Have you ever sat around some evening and wished there was something to do?
In 1981 IBM selected me to attend a ten-week school put on by IBM in New York City called Systems Research Institute (SRI). It was a lot like college, graduate school. We chose among dozens of classes in computer topics; programming, artificial intelligence, finance, architecture and much more. Then we dug into classes about four hours per day and at least that much time assigned in homework projects and reading.
That school gave us a chance to meet high level people from around the corporation and we quickly learned that IBM was much more than a little lab in the Minnesota corn fields. The breadth and diversity of the company became clear as soon as classes started. Back home I knew lots of engineers, some programmers, and I’d heard about marketing and sales, but I had never met people from those esoteric professions. The class had all of them, plus finance, operations, manufacturing, and people working on dozens of products I barely knew IBM sold. The instructors were excellent, too, with great industry and academic credentials. Plus, there’s nothing like living in midtown Manhattan to get a real education!
Classes started immediately on Monday morning with an orientation and the first real sessions of the course. With only ten weeks, they had to start first thing that morning to get everything covered before we went home. Being a dutiful worker and a little shy, I dove into the readings and projects. That worked fine until Friday morning. The others were talking about where they were going and what events they planned to take in over the weekend.
That’s when I realized I had made no plans, no real friends, and had not even discussed what to do with those who would become my new friends. I don’t recall exactly what I did that weekend, precisely who I did it with, or where I went, but I do recall the empty terror of having nothing on my plate, no idea of where to go, and only a tenuous grip on how to find out what was happening in the city.
The lesson I’ve taken home from that first weekend in the big city is to always make a plan. Maybe the plan is to stay home and do nothing, or maybe it’s just dinner and a movie. What seemed important to me was to have something planned. After that first weekend, I was always busy doing something in the city. Every weekend some ethnic neighborhood had a festival, or a great band playing in a bar, and if that didn’t work, we had an alphabetical list of restaurants. Little Afghanistan was one of my favorites.
As I looked at retiring from all those years at IBM, I was facing an empty space a lot bigger than a simple weekend. Now there’s a lifetime ahead of me. I need something to do tomorrow, this weekend, and the week after that. Fortunately, Judy and I like to do a lot of the same things, and we have adult children and grand children to help fill the time with good things.
As a certifiable computer geek, I looked all over the web for what to do in Rochester. I found that the newspaper had the occasional web link to an event, flyers would sometimes link to the organization’s web site, and friends would tell me about a Facebook page with information about a concert.
I started making a list (don’t I always?) of all the web sites with event information. Whenever I tell a friend about the list they ask me to send a copy. Apparently I’m not the only one who is looking for something to do on a weekend.