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More Than a Feeling

The Corporate America "machine" continues to advance, but it takes a daily toll on the human side of the equation.

Dedicated to Jim Ladd and the Tribal Drum

I walked briskly through the barren parking lot until I arrived at my car. It sat there cold and frozen under the solitary overhead light parked next to the silver mini-van in Lot 3. Maybe we were the last two souls left on earth. I unlocked the door and lumbered in. My breath briefly fogged the dashboard. The temperature gauge read 28 degrees. The clock read 11:18 p.m. From the windshield I could see the three-quarter moon off in the distance. I started the car and re-connected my iPod to the car adapter. It sparked to life and displayed the Boston album cover in the small LED screen.

Did I choose the music or did the music choose me? I hit play and closed my
eyes.

It had been such a long week. It was year-end in the accounting world. My team and I had worked 12 straight days so far. We still had another six days left to our filing date. In all likelihood we would need to work every one of those remaining days to meet our pending deadline of March 1.

I smiled to myself as I heard the first familiar notes of the acoustic guitar on the opening track. With my eyes still closed I slowly bobbed my head in time with the music.

I looked out this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away

I was instantly transported back to high school and my sophomore year when this album was released. I recalled listening to this album with my best friends then. It was years before I could even dream of being this old and settling into my sixth decade. Many things drew us together back then, and one of the most important things was listening to, arguing about and appreciating music—music we often heard for the first time on WMMR 93.3 on the FM dial. The radio always made sense of the world when the world did not make sense to me and my friends.

A flood of wonderful personal memories of my friends and our unique high school experiences came rushing into my head. There were some memories I hadn’t recalled in decades. I thought about easy we all had it back then. Youth does not allow you the time or the wisdom to appreciate life—only becoming a middle-aged adult can give you this broadened perspective. Regardless, I thought back to our defining, awkward, stupid, joyous and celebratory times. They were ours and ours alone, and all of them were definitely worth it.

Maybe because I’ve listened to this album so many times, I hadn’t realized the second track had started as I put the car in drive and pulled out of the lot on to the main road near the on-ramp for Route 295.  

Waiting for the light to turn green, my mind again raced back to high school. I remembered my accounting teacher, Mr. Humphries, boasting that all businesses and corporations needed accountants. He constantly reminded his students that accountants were respected professionals. And with the proper training and college courses, one could be assured a safe, secure and successful employment in this career choice.

Now you're climbin' to
the top of the company ladder
Hope it doesn't take too long
Can'tcha see there'll come a day when it won't matter
Come a day when you'll be gone

Neither Mr. Humphries nor any other Cherokee teacher back then could have predicted a concept called "outsourcing." Nor could anyone have predicted that a
couple of kids in California would, within a few years of our high school graduation, start to build this thing called the personal computer. Both of these inventions would forever change the way businesses conducted business, for the better and for the worse. Companies over the course of the next two decades would discover both of these innovations could be used to decrease expenses, improve the “bottom line” and eventually downsize the U.S. workforce. If your job security wasn’t at risk with the first initiative, you would continue to work more hours for less pay with the second initiative. In another decade, telecommuting and smartphones would continue to eat into the precious hours of the worker, forever altering the work/family balance enjoyed by generations of workers who came before us.

It’s been such a long time
I think I should be goin’, yeah
And time doesn’t wait for me, it keep on rollin’
Sail on, on a distant highway
I’ve got to keep on chasin’ a dream
I’ve gotta be on my way
Wish there was something I could say

I punched my old car’s accelerator to the floor as the band exploded into overdrive. The exits raced by in a blur. It was no longer cold bleak winter, in my mind it was warm promising summertime. My high school friends had joined me inside the car, singing along with the band. We were once again young and virile, not yet beaten down, more importantly still young enough to believe in our dreams. None of what I just described had yet to occur. We had our whole life ahead of us. 

We all still do ...

“This is Scotty K coming to you tonight from the deep inside the corporate jungle known as Center City Philadelphia on rock and roll station W(KERN) 51.0 on the FM dial. As we approach midnight, I want you to join me on this cold February winter night. Close your eyes and picture yourself living the dream, your own personal dream. It really doesn’t matter what it is. There is no wrong answer tonight. I promise you will not be judged by me or anyone else for your choices. I want you to picture yourself accomplishing something. Maybe it’s a lifelong ambition or a promise made to yourself or a dear friend from a long time ago. Maybe it is a new path you aspire to. Perhaps it is a healthier lifestyle, an opportunity to give back to the community or breaking the chain of habits, crutches and excuses which have held you back in the past. Tonight we will focus on that. Here are a set of songs dedicated to you and your personal dreams, whatever they may be: Dylan’s 'Maggie’s Farm,' Jackson Browne’s 'The Pretender,' and Springsteen’s 'Racing in the Street'—as I bid you goodnight and good luck."

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