San Francisco, 1980. We’d outgrown my studio apartment on Third Avenue. Network Answering Service, the operators who answered the phones, the Thumbtack Bugle, plus the bookkeeper, and me. Time to move.
I searched Arguello. I searched Clement, and Balboa. I searched California Street. I found a second-story flat on Geary Boulevard, on the corner of Parker across from the Post Office. I walked the wooden floors in the empty rooms; it was a vast space, cheery with sunlight, and smelling of new varnish.
On the street below, the phone company was digging up the concrete in the middle of the street, so they could run our phonelines. I watched through the sunny windows. Never before had anybody dug up a street for me. This must be the big time!
For three weeks straight, I built shelving and set up our new workspace. Rosie the Cat kept me company. I got new lamps and large plants.
In the foyer at the top of the stairs, I installed four KitKat clocks, with wagging eyes and tails. On the wall, all in a row, I had three black ones, with signs saying London, Paris, Tokyo. Then a pink one with rhinestones labeled San Francisco. Oh, we had arrived.
As it turned out, the foyer lacked light for the plants, and the operators wore out my rugs. The KitKat clocks gave out over time, and heating was a problem, as the thermostat was in one room and the heater in another; adjustment was, to say the least, tricky. Operators solved it by running the heater at full blast, while opening windows to let in the cool air. In this way they made themselves comfortable.
I explained that we would not be able to heat up Geary Boulevard. This made no impression.
I tore up some twenty dollar bills and tossed the pieces out the window, just as an example. That made an impression, of a sort, but little difference.
The cats, Rosie and Cosmo, liked the new digs.Then operator Anita found Morgan, just a tiny kitten abandoned in a paper bag, to join our crew. At first I lived in the large, dark-paneled room at the rear. There it was that I asked Lori to marry me. She said yes, we got married, we moved to an apartment at the corner of Carl and Cole streets.
I set up a development lab, and began designing the Line Seizer, an electronic device that talked with the telephone company’s central office as they sent calls to our answering service, identifying for our operators which client’s phone was ringing in to us. I took to wearing overalls like I’d seen real computer guys do.
There were excitements and triumphs, troubles and despairs, dramas and traumas. The actors came and went. Along the way, Lori and I estranged ourselves, and she ran the answering service while I took a job which carried me to Newport Beach, then Texas, then back to San Francisco, where we then sold the answering service. A manager was found for the voicemail business, I became a private investigator. Rooms were rented out.
One day, a notice from the city. Zoning problem. Time to move.
On the last day, walking around the wooden floors in empty rooms, I remembered that first day so many years earlier. The empty rooms now seemed worn and friendly. We’d traveled together; we hated to part.