Ok, my sincere apologies if I've held up the works here. Stupid things like work, sleep, kids etc have delayed my foray into the art of lying to you all. I won't let it happen again.
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@Fiatjeepdriver @BigIona @street.credor @64spoons
and others get ready. I don't do things small:
1. Disney World is so Expensive it almost killed my Entire Family
In 2007 my wife and I had saved up enough money to take our first real family vacation. Or so we thought. My nuclear family is a 5 piece ensemble cast. Wife, 3 daughters (twins and an older kid) and myself.
Let me explain one thing clearly to the crew here: I hate Disney World. I have never been there. But I hate it. How can you hate something you’ve never experienced? It’s the idea, the façade of family values used as a vail to collect your cash. Some of you here may love it and I don’t judge you one bit. But its not for me.
That said, it is for my wife and kids. So I priced it. And despite having saved what we thought was a decent amount of money for our adventure, we weren’t close. I tried all kinds of permutations to make it work and it just didn’t.
While my wife was disappointed I was elated. No need to stand on the soap box and deny the kids their choice of venue. We just couldn’t do it. But we still had the funds. So I suggested something different. I suggested Costa Rica. I had never traveled abroad and we had been watching some TV programs recently that had highlighted the beauty and fun that Costa Rica had to offer. On top of that I priced it and we were able to go to Costa Rica as a cast of 6 (I added my sister to have another adult on the trip) for less than half the cost of Disney World.
Great! Done Deal! Let’s go!
Everything was arranged including the use of a rental car. A couple days in to our trip I picked it up from the rental place (people drive a bit crazy in San Jose Costa Rica) and decided to pay the extra for the GPS system. Afterall, I didn’t know where I was going and while I speak a little (very little) Spanish, having a GPS companion could only help right? Well what if the GPS only spoke French?
Yes that’s right my GPS only spoke French and we couldn’t get it changed. Thankfully my wife can speak some French more than the little Spanish I can muster so we moved on with.
One day we decided to drive up to Irazu National Park. Costa Rica has active volcanoes you see and this one was only 26km from our hotel. Well, it was 26km to get to the base of the mountain and then another 25km or so up! The volcano itself is “only” an estimated 3km high (11260ft) but the road to the top winds so much that you are driving another 25km. By the way your driving this 25km, though village settlements with a French Speaking GPS system. You’re also stuck behind a rather large chicken coop truck. But your following along, driving through clouds, circumventing the odd cow all the while your French is GPS is telling you to go straight “droit”, left “gauche” or right “aller a droit.” Simple?
Your almost near the top and still behind this chicken truck when your GPS tells you very definitively to make a right. The truck did too…. So no problem. Then the truck makes another right and finally you have no one blocking your front view. The road has started to be a little rough and undulates but your rental is all wheel drive. So no biggie. But you’ve now driven another 1/4mile and there’s nothing. You drive a bit more and all of a sudden the road narrows. Narrows to roughly 1 ft wider than the width of your car. On the left you can literally stick your hand out the window and touch the mountain. To the Right……….. nothing. No guardrail, no wall, just a drop.
Now mind you, I’m doing all this while the rest of the crew is ambivalent. My sister is reading. My kids just watching, what do they know? If dad is doing something it has to be safe. My wife is resting. I’m as tense as tense can be. I can’t turn back. My hands have griped the wheel so tight they’re red. My right leg is stiff with anxiety. Steady.. Steady and hope for some road. All of the sudden my sister yells. “Where the F*ck are we!?!?!” And now everyone knows. Inside I’m in turmoil but on the out side I have to stay calm. “It’s alright, we have room I tell them, I think we made a wrong turn but its ok.” The tension is high. This all takes a matter of 5 mins but it feels like a lifetime. Finally there’s a clearing on the side of the mountain. We pull into it, get out of the car and relax for a few. After thinking over our options, unless we called for a helicopter, we had to drive back. (If only I owned a Breitling Emergency?)
So now we do it all over again. Except this time to the right is the mountain, to the left is the abyss. Steady steady steady….. We finally get back to the area where I had made that French instructed right turn. And not 500ft from there was the entrance to the National park we were supposed to have used.
If you ever go to Costa Rica I recommend it. Irazu is cool. Has multiple craters and regeneration zones. Interesting wildlife.
Just make a left at that last turn.
2. I was Invicta’s #1 Man!
By trade my career is in Human Services. A catch all title for physical, mental health, disability services and the like that don’t specifically fall into Social Services or the medical field. It’s a very rewarding career path. As long as you don’t worry about the money. To that end many of us (even those of us experienced and at a higher level in our field) take on second jobs to make ends meet. The reality of this need was coming to bare as my wife and I valiantly tried to pay the bills for a family of five on only one job each and found our efforts to be less than we would need to be comfortable. They don’t tell you this in parenting class but apparently kids want to eat? Go figure.
One day I was walking with the family at NJ’s Garden State Plaza mall, one of the more posh (not most posh but more) shopping structures in the state. And there is was in shinning Yellow. They were opening an Invicta store. At the time I probably had something in he neighborhood of 30 invictas so I turned to my wife and said; “that’s it, I’ll get a second job there and if they don’t hire me, I won’t buy their watches anymore.” I send an email to the address listed on the yet to be opened door and roughly three days later I was contacted for an interview. I aced it naturally. No one knows as much about watches as we collectors right? Perhaps that’s not 100% true but you can be darn sure I knew more than the retail person interviewing me. I was hired as part of the very first wave on Invicta retail employees in the North east. They tried to give me the manager’s job but I declined due to time constraints. We opened the first store as a team of 5. You think ordering a watch, unwrapping it and setting it for the first time is exciting? Try unwrapping and setting 1000 in a day. The experience was somewhere between torture and that fantasy most kids have had about getting locked in a toy store with no adults. I was with Invicta for over two and a half years. In that time I was the sales leader all but 2 months. They asked me be head of product information for all the retail stores and I created one page practical knowledge sheets for the entire company to use to train other sales people. I got to meet Eyal Lalo, Jason Taylor, and Gabrielle Union. One day a large imposing man came into the Mall and into our store. After trying on 6 watches a co-worker came in and said “wow, Willie Calhoun”. He was a NY Jets’ player. I became his personal watch liaison as he bought over 20 for himself and his entourage. Chris Canty (NY Giants) heard about the service and I ended up doing the same for him. I sold a $10k diamond encrusted Russian Diver to a famous TV preacher (whose name I’m not allowed to share). I was invited on the Invicta Cruise for free. All in all it was quite a trip that all started cause I collected so many watches that I always seemed to know more than most of the others.
Because of my great sales numbers and product knowledge I was offered a permanent position with Invicta corp in Florida. They wanted me to head their retail training team. The regional general manager offered me a watch a month on them, and free travel to any of the states that stores are in (which includes Puerto Rico), free use of company cars when in Florida (shocker they were all yellow!) and free travel back and forth to NJ while finalizing relocation. I had to turn them down. I couldn’t see giving up a 25+ year career that I had developed and I couldn’t leave all my family and friends (of course the wife and kids would’ve come along.) In a last ditch effort Eyal himself called me to ask me to reconsider but I said I couldn’t. Two months later I handed in my resignation. I had only every intended for it to be a part-time job. But it was quite a ride.
Looking back I’m not sure I would’ve loved having to only wear and represent Invicta. I mean it wasn’t a rule unless you were on the job but the feeling from the higher ups was that it was an unwritten rule. I like some Invictas, an obvious statement since I had so many at one point but I don’t love the direction they’ve taken over the past few years. It makes me wonder if I could’ve kept up with the knowledge that lead to my success if I didn’t have the passion for the product? And btw working in your hobby is not always fun.
3. Why You Should Mind Your Own Business when Parking (AKA – How my deadly nut allergy saved my bacon)
While navigating the early parts of my career in Human Services I took a job many of us have had at one point or another of Group Home Manager. A group home is a normal sized home where 3-6 people live who need some level of assistance due to their disability, diagnosis, etc. Running a group home takes a lot of your personal time. But overall its fun. You help people cook, learn to clean. Take people out to do things they’re interested in. Frankly if you can run you own house without burning it down, you can manage a group home.
As I said though you pretty much take on anything and everything that a person in that home would need. One of those needs is travel. Most of the people I served through the years and all of the people I served during the time of this story needed help to travel. That could mean just to get to the corner store or doctor’s office or longer travel as well.
Enter Harry. Harry lived in the home I managed in Northern Passaic county NJ but his family lived in Kansas. As such Harry like to travel to visit them around the holidays. Most airlines offer assistance to someone with a disability when flying but still as the manager of the home it was my job to organize everything to make Harry’ flight home a smooth transaction.
To set the scene, we are at Newark Airport NJ and it is December 23rd 2000. I have taken care of every detail. Luggage: check, booked the in flight assistant: checked, organized who will pick him up on arrival in Kansas: check. There shouldn’t have been a problem.
We arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare. We grab Harry’s luggage and we check it in, go to the terminal to situate his tickets. So far, so good. Now we go through security on our way to the gate. Harry passes through no problem. I take the keys out of my pocket put them in the little bin along with my Blackberry and walk through. Ring ring ring. The lights flash, I have set off the metal detector. Ok no problem. I walk back through. Show them my belt, try again, NOPE. Ring ring ring. The security guard says, “that’s weird, are you sure you don’t have anything else in your pockets?” Its winter and I am wearing a NY Ranger’s winter coat. Its bright blue and red and has two out and one inner pocket. I tell her “no nothing else” and then proceed to show her my jean pockets inside out and the outside pockets of my coat. Then I reach my hand into my inside pocket where I feel a bunch of papers and one shotgun shell.
About five year earlier I was going to dinner with a friend. It was a Chili’s in Little Falls NJ. Nothing fancy or special but it was popular. Us New Jersians need our chicken crispers! Being that it was popular parking was always a pain in the rear. As we circled the too small for the number of customers lot we can to a space that we could barely squeeze into. Why? Next us was a large SUV which had decided to park in two spaces. Annoyed, I took a piece of paper out of my coat (the same coat) and a pen (I usually carry one) and wrote a note that said, “The lines are for parking between” I placed said note on the windshield of the mechanical behemoth and went about my dinner. After finishing we return to my car. The SUV was gone but the note wasn’t. It was on the top of my car with a 12 gauge shot gun shell being used a paper weight. Apparently the folks who owned the SUV weren’t looking for parking advice. They wanted to send me a message of their own. I took the note and the shell and put them in my pocket.
Fast-forward; were back in the year 2000. I feel the shell in my pocket and time freezes. What do I do? Pull it out and explain myself? I think “Harry’s not going to Kansas and I’m going to jail.”
I am allergic to nuts. Tree nuts not peanuts. Almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, hazel nuts. I break out in hives and my throat can even close at times. Once my wife even pecked my check at dinner after having a filbert and my face blew up like air was being pumped into a float for your pool. As such I know carry an epi pen. Back then, in the year 2000 I didn’t but I did carry Benadryl on me.
As I rummaged quickly through my coat I decided not to take out the explosive device I had put there 5 years earlier and just took out all of the papers. As I did so one tab of Benadryl still in the foil fell to the ground. I didn’t even see it fall. The security guard looked down, bent over and said “oh its ok sir, its just your medicine, these things set off the alarms all the time.” And with that , she let me through. Harry made it to Kansas and I avoided multiple cavity searches.
This story would have a very different ending had it occurred one year later.
My nut allergy which could kill me, saved me from jail and probably saved my job that day.