Brain Freeze

I closed the door to my apartment, took a few steps towards the sidewalk and started to shiver. Only a two block walk to meet the bus. Felt like two miles. Each breath felt like a pin prick to the lungs.

By the time I arrived at the bus stop by toes were numb. I curled my fingers into a fist inside my gloves to keep them from the same condition. I told myself I could keep my body from shivering. But that came at the expense of my clenched jaw muscles.

And then I waited. In the dark just off Orchard Drive for the bus to arrive and transport me to the University of Utah. If the snow was packed tightly to the road I would stand still in wait. But if even the smallest patch of slush was on the road, I had to duck and dodge whatever dredge passing cars would toss my direction.

When I look back on these years I’m surprised I didn’t drop out of college. Or, at the very least, find a school far away from Utah’s cold long winters.

Yet, I was reminded why I stuck it out as I interviewed a recent college graduate this afternoon. I could see it in his eyes. That unbridled excitement. I could also sense his fear and uncertainty on a day the DOW dropped 733 points. There’s  no way he could predict our current economic crisis when he enrolled four years ago. Yet why now? Did he waste four years of his life?

I don’t think so. He related his reasons for going to college. It wasn’t to get a job. It wasn’t a springboard to another degree. Nope. It was to be challenged. To make himself a better person. To study subjects that challenged his beliefs. To grow up outside the safe confines of home.

And now he sat in front of me asking for a chance. Almost begging for an opportunity that may kick start his career. “I don’t know everything. I wasn’t a straight A student. But give me a chance and I won’t let you down.”

That could have been me begging for a break into the computer field nearly 14 years ago. I interviewed for a job at a local ISP and convinced the interviewer that I could learn Windows 95 although it wasn’t on the market yet. “I really want this job. I won’t let you down. Just give me a chance to prove myself.”

I laugh when I look back on those days. I loved the work so much I would have done it for half the salary. Remember Milton from Office Space who shows up to work each day long after they stopped his paychecks? That’s me minus the red stapler. 

What I learned at that first job was far more valuable than any check I took home.

Part of me misses those frigid cold mornings waiting in the dark for the bus. And the professors who challenged my beliefs. And feeding quarters to the Addams Family pinball machine between classes. And cramming all afternoon and into the evening until Seinfeld flickered across my old Magnavox.

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