Monday, March 23, 2009

What were you doing 20 years ago, 1989

After reading Squid's great post on what he was doing 20 years ago, I thought I'd do the same! Here is the heavily abridged version.

Hmm. In March 1989 I was 19 years old. I was doing a grade 13/14 thing at high school and contemplating college after the summer. I played in a local Ottawa band called AFTER THE FACT that wrote and recorded original music, which at the time, was my primary focus and attempt at a career(that's me with the red guitar, I still have it!!!). Until I woke up to the harsh reality of musical life and discovered that I did not live in Toronto or Vancouver, I did not play french music and wasn't into being a starving artist(sigh). Which was too bad because it was an awesome amount of fun to do while it lasted and enabled me to meet and work with a ton of great and talented folks, some of whom I still talk to today.

I was still living with my parental units and for extra money I worked at the Vanier Cineplex Movie Theater combining another love of my life - Movies! More importantly FREE MOVIES! (check out this memorial website for a sister theatre of the time). There I met a ton of weirdos and all kinds of weird stuff happened (see "the poop crayon") which should and will be detailed in another blog entry. Suffice it to say I became an expert on how to handle mentally ill street folk and other types of disgruntled patrons.
One funny thing about the theatre was you got constant updates on the local dating scene. Like the girl who would come to 4 movies in the space of a week on a different night each with a different guy (sometimes to the same movie). Hmm. Then the same guy she bring twice in a row after that was the winner I guess. Vanier could be a tad violent and we sometimes hired cops to stand in theatre on Tuesday's, Fridays and Saturday nights (all nights I worked) to deter the more rambunctious patrons.

I also worked at Consumers Distributing, that catalog place where you'd write something down and give the paper slip to someone and they would go and bring it out for you. I was that guy. They called us "Pickers". We had no computerized inventory so we were a bit screwed up. We'd only know when we were out of stock of something when we went to get it and it was not there. Then we'd take this little inventory magnet the shelves used to have and put it on the main board in front. That was the out of stock list. There were several weirdos there. On my first day my co-worker asked me to punch him as hard as I could in the arm and then he'd do the same to me to see who could hit harder(I tend not to play games with people who suggest things like that. I figure they know something I don't). My first week someone got fired for answering the telephone with "Welcome to Dr Morgentallers, you rape em we scrape em". (Ack!). I was surprised to find out that Consumers sold women's vibrators. 3 or 4 a week! Sometimes the guys would put batteries in them and leave them on the metal shelves turned on and they'd make a hell of a racket until our boss would go and shut them off. That summer we sold these Battery powered squirt guns and we unpacked a bunch of them and had water fights in the aisles when the boss was on vacation. It seemed we could do whatever we wanted with the stock as long as it stayed inside the store. One day our radio in the back died, so one of the guys took a ghetto blaster off the shelf, dropped kicked it and said "Oops, damaged item, return to stock!" and we opened it and used it as the warehouse radio for the rest of the summer.

It was here that I first found out about that mysterious organization called "The government". Some people had left to work there "on contract" and I heard it was a money pit compared to the $5 an hour I was probably making back then. I vowed to explore this option in the near future. I was let go from Consumers when I told them I was going to college that September and would not be able to work days. SO they replaced me with a skinhead kid from Cornwall who had come up to go to college. Guess the boss just didn't like me. I saw the old boss a few years later when I got in full time with the Feds. He was still there, Consumers was in it's death throes and he congratulated me on my career path like you would congratulate someone for coming down with Cancer.

It was around this time (or the year before) that we got our first household computer, an IBM XT. I think it was my dad's attempt at getting me to look at other career possibilities other than Music, which wasn't really going anywhere. We had a 4 color monitor! Then we had EGA which was 16 colors and VGA which was 256 colors at some thing like 320x240 or 640x480 resolution (as I write this today on a dual monitor 24 inch LG Flatron @1600x1200 with 32 bit color). It didn't take long to get some proficiency with DOS. PROMPT=$P$G anyone? Who writes this stuff? I remember my Dad getting into the PC as well, it was his after all. He'd bring it into work at the fire station sometimes to learn how to work it on his downtime so I'd only get to mess with it when he'd leave it at home. I remember visiting some guy's house and seeing a cool menu and getting a copy of that and discovering...

YOU CAN MAKE EXACT COPIES OF STUFF! Ones and Zeros! Intellectual property be damned! WOOHOO! This coming from a kid who used to hook up 3 VCR's in series with RCA cables to copy movies he rented from the store 2 at a time. Dos commands like TREE being a pain in the ass I remember using a utility called XTREE all the time. I loved that proggy. Making directories all over the place (we called folders that back then).

We had a gigantic 10MB hard disk. A few short years later I remember paying $500 for a second-hand 100MB hard drive which meant I could have all the Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest, and Space Quest games on the same hard disk! SIERRA games were the start of a huge gaming habit back then.

I had met the future Mrs Zartimus around this time and she was the ex-girlfriend of a friend and co-worker of mine at Cineplex. He was trying to get back together with her and I was helping. Really and truly I was (no sarcasm here although it's hard to tell in print). Since this involved spending a lot of time with her, telling how great my Friend was and how they should get back together, one thing led to another and the focus soon shifted to "Hey, she's really cool, perhaps I should re-think this whole helping her get back together with her old boyfriend thing." My friendship with my old co-worker did not fare so well for a time, but I got married to Mrs Zartimus 6 years later in 1995 (two kids and still going strong).

I liked the times back then, not as many responsibilities but I have way better toys and gadgets today than I did back then. Thanks to facebook I'm back to hanging around with some of the same weirdos I hung around with back then. And the money's better!

I'd say there here is now. What were you all doing 20 years ago?


Evolving Squid said...

I used to go to the Vanier cineplex/odeon back in 89. It was the closest theatre where I lived, and IIRC, was also a reprise/last-chance theatre where movies would be playing after tehy were out of the front-line theatres.

Lots of fun was had there.

Mike said...

'89 eh. Wow. Working at the Auto Trader part time, attempting to take CompSci at college the other half of the time. Already a full year into Tuesdays "guys night out", so we were likely making fun of your ticket tearing abilities while making off with all the chocolate bars stored behind the screen in number 6 (or was 6 the cups and 5 was the chocolate, I can't remember). :-)