Still without our own vehicles, and not having enough money to stay on campus, we took turns over the next three years riding together in one of our parent’s cars to college every day. Thankfully WVSC was only a thirty-five-minute drive or so from our parent’s houses. Basically we lived in one of these two cars for the next three years. I can remember many mornings loading up two milk crates full of three-inch-thick text books into the trunk of mom’s car. My math books were huge though not had big as Tammy’s accounting books. We use to laugh and joke about having to trade in our high school lockers for the trunk of a Buick and a Chevy.
A typically day for us started with an 8:00am class and ended with one of us still in a class at 8pm that night. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner on the run and we also met some really nice friends along the way. During my first spring semester in 1992, I picked up a second job working as a lab assistant in the Computer Science floor of Wallace Hall. When I was not in class, I could be found on the seventh floor of Wallace Hall. It was here we learned that a Super Ball could indeed bounce over the three story building behind Wallace. It was also here that I had my first taste of Mainframe Assembler, PC Assembler, COBOL, Fortran, and C++. Oh, and JCL or J-C-Hell as it was usually called. And we all learned to understand and speak “Fred” whether we wanted to or not. “Fred”, one of the computer science professors, was from Thailand. He spoke with an extremely hard to follow accent.
My first class with “Fred” was PC Assembler. He was one of those professors who wrote a lot of notes on the chalk board. And when I say a lot, I mean two full boards in a forty-five-minute class and sometimes he would have to go back and erase the first board to write more. I recall one class where he held the chalk in his right-hand and the eraser in his left. When I received an A in my PC Assembler class, I felt honored to have not only survived but to have also learned to speak “Fred”. When an underclassmen would ask me about “Fred” and his teaching style, I would tell them truth and say “Fred speaks in HEX and Binary, anything else he says – just ignore it”.
Tammy was star as usual in her classes. She struggled some with her nerves when it came to tests yet she always pulled it through in the end. We both carried full loads of fifteen to eighteen credit hours each semester. By 1995 I had picked up another part-time job working in the Audio / Visual Lab delivering TVs and overhead projectors to classrooms. Tammy was also working a couple part-time jobs on campus and we both were working for the same family owned grocery store that helped me to get my start. In total we each had three jobs plus carrying a full load of college credit hours. We can both look back on this hard work now with a sense of accomplishment in knowing that we did it all without any student loans.
The spring semester of 1995 brought me some new found grace. I was taking a Microsoft Visual Basic programming class on Wednesday evenings. My teacher was a part-time professor whose full-time job was working as Director of IT at the West Virginia State Treasurers office. We were just a few weeks into the class when she came in one evening and wrote her office contact numbers on the chalk board. She turned and said, “If anyone is interested, the WV Treasury is hiring and we have one programmer’s position open.” I thought, “Why not? Let’s give it a try.” After the class that evening, I went to the front of the room and told her I was interested. She asked for my contact information and before I knew it I was sitting in the Assistant Treasurers office interviewing for a job.
I can distinctly remember my first day working at the WV Treasury. It was Friday, March 17th, 1995 – the day my first niece was born and also the day that my dad came home from the hospital after having stomach surgery. I remember picking up dad from the hospital after having worked my first half-day at the WV Treasury and listening to my niece cry over the handset of the world’s largest mobile bag phone that ever existed.
I finished out that spring semester in 1995 working part-time at the WV Treasury. With the income from this new job, I was able to quit the two part-time jobs I was working at the school and the one job at the grocery store. This helped a little with my stress and also gave us more time to go out on dates again. When that spring semester had ended and summer had begun, I went full time at the Treasurer’s office.
“My first real job! What should I buy first? A car? A ring?”
My first immediate need was a car. I could no longer drive my parent’s car to work every day as this meant my mom would be without transportation during the day and every day. Without any credit to my name, my parent’s helped me get my first car – a Chevy Corsica – by cosigning on the loan. I was so proud of that red Chevy Corsica and with this car, me and Tammy were no longer pidgin-holed for our date nights either. We went out to dinner, saw every 1995 summer movie, and took off on drives to places all across the state. I also continued to play in the quartet with dad so driving to those churches on Saturday night usually meant dragging along Tammy too.
Now that I had that ‘real job’, I also picked up a few of mom and dad’s household bills to help them out. I started paying the cable TV bill and the phone bill, since I used it more anyway. My sisters had done the same when they were living at home with their first ‘real jobs’ so it only seemed right. As a twenty-two-year-old adult, I needed to take on more responsibility if I ever hoped to support a family in the future.
“A family” – words that I never real thought of much as a child. “Could I be a dad someday?”
I needed to buy that ring first!