The people and random events that shape our lives (Part 13)

By late 1997, Julie was no longer enjoying her job. I would come home and cook dinner; then I would call her up and have a hard time nailing down a time when she would be home. She didn’t have a lot of pension but would have liked to gain a few more years.

There was an answer: if her husband had to move because of his job, she could take time off for up to five years and buy back that pension time.

While working for Carmine, I had met someone who had gone to work for Cisco Systems in San Jose, California. I called him up and he got an interview in an area that I had started exploring: Voice over IP. In the spring of 1998, we moved to California.

We lived in a enclave in an industrial park in San Jose, close enough to Cisco so that I could either cycle to work or walk to one of the Cisco buildings and get a shuttle from there. Julie spent her days finding her way around the freeways to grocery shops and a charity that she started working at. I was 52 when I started at Cisco. The average age in the company was about 26. At the first Christmas party, Julie made a bee-line towards the only woman on the other side of the room that seemed to be over 30. That person was Nancy Sharp and they became best friends. It was only later that she found out that her husband was my boss, John Sharp.

I was worried when I first joined Cisco that Julie would have a hard time. Most people are transient, only expecting to be in the area for a few years and typically don’t go out of their way to make friends. Julie had no problem; she had a great time, especially with Nancy. They became part of a cycling group, tripping around San Francisco riding their bicycles; they did the 60 mile walk for cancer and all sorts of things.

San Jose is an interesting area to visit – close to San Francisco and the wine country and going the other direction – Santa Cruz, Monterrey and Carmel. A slightly longer trip takes you to places like Yosemite. However, it’s expensive, there are too many people and the biggest drawback is that it isn’t in Canada.

We took regular trips back to visit Mom & Dad in Nanaimo and we noticed that every time the plane landed in Canada there was this sense of being home and feeling more relaxed. On one of those trips, while driving Mom & Dad around the city, we stopped and looked at some real estate. Just for interest, we called up a real estate agent and had him drive us around for a day. We didn’t see anything interesting and were going to call it quits when he suggested we look at a couple more places the next day. We walked into this house and it was a case of: “that’s it, this is our home.” We bought it but of course we didn’t live in Nanaimo (minor detail) so had to rent it out.

Back in our industrial enclave hovel in San Jose, we kept thinking about our home back in Nanaimo so I talked to my boss and made a deal to work out of our home in Nanaimo. We sold the house in San Jose and to celebrate, opened a bottle of red wine. The new owners had loved the carpets so there was some concern when in one of my celebratory gestures, my wine flew out of my hand and all over the carpet.

Luckily, the real estate agent knew of an ex-chemical engineer who in a lull in work around Silicon Valley had become a carpet cleaner. He did wonders – not a trace of the red wine.

When the movers came, Julie said to one of the movers: “You are going to put something down so you don’t put dirt on the carpet, aren’t you? The new owners really love the carpets”

“Of course”, said the mover “We’re professionals. We just want to take a look around first”.

So they walked in through the living room and up the stairs to the bedrooms and back. It was then that Julie noticed that one of them had tar on his boots – tar marks through the living room, up the stairs and then back.

No problem – back with the chemical carpet cleaner specialist.

Packed up, and ready to go, we headed up to Nanaimo. I continued to work for Cisco out of our home for another 6 years. In May 2006, we did a trip with our friends Ron & Claire. Ron had just retired in December and on the trip Claire decided to retire. So I decided to retire. I worked for one more year and retired in the spring of 2007.

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