  My last business trip prior to Lynchburg was 2.5 years prior and placing me in a situation where I have to interact with others can be dicey.  

“Be nice.  Be professional.  Don’t be yourself.”

“The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to make you be somebody else.” 

ee cummings

Staying in a Nice Hotel and Eating Out is Pretty Awesome

I had an excellent stay at the Virginian.  The hotel was a block away from my new client’s office and the room was stocked with bottled water from local springs and a Keurig coffee maker.  I did what I always do when I arrive in a hotel room with a coffee maker.  I check the coffee supply for correctness.  As I suspected, the K-cup selection was all wrong.  I had four servings of DECAF.  I immediately went down to the front desk with the K-cups in hand.

“Mr. Lee, is there a problem?”

I handed the coffee to the front desk employee and stated in a low firm voice,

“This is so wrong.”

The very nice young woman was in total agreement.  She walked me back to the front desk closet room and exchanged my DECAF for REAL COFFEE.  I also left a note next to the brewer for housekeeping to restock with only REAL COFFEE NO DECAF.  The rest of my stay went quite well.  The room was comfortable, quiet, and I had plenty of coffee.

Eating Restaurant Food Causes Obesity

I arrived in Lynchburg late on a Sunday evening and the only food available at the hotel was at the rooftop bar.  There was local craft beer on tap.  I ate there three times during my stay.  When you work from home you eat a lot of leftovers.  Some days you eat leftover leftovers.  By the time Saturday rolls around you simply have to go out to eat.  Taking all of my meals outside of the house this week was awesome despite needing to loosen my belt a notch by Wednesday.  My client treated me to dinner at The Depot Grille, a renovated old train stop that had nice local craft beer on tap.  Before I left town I was introduced to The Water Dog which was more of a Millennial type establishment that had even more nice local beers on tap.  After seeing the (beer) menus I thought to myself I could live here.

Despite the proximity of some fine eateries to the office I took most of my meals at the company cafeteria.  This company amenity should never be taken for granted.  I had plenty of good food, freshly prepared at reasonable prices. When you’re on business expense this is kind of important to avoid any potential criticism of your spending habits when someone else is paying.  So the accountants will be happy I found Benny’s.

I had forgotten how easily I gain weight.  Over time I’ve stopped eating the standard American diet (SAD) because it was the proximate cause for ballooning up to 370 pounds.  (I might have weighed more but I stopped weighing myself at 370).  For this trip I relaxed my dietary preferences and ate whatever I wanted to.  But at home I shifted back into my usual dietary routine.  I have no regrets about passing on the fried tofu sandwich at The Depot Grille.  I didn’t want anyone to think I was a vegan with a bad craft beer habit.

“Look for the human connection as you make your journey. Connect us to the people who connected with you.” 

William Zinsser

There are Really Nice People in Lynchburg

During my week in Lynchburg I met some very nice people.  The people you work with are just as important to your happiness as the work itself.  I ate lunch at the underwriter table in the company cafeteria all week.  I figured I needed as many contacts as possible once I started work in their systems and would need help and guidance.  I may work by myself from home but no one ever works alone.

In the office the number of people who stopped and asked me if I needed anything was astounding.  As I walked through the office I couldn’t help but notice how many whales there were.  I had to have one.  So every time someone asked me if I needed anything I asked for a whale.  I got a lot of laughs but the last person I asked reached under her desk and handed me a brand new still in the plastic bag tiny stuffed whale.

Take Home Lesson

It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.

Muhammad Ali

Faith, family, and friends.  Always remember to give credit and thanks to the people who helped you get to where you are.

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