HWY 70, Holiday Inn & the Fall of World Communism

It has been almost exactly twenty-five years since I drove on I-70, going the other way to take up my new job as an FSO.  We were living in West Lafayette, Indiana, where I had a very brief job as a market researcher at a firm called Microdatabasesystems (MDBS).  They made, as the name suggests, data base software.  Since I was the only guy in the marketing research department, I suppose I was the director.  Never trust titles. 

The firm had been founded by a couple of professors from Perdue.  They knew computers, but were not so strong on marketing.  I worked there a couple of weeks and learned the software only through the indulgence and kindness of the engineers who explained it so often.  Then the owners called me in and asked my opinion about their firm.  I was flattered and they were very nice and open.   I told them the truth.  That the software was wonderful in what it could do (for the time) but that it was too hard to use, maybe they should put in some menus or something.   One of the guys, very nicely but w/o attempting humor said, “If people are too dumb to use our product, perhaps they shouldn’t buy it.”  I am not sure of the exact words, but it was something close.  

I went back to my office and called the State Department. I had taken and passed the FSO tests, but they were doing a security check.   I asked when they would be done.   There was the usual pause while they looked up my stuff and then the woman told me that the security check was done and that I had been offered a job. I never saw the job offer.   It must have gone to my old address in Minneapolis. I was supposed to have responded by “yesterday.”  I asked for and got a one-day extension.   The next day I took the FS job and told my soon-to-be former employer that I was moving on.  I felt bad, but they were not that upset.  To my surprise, they asked me to stay as long as I could.   I don’t think I earned my salary, but if they wanted me to stay, I hung on for three more weeks.

So on a Friday, I finished work at MDBS and in the predawn darkness the next day got in the Toyota Corolla diesel (the first car I had ever owned) I had recently bought and headed down HWY 65-70.  Chrissy was still in Minneapolis finishing college, so I was alone.   The car didn’t have a radio.  Well, it had a radio but no antenna (don’t ask why) but it did have a tape player.  I had three tapes: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Linda Ronstadt’s County Songs and Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  Beethoven was on when the sun came up over the hills in eastern Ohio.   Michael & Linda got me through the darkness until then. 

When we think back to 1984, it all seems so easy.  But back then things were not so clear.  We were just coming out of a really bad economic time (worse & longer unemployment than today. Look at the chart.) and the pundits were telling us we would soon sink into something even worse.  Internationally it looked like the Soviet Union would last forever and they often seemed to be winning the ideological war.  I wanted to fight world communism, which I hated ever since Prof Artajani (I am spelling the name wrong) made me read Marx and I found out what a fraud the old fool was.  I think the professor thought we would be impressed, but any good and true son of the real working class can tell right quick that Marx stinks on ice.   I am pleased to say that within five years that benighted system was largely defeated.   I don’t know why it took others so long. The rest is history.

Anyway, I am staying at a Holiday Inn in Springfield Ohio and thinking about those times.   It features a “Holidome.”  I know that is so 1970s, but those are the times I became an adult and as far as I am concerned the Holidome is the ultimate in class, so I am content.  Tomorrow I will have breakfast in the Holidome before I head out to Wisconsin.

Pictures: the one on top shows turning leaves in Garrett County Maryland.  Fall comes early in the hills and seems to be coming early this year. 

Above is a rest stop in Ohio.  It is nice to have a rest stop.  Many in Virginia have been sold because of budget cuts.