The phone rang as I started shutting the front door behind me. In one of those momentous decisions that define history I overrode my initial inclination to continue on my way out and stepped back in and picked up the receiver.
“Hi, this is ___, from ____ are you guys still in business? Would you be interested in doing some work for us down at the tea factory?”.
The voice was unknown, but the caller’s name wasn’t, neither was the name of the company.
“Yes, of course, when would you like to meet?”, I replied.
“How about today, this morning?”
“Sure, we’ll be there in about 45 minutes”.
The meeting is fresh in my mind today. The large room which served as the caller’s office and also housed the computers in the corner, the crates lying behind me as I sat in the visitor’s chair. Caller was joined by another manager. Tea was served as only a tea company can serve tea, on a proper tray lined with a tray cloth, cups and saucers, milk and sugar in their own china dispensers and a tea pot nestled under a tea cozy, biscuits on a plate.
“We’re installing a time attendance system and we need someone who can quickly provide us with some basic reports on the data collected by the clocks in the crates over there. It has to be done in dBase II and must be ready in 5 weeks because that’s the agreement we have signed with the union. Can you handle it?”
“Oh, yes. It’s not a problem. What kind of data does the system create? I’ll need that technical documentation and we have to agree on the reports you need.”
Three reports were agreed on. I offered to bring in a proposal the next day. As we got up to leave, the other manager spoke up.
“Do you guys handle COBOL code as well? We have two or three payroll systems here that are written in COBOL and we’re looking for someone who can maintain them on a regular basis”.
My Beloved Bangalan jumped in with “Oh yes, we can give you a proposal for that too”. Handshakes all around signified the end of the meeting.
As we drove out of the factory gates “What is this dbaseII I keep hearing about?” was my first question to my wife.
“It’s some kind of database programming thing. I remember seeing it last year when I was at Z… We can pick up a copy and a manual from this guy. Let’s go now.”
We did and then I painstakingly typed out two proposals on the sparingly used manual typewriter, using two carbons. (Note for the children and grandchildren reading this…the CC in the emails you don’t use anymore stand for “Carbon copy”. Try Wikipedia or Google for more information).
The next day we presented our proposals and both were accepted.
Oh, and COBOL helped too. For tea gave us much jam and marmalade and steak and fries and trips to the beach, but COBOL provided the first taste of bread and butter we’d had in some time.
What? You think this memoir is incomplete? You want to know what happened in 5 weeks?
You’ll have to check back in again to read the next chapter.