Candid Camera and Year 2K

Windows 95 welcomed me back to work after maternity leave giving a very different feel to my work flow. I also started using something called Front Page for my web page work. Front page gave me the ability adopt themes and design tool bar placement. I learned new terms such as .jpg, .gif, “click-through” and “subpage.” The company continued to reorganize on a regular basis but gone were the funny guys with their bicycle horns and talk of clouds. Announcements of change were delivered in a division meeting followed by a wait to learn if your name was on one of “the packages.”

For one such division meeting, we were summoned to the amphitheater of the training center. The crowd of us, 1000 give or take a few, pushed inside and found a place in the stadium seating. At the front was a full-wall screen, just like at the movies. For the first time, we were to see talking points communicated from a computer to a full-wall screen, no bluetooth yet, another new technology of the time. The equipment failed and the CEO, not prepared to speak without the computer presentation, returned to his office to be called back when things were operational. We were stuck there while they scurried around trying to fix things. I noticed that the movie screen displayed a picture of a long hall with doors on either side and wondered what we were viewing. A full half-hour passed with no solution in sight and I decided to kill some time and go to the ladies room. Once outside the auditorium, I looked down the hall to the same view as displayed on the screen inside. I looked up to find a camera mounted on the ceiling, pointed down the hallway. As I walked under the camera, I realized I had an audience. Hoping to liven up the boring afternoon for a few coworkers, I decided to entertain. I walked several feet down the hall, did a snappy about face, tossed my hair back, and moved toward the camera with my very best Las Vegas showgirl strut. I heard an explosion of laughter from the room and thought something funny must have happened because very few people were looking at the screen when I exited the room. I strutted past the camera then, at a normal pace, with business manners restored, I walked into the room to gales of laughter and to the sight of the CEO standing at the front podium, sternly waiting for the laughter, and scattered applause, to die down. The next day there was a short meeting with my director. I apologized profusely. He briefly addressed office decorum when the CEO is present or expected. He could not control the twitch at the corner of his mouth. Jon, by the way, thought it was hilarious.

In preparing documents for various departments, planning procedures for critical events were pretty common. Major issues were addressed one of the most serious of which was pilot or flight crew strikes. Everyone at American Airlines remembered the strike of 1993 when both the pilots and the flight crew members went on strike. Jon and I will always remember because the strike began two day before our wedding day leaving us to spend our honeymoon at home with kids, dogs, and a bird instead basking in the sun in the Bahamas. The strike was in the news for days as the CEO refused to meet demands and actually hired replacements for the striking crew members. The new hires were put through a crash course at the training center while the employees on strike were given a deadline by which to return to work or be replaced. The CEO stated repeatedly in press interviews and company announcements that he would not relent. Thanksgiving was a few days away and holiday travelers jammed the reservation phone lines calling to cancel flights or inquire as to how the strike would affect holiday travel. A couple of days before the new trainees were to take to the air, President Bill Clinton call the CEO and “negotiated” a truce. The new trainees were let go, the pilots and flight crews returned to duty, and planes were in the air in time for the holiday travelers. The CEO did not stand his ground as stated, but after all, when the President of the United States calls resistance is futile. We documented action plans for future strikes, but that was the last strike in the history of American Airlines. Now, that calls for a little dance.

As the 90s progressed, I traded my bag phone for a “cell phone,” my mother-in-law was talking about moving in, web cams were a new form of entertainment, and ER and Law and Order were the most popular shows on television. The business world began to prepare in earnest for “the year 2K” and Jon was offered a job at another company. It was an interesting decade.

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