Most nights I’d get into my little Vega Kammback wagon and head out to work. From the Lawrence Expressway/Stevens Creek Boulevard, San Jose on ramp, I’d floor the gas pedal to merge into northbound traffic on the Junipero Serra, 280 Freeway.
When I’d get beyond the clutter of Cupertino and Sunnyvale, there was a scenic stretch of road that at once made me curse Chevrolet’s laughable excuse for an engine and praise the powers that be for creating the most lovely commute route through rolling foothills imaginable. Many times of the year the sun would be setting during my drive.
Those were the nights I wanted to chuck it all and just drive through San Francisco, traverse the Golden Gate. Eureka would be one destination. Maybe I’d daydream about driving the West Coast of Canada then as far as I could go into Alaska. All of my fantasy driving would be done when my part of the world was darkened in nighttime.
It’s strange how living in a beautiful part of the country can force a man to move away from such an Eden. It’s not the beauty of the place itself that pushed me out. I loved San Jose and the Bay Area. It was close to my beloved San Francisco. What forced my hand was the cost of living. In order to afford living in such a place, work, work and overtime work was necessary. So much work that many of my peers and I hardly had the energy to enjoy living at a basic consciousness level. But I took as much culture and beauty as I could on my shoestring budget of time and money.
Soon enough something would snap me out of my reverie about escape and costs of living. Maybe a cloud formation or just the angle of the point of view. Where else can you travel to work in a metro area and have scenic outlook exits from the highway? Much quicker than I’d prefer, the exit to Palo Alto’s Page Mill Road presented itself.
I took Page Mill Road to one of the Hewlett-Packard factory buildings. Usually the main complex which insiders called “working on the hill”. H.P. was a wonderful employer. Above average pay scale and competitive benefits packages were the envy of the industry. I was inspired by working so close to so many innovative people and projects. My co-workers were solid, honest guys who formed a great team. I’d had my eye on H.P. for quite awhile.
It was my good fortune that my great-uncle Ivan was the coffee man at H.P.’s Building 17. Ivan was well-liked by everyone in Building 17. He even had a little joke column that was published in the Hewlett-Packard internal employee newsletter each month. Ivan put in the good word for me that clinched my hire. I was offered one of two positions in the maintenance department. One worked the swing shift the other was for graveyard.
To be honest, the graveyard shift paid much better than swing, so I selected the late shift. I was to perform general upkeep on and around H.P. property that was situated on leased Stanford University property which included most of Hewlett-Packard’s Palo Alto operations.
There were fluorescent tubes to change, latches to repair various interior components to fix and office reconfigurations to help manage. It was endless because H.P. had several acres of building space in Silicon Valley alone. The very best part about working graveyard shift at H.P. or probably at any company, is the low level of supervision. My supervisor simply gave me a work order sheet, pointed me in the directions of the projects and left me alone to complete the projects.
Sometimes more than one of us was required, at those times, the supervisor worked along side of us performing the same tasks. The work, itself, was rewarding and I sincerely enjoyed my fellow employees. I had a real pride in working for H.P.
Leaving the company was one of my more difficult decisions. I had the dream of working in broadcasting. I knew that I’d become caught up in the inertia of industrial and corporate life if I didn’t make the move sooner rather than later. So, reluctantly, I left the Bay Area, temporarily and H.P. permanently. I was warned that if I resigned from Hewlett-Packard that there was zero chance of being re-hired.
There are times that I wish I hadn’t quit H.P…. The rest of the time, I’m glad I left, because I wouldn’t have enjoyed the richness of what was to follow. What came next were more jobs working the graveyard shift. It’s where I want to be now.
The Blue Jay of Happiness sleeps during the graveyard shift.