Friends: Visiting and moving away

Last weekend was the first weekend in a while where a) I wasn’t busy with work or family, and b) wasn’t trying to paint the house. (No, I’m not done painting. I’m just sick of it.) So I opted to relax a little bit.

It was raining when I awoke Saturday. This is something we’ve been dying to happen for a while now, if for nothing else than to hopefully take some of the smoke out of the air. We’ve been plagued by smoke from forest fires in the Crowsnest Pass for days now, and it’s long since past that point where campfire smoke actually smells good. So began my lazy Saturday. It felt sooooo good.

I spent most of the day watching TV and movies, and fidding around with my computer. (It was cool enough that I could have the computer on for long periods without fear of overheating.) In the late afternoon, Stuart called to see what I was up to. Having no specific plans (outside of expecting my friend Greg to appear at some point during the day), we loosely planned for a movie that evening.

We then talked about Stuart and Therese’s big move. Therese has accepted a post-doctorate at the University of Montreal. This led Stuart to fly out to Montreal and find a new job. Which took about 20 seconds. Stuart has far too much talent and experience for his own good, it seems, and pretty much could walk into almost any agency and get snapped up right away. A better job, a better town, and a lot more than I’m being paid. [Insert sound of swallowed pride here.]

But it means they have to move at the beginning of September. Although I don’t get to see Therese and Stuart as much as I’d like, I’m about to see them even less. I haven’t seen some of my friends in well over five years. It won’t be easy having them half-way across the country.

However, I might end up following them out. Critical Mass is currently engaged in the single largest pitch we’ve ever engaged in. The potential is massive, and could totally change the way Critical Mass operates. It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time, and no-one here really knows what will happen if we do win the work. (We’ve got stiff competition, so we honestly don’t know how we’ll fare.)

One thing we do know is that we’ll have to reopen the Toronto office, for a variety of reasons. First, it’s closer to the client than Calgary. Second, we’ll have an easier time finding suitable people in the Toronto market — we’ve pretty much depleted Calgary’s. Third, we’ll need to keep the team separate from the one in Calgary, partly because we don’t want conflict with existing teams.

The obvious question you know have is: Am I moving to Toronto? Maybe. And that’s about the best answer I can currently offer. I knew about this plan weeks ago when we were working on the pitch document (see 5 August 2003), and my name was on the list for the Toronto office. This is for a number of reasons, but mostly because Di (who’s leading this project) knows that when the going gets tough, I don’t leave the office.

There’s another reason other than my workaholism. I’ve been personally unable to choose between staying here in Calgary or going to Toronto. I’ve done the southern Ontario thing, so that in itself isn’t a draw for me. But the opportunities that might present themselves might be work the risk (if there is in fact any risk). So I decided that I needed the company’s opinion on where they wanted me most. Since Monday, I’ve heard answers all across the board, and no clear direction. They definitely ain’t making this easy for me.

That other reason? When I talked with Cory, he mentioned that we’re going to have a hard time getting our team up to speed as quickly as possible. He wanted to see someone with experience that he could throw to the wolves and know that they’d have them tamed in due course. Jude and Colin have either not expressed an interest to go, or have said flat out that they don’t want to go. That leaves me as the only other Web Development Manager. And since my name is on the list already, that’s just an added benefit.

Cory doesn’t want to see me go there for two years, though (the desired contracted time for anyone transferring to Toronto). Frankly, neither do I. Somehow, I’ve become oddly useful to a number of people and projects here, which is why I was having problems decide. (Allard, my boss, had expressed his opinion that I should stay.) Cory and I are already thinking that a shorter term, say six months, might be more appropriate. Sort of like the infamous Dilbert Bungee Boss.

We found out today that the client is delaying their decision a month, so the earliest I’d be going is late October. (Although I will be in Toronto Sept. 18-20 for a job fair to find candidates for the job. Anyone interested in a job at Critical Mass?) There’s no guarantees of anything, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

I spent most of the weekend thinking about how to handle this decision, and most of this week trying to figure out what the company wants. (But given the sheer chaos going on around here this week — several other clients have asked for the world by next week — I can totally understand getting mixed messages.)

Back to Saturday, though. Greg eventually did call, having arrived in Calgary later than planned owing to heavier traffic than expected and far too many people at the McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s along the way. I felt pretty bad, because we’d loosely planned to do something when he got there, but with Stuart and Therese leaving, I wanted to see them as much as possible. (I didn’t get to see Therese that night, since she had to continue writing her PhD dissertation.) Greg, it seemed, was pretty keen on seeing a movie.

Stuart, Greg, and I shared a pre-movie beverage at Eau Claire before heading in. The movie (S.W.A.T.) wasn’t exactly Oscar material, but I’ve seen worse this year. Stuart headed out after the movie, leaving Greg and I to continue our chat at the Barley Mill. It’s been a long time since Greg and I last had a good talk — in fact, it was almost a year ago (see 1 September 2002).

The following morning was my first run with dim sum in about two months. Scheduling’s been a pain, and my weekends have been so busy that it just hasn’t been possible. But this could have been my last with Stuart and Therese, so I wanted to make the most of it.

Greg and I hooked up later that afternoon, and opted for a drive out of town. (Mostly because Greg wanted to see what the Mini was like.) After grabbing coffee (for Greg) at Tim Horton’s, we headed west out to Bragg Creek, and then down to Elbow Falls. I had kind of expected it to be like the last time I was there (see 3 July 2001, Part 1) — a few people, and quiet. Instead, the entire area was full of people picnicing and jumping off the cliffs into the splash pool below.

We wandered around a bit, discussing jobs, politics, cars, families, girlfriends (well, his anyway), and pretty much anything else that came to mind. Then it was back to the road. But this time, Greg drove. Greg wanted to see what a Mini was like on the road, and I trust Greg implicitly. (Although he does drive a little faster than I do…)

As we bombed down Highway 22 towards Calgary, something floated into Greg’s head: Fubar. No, not that he was about to total my car, but the movie. (It’s an independant cult-level movie filmed in Alberta. It’s on Greg’s “Top 10 Movies That Changed My Life” list, next to “Scarface”.) Part of the movie takes place in a little town called High River. When I told Greg it was maybe 50 kms south of Calgary, he nearly lost control of the car:

Greg: (Excitedly) [Censored] it! We’re goin’! (More calmly) Uh, do you mind?
Me: (Not really caring, or fully understanding the desire.) Uh, okay…
Greg: (Excitedly) [Censored] it! We’re goin’!

Before long, we were in High River, searching for a building with a mural of buffalo being chased off a cliff. (Don’t ask. If you haven’t seen the movie, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I know because I haven’t seen the movie, either.) Greg was beside himself when we finally found it (didn’t take long — High River’s not that big). One day I will finally understand was the excitement was all about.

Buying what I can only constitute as a “ceremonial” cube of Pilsner (a “cube” is the Albertan equivalent of an Ontario 2-4), we returned to Calgary and a late dinner, with what I can only describe as the best roast beef I think I’ve ever had. My father would have loved it.

We parted ways later that night, not having run out of conversation topics or energy, but time. I had work the following day (I missed going to the gym due to lack of energy and sleep) and Greg had to drive to Edmonton the following day.

I went to bed that night with many things floating around in my mind, most of them about what I would do without old friends. Makes me wonder what the next few weeks are going to bring.

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