I was reminded of Eddie K. again last night by an ad for a clothing store. You've probably seen it: "You're going to like the way you look; I guarantee it". The person making that guarantee could be Ed's twin - the resemblance is startling; the first time we saw that ad both my wife and I exclaimed "Look, it's Eddie!".
I've become accustomed to seeing Ed on television. The real Ed, my Ed, has been dead for several years now. He died young, barely in his sixties, and left a young wife and very young son.
Ed and I first worked together at the Tandy Computer Center in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. That would have been around 1981 or early 1982. I was a CSR (Customer Support Rep) and Ed was a salesman. Tandy computers were at their peak of popularity and were not yet threatened by the soon to come IBM PC.
Ed did well at Radio Shack, and was soon given his own store in Waltham. It was just a corner in an older Radio Shack store; one so old that "Tandy Leather" was still part of it. The IBM PC had already been introduced, but Tandy sales were still good. That IBM machine didn't kill Tandy's computer business instantly, but it did start to affect sales, and many Tandy salespeople found themselves selling less and less over the next few years. Ed did better than most.
It was the IBM PC and the clones that soon followed that drove me into self employment, in fact. My CSR salary was just minimum wage, but I was also paid a percentage of the store's sales and had a decent income. But as sales dwindled away, my income decreased. By 1983, I was living on a $202.00 weekly paycheck - before taxes. I couldn't afford the gas I needed to get to work and was falling into debt. I had always wanted to work for myself, and I saw this as my opportunity: things couldn't be any worse, so why not try self employment?
So that's when I started the consulting business I still have today. Indeed, things were better, though not by much: in my first year in business I made just a little more than minimum wage, but was encouraged because the trend was definitely upward.
In those days, my sales prospecting was visiting computer stores. There were a lot of them then: Radio Shack stores, small independents selling Compaq and other clone systems and so on. The sales people always had some customer with a problem or some programming need, and I picked up business just by visiting and making my abilities known. Of course one of the places I visited was Ed's little corner of the Waltham store.
When I first visited Ed, I was hungry. Literally. I was still recovering from months of low wages and had no money to spare. When I didn't have work (and that was most of the time in the first few months) I'd be out on the road all day, traveling from store to store searching for new business. I couldn't afford the luxury of lunch, so I'd just go hungry. Sometimes I hadn't had much breakfast or dinner either. You do what you have to do.
Ed fed me. Ed fed me business, yes, but I couldn't tell you what jobs came from his customers. Ed also fed me roast beef sub sandwiches from a nearby store. Those I remember. I told him no, I didn't need anything, but he'd insist. He could probably hear my stomach rumbling in anticipation.. all together, it probably wasn't a lot: maybe a dozen sandwiches or so during the first few months of my independent life. And of course Ed was benefiting from my visits also - I gave him solutions for his customers problems and helped him sell more. But those sandwiches stick in my mind more than anything else.
Well, one more thing goes with those sandwiches. Piles of green bar paper. Ed was a big fan of the early Compuserve groups, especially the technical discussions. He'd print them out and underline things he wanted to talk with me about. Hundreds of pages of green bar paper on the floor, piled on his desk.. I can see him leaned over the printer now, eagerly scanning some interesting discussion.
Ed moved on to a partnership in a computer store down the street. I think the name was "Atlantic Computers". I didn't like one of his partners very much, but I continued calling on him at the new store. My business had increased enough that I didn't need to prospect any longer, but I liked seeing Ed. I didn't need him to buy lunch now, and really didn't need any leads he might have. We had become friends, I just stopped in to say hi and maybe help him out with some minor thing. If he had a lead for me, fine, but that wasn't why I was there..
Ed always had ideas. He was always busy, always on the phone, always hustling from place to place. If Ed had been a dishonest person, you would have called him a schemer. Well, yes, Ed was always scheming, planning, thinking, imagining, looking for sales opportunities, but there was nothing sleazy or even minimally dishonest in his character. He was unfailingly honest and upright in all his dealings and relationships. Ed liked people, people liked Ed. Some saw him as naive and too trusting. Maybe so, but he was a better person than most because of it.
His only real failing was that he lacked discrimination. Everything he saw was an opportunity; every customer deserved extreme attention. Every idea could be the million dollar one if only the pieces could be put in place. Again, no chicanery, no deceit: it may have been pie in the sky but Ed saw it as attainable and real.
I used to joke about it: Ed's doing another potential dance, I'd say. That is, he'd be trying to sell a customer a system and trying to sell me into doing some free work that he was certain would become a larger engagement later.. if only I would do this little thing now to help close the sale.
I'd tell my wife that Ed was asking me to a dance again. She'd laugh, but often I would do what he asked. I knew that really there was nothing in it for me, or not enough to justify the free work, but the taste of those roast beef subs was still with me.
In his fifties, Ed found love. I was so happy for him. She was much younger, but you didn't notice that because they were so close. He doted on her, was so proud, so consumed. It was wonderful. And when his son was born, Ed was ecstatic. Life was good.
But.. it wasn't. Soon after, Ed was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He fought it, researching everything he could on-line, but there was nothing that would stop it and he passed fairly quickly. My eyes well up thinking about it.
"You're going to like the way you look". When I see that ad, I am reminded of Ed. Roast beef sandwiches, piles of green bar printouts, and potential dances. I miss you, Ed.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2011-05-02 Anthony Lawrence
Securing a computer system has traditionally been a battle of wits: the penetrator tries to find the holes, and the designer tries to close them. (Gosser)