10 Cue Prologue
The meeting with the Dutch does not go well. They buy us lunch in an expensive restaurant and I have to fight hard not to throw up in front of everyone. The wine with the meal helps calm my nerves and ease my hangover. Mike is feeling slightly better than me so I let him do the talking; I just nod appropriately and try not to puke.
The Dutch tell us of problems. The migration to Unix will not be automatic. It will be a manual process carried out by the team in Holland and it will be done on a time and materials basis for each customer who wants it. It's bad news - the manual process will be very expensive. No one will pay this much for old world technology. This gravy train has come to a grinding halt. I finish the wine - it might be the last free wine for a while.
Gradually customers drift away from the P7000. Mike leaves to do some sort of Unix job at Amdahl and Graham gets reposted within Philips to a division that is still selling something. I am on my own. I get training in Unix and start playing with Windows. There are a few Unix customers for Philips but they do not use the migration software and are mostly located in the north of the country. They are supported out of the Prestwich office (near Manchester). I don't have much to do. I have taken to carrying a hip flask full of vodka to work to keep me going between liquid pub lunches at the Bricklayers Arms. I am looking into a black hole of depression. My skills are out of date. My debts are high. My love life has come to a complete standstill. I am drinking way too much.
Then, early one Monday morning, I get a phone call from Tan Choudry. He's the Marketing Manager on the new range of Unix boxes Philips are badge-engineering from Motorola and he wants to talk. In his office, I wonder what the hell he wants. I've never met him before.
"Paul, we're making a big push with these new Unix boxes. I need a Product Manager. I've been told that you're the man for the job. What do you say?"
Fuck me. I wasn't expecting this. Tan continues.
"Of course there'd be a promotion, pension benefits, the usual manager's perks, upgraded company car, etc. How about it?"
"How does 'yes' sound". I only need to be asked twice. We shake hands. I am a manager. Just like that. A manager with a hip flask full of vodka in my pocket and absolutely no idea what a product manager does. Ooops.
I get a bit of training: presentation skills, time management, chairing a meeting, problem solving, decision making and all that kind of managerial stuff. My basic responsibility is to get product 'released'. Released means that the salesmen can sell it. Once Holland releases some new product the UK can also release it. This happens after I've written a report on it and got all the engineering and software managers to sign it off. It's a nightmare. No one wants to sign stuff off because once it's signed off they have to support it. And there's so many new products; Oracle databases, word processors, spreadsheets, SCSI drives, tape drives. A cornucopia of new software and hardware every month. And every customer wants something different and new releases and upgrades. It's never ending. But it's a job. And the new Marketing Executive, Mark, is a good guy. Likes a drink, likes a laugh. Life could be worse.
At the Bricklayers Arms there's a new barmaid. Jenny's young (19), pretty and has a cute arse. Mark and I have been admiring her for the last couple of days during our lunch time drinking sessions. Mark already has a long term girlfriend so his interest is largely academic.
"How's your boyfriend?" I ask her as she is drying glasses.
"Oh we just broke up. He is seeing another girl. Got her pregnant."
"Well, do you fancy a night out with me?" I am much too old for her (I am 28) but if you don't ask you don't get.
"Yeah OK - what about tonight?"
I am obviously on a roll. This girl is really cute. One quarter Japanese, petite and slightly Asian looking. And she seems to move fast - I like that.
I pick her up at her parents house in my new manager's company car. Nothing special; blue 2 litre Cavalier with a CD player and sun-roof. Not spectacular but brand new. Her parents seem to like me. I am a young looking 28 (despite my drinking) and could probably pass for 25. I am smart but casual, clean shaven and friendly. A wolf in sheep's clothing? No, more of a pussy cat.
We go to a quiet pub to talk, then out clubbing. I keep my drinking under control and deliver her home safe and sound in the early hours. We kiss and cuddle. I like this girl.
"Will you see me again?" I whisper.
"Yes please" she says.
It's the start of a five year relationship.
Work is tough. Philips isn't aggressive enough in its adoption of Unix and got into the market too late. The computer division is hemorrhaging millions. Holland doesn't release new products quickly enough and the bureaucracy is stifling. I am releasing as much new product as anyone in the marketing group but it is obvious that the writing is on the wall. There is a rumour that Philips will buy Olivetti but in the end the deal falls through and everyone is waiting for the inevitable redundancies.
The bright spot in my life is Jenny. Her youth and vitality rejuvenate me. I reduce my alcohol consumption. We fuck like rabbits.
"Do you want to move in with me?" I ask her one Friday night after an especially satisfactory bedroom session.
"How about tomorrow?" she says.
"Tomorrow it is."
Saturday arrives and I drive over to pick her up with her stuff. It's a tryout I tell myself. We'll live together to see if it works. If it doesn't we'll just part as friends and move on. Well that's the plan.
Jenny had gone home early to pack a 'few things' and I arrive to have lunch with her parents and bring her back permanently. After lunch Jenny shows me what she has packed. It's everything. Everything she owns in the world. I am reminded of my drive to university with my mini full of all my belongings. She has committed to me - completely. I am moved by her sense of trust but I am frightened that I am not worthy of it.
Living together works out. She is everything I want. Beautiful, funny, good in bed, good company. I am in love again. In the evenings we eat the food she has cooked for us, watch television, giggle, laugh and I drink. Later in bed we talk, make love and make plans for the future.
What future? Philips is going bust. It's just a matter of time. Everyone is hanging on for the redundancy money. I start drinking hard again and almost continuously. Vodka at breakfast, hip flask, liquid lunch, hip flask, evening of whisky. It's well over a bottle of spirits a day but I am still functioning. Just.
Finally the phone at my desk rings. It's the senior marketing manager, John Williams. He used to be Tan's boss but Tan has already jumped ship. Walking to John's office I know what to expect. The rumour mill has been working overtime. Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) have agreed to buy all of Philips Computer Division in Europe for one billion dollars. (DEC subsequently got into trouble themselves and were bought by Compaq, who have just been bought by Hewlett Packard. Things move fast in the computer industry.) There are to be many layoffs. There is widespread duplication of functions so downsizing is inevitable.
"Paul, I have some bad news" John begins. I leave his office without my company car keys and carrying a large brown envelope containing amongst other things a cheque for £16,263.
Desperately Seeking Sex & Sobriety - Copyright Paul Pisces 2002-2004
(A Cautionary Tale of Sex Tourism, Drugs, Alcohol, Prostitution & Suicide)