Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis


There were many adventures in California.

The first one was shortly after I got there. Tom and I had taken a gaggle of customers out to a fancy Italian restaurant the night before and I had eaten myself silly. I had a hard time finding good flavors in Minnesota and my tongue just lost its mind in this restaurant.

The next morning, I pulled into the parking lot at the lab early in the morning and got out of the car and all I could smell was garlic. I thought OMG, I'd eaten so much the night before that it was seeping through my skin. I had just taken a shower but still. It was a strong odor. And I had no idea what to do. I smelled it on my hands so I decided to go on in and see if a good hand wash would fix that.

So I ducked into the first ladies room and did a surgery scrub of my hands. No garlic. Whew. Actually, I didn't smell any garlic on my skin at all. I went back outside. GARLIC!!

Turns out... upwind of the lab was the garlic growing capital of the United States. And it was garlic season and the whole region smelled like that - depending on the breeze - for weeks. I laughed at myself for days.

The job that Tom carved out for me was basically his majordomo. He inherited a staff who were not happy that his beloved predecessor had been reassigned. His secretary was hostile. His managers were confused. His main operations guy was great but had way too many balls in the air. So I filled in the gaps.

I'm the one who had to sit down with his secretary and explain that when Tom asked her to get him a car/driver he did NOT want a stretch limo. He liked having lunch with the people who worked for him and she should quit standing in the way of that, please.

He asked me to sit down with each of his directors and their top managers and let them vent. Find out what their agenda was and prep them for him. So I did. It was wild. Some were really hostile. Others were confused. No one hesitated to bitch up a storm to me. It was kind of impressive. I thought the exercise was kind of kinky, unorthodox and not very productive but, once again, I was wrong. It really did help - them and Tom.

One of those managers, upon learning I was a baseball fan, gave me his ticket to that night's San Jose Giants game. They were the single A farm team for the San Francisco Giants and played in this old wooden ballpark. The ticket was in the middle of a section of season ticket holders who sat together year after year and were a fabulous bunch. I was instantly adopted by the group, bought my own season ticket and ended up dating the guy in the next seat for several years. It was the first of many fun summer nights for the years that I lived there.

The IBM Lab was the first place that I ever saw non smoking areas outside. It was shortly after I moved there that they shut down smoking inside. But, hey, it was California. Even I, a dedicated indoors person, couldn't pass up the allure of clement weather all the time.

An aside here about smoking... up until this time - 1989 - IBM was incredibly tolerant of smokers and not just in the land of tobacco (in addition to Charlotte, they also had a plant in the Research Triangle of North Carolina). You could always smoke in your office. But the hilarity was in the conference rooms. They divided them in half. There was a little sign on one end. Smoking is Permitted. And one other other end. No Smoking. This was even in the smallest conference rooms - built for 4 people.

At Santa Teresa, we built a compatible little crowd of smokers and we favored a spot that, as it happens, was in easy view of Tom's office. He was not a smoker. And it drove him nuts watching us and wondering what we were talking about. That always amused me no end.

To Be Continued
Tags: tbc
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