Originally Posted: 18 February 2015 @ 10:04 PM (CST)
Updated: 20 February 2015 @ 04:05 PM (CST)
Well they blew up the chicken man in Philly last
Night now they blew up his house too
Down on the boardwalk they’re gettin’ ready
For a fight gonna see what them racket boys can do
Bruce Springsteen, “Atlantic City”
Approximately one (1) month after my return to Austin, TX from San Diego, CA, I was boarding an early morning flight at 0625 hours on September 21, 2014. I spent the night before at my parent’s house, in the newly created Savanna Ranch neighborhood of Leander, Texas – a suburb of Austin. This allowed me to grab an early Sunday morning ride to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) in south Austin, saving my parents from having to stop by my apartment in northeast Austin and saved me from having to pay for a cab, airport shuttle, or extended parking fee at the airport – which may or may not have been reimbursed by my company. I was en route to the Philadelphia International Airport, with a short layover at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. I had been in the northeast before. This wasn’t the first time I had ever been in the New England area, but it would be the first time I had ever been there alone.
I had experienced the northeast in 2007, to celebrate my grandfather’s birthday. It served as a joint family reunion and birthday party for my grandfather and his brother, John (My Great Uncle John, who I had visited back in 2000 while he was living in Victorville, CA). I also was in the area a year before in 2006, during a quick layover in, I believe, Philadelphia en route to visit my sister while she lived in Germany. There was at least one (1) other time I was in the northeast when I was younger, but I don’t recall most of that trip, nor is it really relevant to my Philadelphia Story.
Having always wanted to live in and truly experience the northeast, I welcomed the trip and was excited that my company would have selected me for such a project. I was new to the team and this would be my first true project, completely free of much oversight by management. I was unsure of myself, I was nervous. I had only traveled alone in this way once before in my life – a quick trip to Knoxville, Tennessee while interviewing for a position before my move to the city.
My supervisor, Gina, had suggested me for a possible trainer role with my company. It took a couple of months before it came to fruition. When it did, I was almost immediately flown to San Diego, CA to begin the role and studying for my state’s health producer licensing exam. In the meantime I would prepare mock training exercises and training classes for a number of different clients’ lines of business. I studied while I was in Austin, I studied while I was in San Diego, California, I studied when I returned. I passed the health insurance producer licensing exam upon my return to Austin. When my new manager heard I had passed the exam, so much changed – so much became a “full-steam ahead” mentality. I expected to fly to Philadelphia a few times then return to my position – working primarily as a business-to-business technical engineer for Samsung Telecommunications America (STA), the client I was hired to work for by my company back in July of 2013.
I owe much of what happened next, career-wise, to my Samsung supervisor, Gina, and my new training manager, Russ. Gina deserves more credit, I believe. If it wasn’t for her initial belief in me and her push to elevate my position within the company, none of this would have even happened. I also see Russ’ belief in me, and I can only apologize to the both of them for the later events.
On September 2, 2014, I began talking to a girl in Austin. She was amazing in many ways. We had these odd correlations in our life, yet our paths seemed to miss by a year or two. I would try, relentlessly, to talk her into meeting me somewhere. I would try to be charming via text messages. This back and forth continued, but I had to fly away before anything happened.
I arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania around 1200 hours on Sunday, September 21, 2014. I continued to text the girl, even from Pennsylvania. I was nervous. I was nervous about being alone in Philadelphia, approximately 1,800 miles away from family and friends. I was nervous about this girl. I was awkward being on my own so far away. I was awkward with the girl, but played it off as if I was some kind of semi-professional that had it all together. I assumed she saw through this easily.
I grabbed my bag from the baggage pick up, refusing any help offered by the airport staff, though I probably needed it for direction. I walked aimlessly outside the airport searching for the rental car location, finally noticing the sign advising to wait for the rental car bus for transportation to the rental car location. After jumping on the rental car shuttle and locating my rental car – which took a quick minute as I was unsure how the company had booked it. Apparently, they didn’t fully book the car. I had to decide which fees to have applied and which fees to be declined. I located the rental and drove about forty (40) miles northeast to the small town of Langhorne, Pennsylvania.
After locating the company selected Courtyard by Marriott and checking into my room, I grabbed a quick smoke outside. I wanted to take a moment and view the world from this new location. Somehow force myself to realize where I was in my life and from where I had come. I was somewhat disappointed by this Courtyard. In San Diego, my suite opened up to the outdoor pool and courtyard area. While my room in Langhorne was on a higher floor, I didn’t even have the added benefit of a balcony. I would later locate the actual courtyard. It was small, but there. A few oddly placed statues and a small overhang to protect from the rain and snow. I wouldn’t come to appreciate it on one of my later visits. Instead, I found myself escaping the hotel by using side doors and sitting along sidewalks. Knowing I’d be leaving early on Friday of the same week, I figured I would drive back into Philadelphia and check out what the city had to offer.
Having watched “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” at least once, I was aware of Paddy’s Pub. A friend had told me to try and find it and have a drink for them. I drove into Philly, becoming increasingly disappointed by the extensive roadwork along I-95. After attempting to find street parking in Old City, I forfeited the search and parked in a garage not too far from Independence Hall. I began walking the streets of Philadelphia, ultimately walking from Schuylkill River to the Delaware River and from Washington Avenue to Callowhill Street. I finally accomplished the task of locating Paddy’s Old City Pub, tucked away in Old City. Disguised by a single door. It was small. Only enough room for the bar, a row of tables against the wall, and a tight walkway to the back. The room was filled with smoke, as Paddy’s was one of the remaining establishments not to turn toward the 21st Century’s smoke free fad. I also found Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the Jewish museum – all near each other. I successfully lost the parking garage after my long venture through the city. I had turned myself around numerous times as I searched for an ATM and my garage. I eventually found the garage, my rental car, and my way back to the hotel hours later.
I arrived back at the hotel room. As I ensured that everything was prepped for work in the morning, I walked out of the room to grab the last bag out of my car. I then found myself locked out of my room. While attempting to ram my shoulder against the door to pop open the lock, my glasses tumbled from their grasp around my ears, hit the door and snapped in half as they hit the floor. I was given another room for the night until the mechanic was available to remove the lock and allow me back in the room.
I sent a text to my mother that night. After trying to break into my room, I had broken my glasses and didn’t bring my back-up pair or my contacts. Luckily, the hotel staff found super glue. I super glued my glasses together and my parents sent my back-up glasses and contacts overnight via FedEx. I have always claimed and will always claim that I have the best parents around.
I was bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt
I was unrecognizable to myself
I saw my reflection in a window, I didn’t know my own face
Oh brother are you gonna leave me wastin’ away
On the Streets of Philadelphia
~ Bruce Springsteen, “Streets of Philadelphia”
No matter what happens, my parents are always there to help, even when they don’t have to be or aren’t necessarily expected to be. I will never fully understand why I can’t be 100% open to them about my life or struggles. I know I don’t want to worry them or try their love. I don’t want to ever disappoint them or be less than what they have thought I would be. Sorry, mom and dad, but I won’t be an astronaut and I, most likely, won’t be president. If it’s any consolation, I hope to be at least half the parent you two have been to me. I only hope that my child(ren) will think the same of me, if I am ever to have my own child(ren).
The mechanic opened the door by removing the electronic locking mechanism. I quickly grabbed my things and drove to the office – luckily only half a mile from the hotel. I arrived to work two (2) hours late. Can you imagine how I felt? Two (2) hours late to your first training class that you were leading without support. The entire class and operations team waiting for your arrival. I felt horrible. I felt that, upon my arrival back to the office in Texas, I would be fired – or, at very least, demoted to my previous position, immediately. Because of this, I refused to leave the room except for work. No more adventures around the city or into Philly. All work, no play. It was a rough training. I knew the new employees weren’t going to be the best. It was partially my fault, partially the fault of the company. I had purchased an adapter for my laptop at a Best Buy near my parents’ house on my way to spend the night before the flight. The adapter didn’t work perfectly. The employee logins weren’t ready, the systems weren’t up and running, I had to train from PowerPoint slides and Word documents. It was a rough training.
Where do all the hippest meet? (South Street, South Street)
Where the dancin’ is elite (South Street, South Street)
Side by side we’re loose and neat
When we’re stompin’ down the street
Hurry down, baby she’s the hippest street in town!(Oh baby)
~ The Orlons, “South Street”
I would allow the training class slightly extended breaks. I would go outside, as I was one of the few with a working badge, and smoked with the new employees and discuss the position, the expectations, the good and the bad of the training. I wanted to be the best and provide the best training possible – Sometimes this can only be found when sharing a smoke (or a vape nowadays) with the new employees, or so I’ve heard over the years from those who have trained me. I would adjust my training as much as I could to accommodate their requests, but was afraid to change too much as I was new myself and assumed my company would not like some new guy shaking up the curriculum too much.
By the end of the week, September 26, I had apologized to the new hires. I apologized that the training wasn’t the best, that we didn’t have everything we needed, that the supervisors weren’t trained for it, that I nor any other trainer would be there to support them. But, I had to leave early to catch my flight home – home to Texas, home to Austin. It’s still a bit weird to call Austin home – even though I’ve lived in the metro area since 1998 (with a two-year stint in Knoxville, TN). I was happy to be leaving Philadelphia. It was a stressful week.
My parents picked me up around midnight on September 27, 2014. I would be in Austin for a week, then I would fly back to Philadelphia to train the next class. I was able to talk the girl I had been texting to meet up with me on October 2, 2014, three (3) days before my next flight to Philly on October 5, 2014.
The story about meeting her and what transpired is enough for a completely separate entry. So, I’ll breeze over it, as some of it will be revealed in this entry.
I left for Pennsylvania again on October 5, 2014, much in the same way as I left before. I was sitting in on a training during the first week, devising my own training and performing impromptu training while the Program Manager stepped out to handle other pressing matters. The program manager would pull me aside, after hours to discuss my performance and his belief in me. I created training documents that he pushed me to tweak and make more official in future trainings as I would be the primary trainer for his classes.
I’ve got a lump in my throat from letting you in my mind
There’s still a hope in my heart that somehow we’ll never die
I hate to break apart your life this early on
But when the morning light arrives, I’ll be gone
Cloud Control, “Scar”
The second week was a slightly improved version of the September class. I stayed late and went into the office on the weekend to ensure everything was going well and to provide support. I had a newfound respect for my position, my career, myself. I wanted to be the person everyone looked to for the answer even if I didn’t have it. I knew I wasn’t perfect, even then. I knew there was room for improvement, as there always is. I was the person everyone turned to for the answer, for the process, for practical use scenarios. I could fake it very well, as the majority of it was easily come to through logical thinking.
I found myself stopping by the hotel bar for a night cap and a cigarette in the courtyard. I knew I wasn’t perfect, even then. I knew there was room for improvement, as there always is. I continued to text the girl I had started talking to in early September and had met in early October. I couldn’t wait to be home, but enjoyed being away from the office with little supervision and allowed to perform my job. I still expected to be fired or demoted at any point. I waited for the phone to ring, I waited for my manager’s name to show up on the iPhone’s caller ID. It never did.
I was locked out of my hotel room again during this visit to Langhorne, PA. Upon my leave I told the staff that I was going for a hat trick (referencing a soccer player making three goals) on my next trip – three (3) lock outs. They said they hoped it didn’t happen again, but provided extra reward points, free food, and drinks.
I stayed at the office late on the 17th of October and missed my flight home. Actually, I made it to the airport on time, the rental car bus was late. Projection, I know. I ran to the ticketing desk and was advised I had plenty of time to make my flight. The gate was at the end of the airport. Instead of connecting in Chicago, as I had on my way to Philly this trip, I flew into Dallas/Fort Worth, the epicenter of 2014’s Ebola scare. I would have to sleep in the airport as the airport hotel was full and the next flight out would be till the next morning. My parents, being the amazing people they are (and maybe a bit crazy), drove up to Dallas and picked me up.
I drove to the girl’s apartment and picked her up. We went to the Nomad Bar in Austin on October 18th and discussed our relationship. The reasons for and against. She said she was being selfish even looking for someone. That she may be leaving the state soon. I wonder if I pushed her. By the end of the night, on October 19, 2014, we were officially dating. I would only be home for a week before I had to leave for Philadelphia again. We hated that.
Training in Langhorne was even better than the last time. I was getting really good at this job. Everything started working as it should with almost no oversight by the operations team or my manager. The girl was sent to New York City by her company for a possible position. My Philadelphia story included a lot of firsts for me. I had visited New York while en route to the family reunion back in 2007, but didn’t really experience the city that never sleeps. I didn’t walk the streets. My parents drove around the city and I viewed it and the sights from the car window. The training was going well and I was beginning to really hold my own in this position. Multiple people higher up in the organization enlisted my services as a spy to report back concerns that were uncovered during my visits. I didn’t bother myself too much with the ongoing drama at the office. I ensured I had everything on my end done. I had set up a meeting with the girl in New York.
After downloading the NJ Transit iPhone app, MyTix, I purchased a round-trip ticket from Trenton, New Jersey to Penn Station in New York. I left work on October 30, 2014, and drove to Trenton, NJ, which was about ten (10) miles away from Langhorne, PA. I parked in a garage across the street from the Trenton Transit Center. It would be my first train ride. It was a bit horrifying and I nearly missed the train. But the New York trip is for a different entry. Let’s just say, I was ready to move to the northeast if I needed. We walked the city for hours. My hour-long train ride back to Trenton left around 2 AM. Back at the Trenton Transit Center, I walked across the street to find the garage had closed. My rental car locked in. No phone number to call.
After successfully freaking out, I found a sign that instructed those of us parked in the garage after a certain hour should use the front of the garage for entry and exit. I thought I was at the front. I walked around the garage and drove home. As I drove along US Route 1, I noticed the toll road sign and began fumbling around for a dollar.
It only took a few days before the girl was called back and advised that she had been chosen for the position in New York. I promptly began wondering what it would be like to live in the northeast. During the next week (November 3-7), I was advised that my stay would extended by a week, turning a 2-week stay in Pennsylvania into a 3-week stay. At some point during this three (3) week stay in Langhorne, I mentioned to our Account Director that I had always wanted to move to the northeast and felt that I would be a great addition to our Langhorne team.
I was able to talk my company into allowing me to fly home after the second week. I had personal things to take care of, but also wanted to spend time with the girl – my girlfriend by this time.
I was able to spend a quick day back home. Then had to go back to the airport for work on Monday. The flight back to Philadelphia was delayed for so long, my connection departed before we were off the ground. I had to call the airline and book a new flight. This was an interesting discussion with the airport customer service representative on the other end of the phone. Advising me that the plane was currently boarding, me advising him that I was in the line at the airport and we were, most definitely, not boarding. I was in a decent amount of trouble upon my return to Philadelphia and again a week later in Austin.
There’s this movie that I think you’ll like
This guy decides to quit his job and heads to New York City
This cowboy’s running from himself
And she’s been living on the highest shelf
I just wanna, I just wanna know
If you’re gonna, if you’re gonna stay
I just gotta, I just gotta know
I can’t have it, I can’t have it any other way
~ Vance Joy, “Riptide”
The girlfriend had been negotiating her move to New York. I began filling out applications and sending my resume to numerous companies in the New England area, primarily in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. I even received callbacks within 24-48 hours. I was almost certain I would be living in the northeast by 2015, or shortly thereafter. Instead of spending autumn in Boston, I chose to spend it in New York on 5th Avenue and at Rockefeller Center with her. I figure, there’s always time to go back.
I considered leaving my company if they wouldn’t transfer me to the northeast, just so I could be near her. I thought about all the Bob Dylan songs about New York, I thought about how I would never be able to afford an apartment alone in New York…
So one morning when the sun was warm
I rambled out of New York town
Pulled my cap down over my eyes
And heated out for the western skies
So long New York
Howdy, East Orange
~ Bob Dylan, “Talkin’ New York”
Upon my arrival back in Austin, my manager brought me into a conference room to discuss the delay in travel and my performance in Pennsylvania. The discussion went from dissatisfaction to a discussion of my willingness to work in Pennsylvania, full-time, indefinitely. We discussed options and possibilities. It wasn’t an offer. Not at that time. The girlfriend would ultimately turn down New York. We discussed the possibility of me moving to Pennsylvania and what that would mean for us. She looked into other possible locations near Langhorne, but moving was ultimately a costly venture as it always is.
The last week of November 2014 was my last in Philadelphia. I would spend Thanksgiving in Langhorne. I wasn’t sure if I would ever return. I met a lot of great people there. My coworkers in Langhorne were/are great people. I wish I could work with them more. A few people from the office invited me to their places for the holiday, but I only wanted to be in one place…
It snowed the day before Thanksgiving. The governor of New Jersey declared a state of emergency. I reported this to the team at Langhorne as a large percentage of our staff lived in NJ. They shut the office down early that day. I successfully shut down an entire office building. I ended up staying at the office to finish up some work with access to the company’s network. I spent Thanksgiving alone in my hotel room. I considered going to Boston for Thanksgiving or exploring Philly again. Then I walked outside…
I arrived back in Austin to prep for my next assignment in Pennsylvania. I expected to continue my back and forth flights in a couple of months. The girlfriend began staying over at my place, essentially, moving in with me during the month of December. By the end of December of 2014, my company had almost confirmed my move to Philadelphia. By January of 2015, they wanted me moved to Pennsylvania or New Jersey by January 10th, or no later than January 14th. We continued to discuss different options as I had my apartment in Austin till June.
The company requested that I begin looking for an apartment in PA or NJ so that they could consider pay increases and taxation. Bristol and Levittown, PA were possible new locations. Somewhat between the office in Langhorne and Philadelphia. Ultimately, Bristol and Levittown would not be where I would move, though the “Bristol Stomp” and “Bristol Twistin’ Annie” were both on my mind.
The kids in Bristol are sharp as a pistol
When they do the Bristol Stomp
Really somethin when they join in jumpin
When they do the Bristol Stomp
~ The Dovells, “Bristol Stomp”
It wasn’t the right time for her to move. She passed up a position in New York, where she had been looking for an apartment that allowed a dog. She doesn’t have a dog. I do. She had a great relationship with her coworkers in Austin. She had a future in Austin. A career outlook in Austin. I was based in Austin. Though, who knows if I had anything to do with her decision.
I began packing in preparation to move. I didn’t know if I would be moving to PA or somewhere else in Austin, or even in with my parents.
Bristol twisting Annie
Lay your twisting down
Bristol twisting Annie
Lay your twisting down
~ The Dovells, “Bristol Twistin Annie”
I have graced over a lot of my Philadelphia story as the night has gone on. I skipped over my quick drive by Sesame Place, the Sesame Street theme park in Langhorne, how I almost visited Love Park on Thanksgiving, and glossed over how I became an elite member of the Marriott hotels, and a Budget Fastbreak membership, etc.
Most of that is worthy of its own entry.
The girl from September of 2014, left for her home in Ventura, California in January of 2015, when I was expected to be back in Philadelphia. I stayed. She returned on January 31, 2015. I asked her to marry me. That’s another entry, as well.
Ultimately, the company refused to increase my pay or even provide a cost of living adjustment, regardless of evidence. I turned this down. I stayed in Austin.
This was the majority of my Philadelphia Story. How I came to be, for a short moment in my history and my life, a Pennsylvanian. A Pennsylvanian turned back to an Austinite.
Maybe I’ll expand more… later.