Hatching A Plan
OK, so how could we pull this off down here in Texas? We knew that we didn’t want to live down on the gulf coast, especially with our Alpacas; but commuting from Navasota on a day by day basis was not in our game plan. And we weren’t ready to toss our day jobs yet. Let me rephrase that – we weren’t able to toss our day jobs yet. Funny how those little things called bills always seem to get in the way of stuff. So we groaned and looked into the logistics of commuting.
Candace was already taking the Metro bus from Clear Lake to her job downtown. She checked and she could catch a different bus on the northwest side; but it would probably be a 45 minute drive from the ranch to the park-and-ride plus an additional 45 minute or more bus ride into downtown – not good. And I’d have a 1 ½ to 2 hour drive across Houston each way, 5 days a week! Play road warrior in Houston’s rush hour traffic? I don’t think so. This would no doubt make me a crazy person! No way, no how was I going to do that! It just wasn’t going to happen!
So How About Plan B?
OK, so commuting on a daily basis was out. What then? Well maybe we could get by just on my job and Candace could stay at the ranch, take care of the Alpacas and get her holistic animal care business going. (You can check out her website at www.holistic-critters.com. No, no! Not now - finish reading our story first!) That would work for Candace, but didn’t solve my commuting nightmare. We struggled with this a while and then came up with an idea. I’d approach my company about the possibility of telecommuting – working via modem or the Internet 3 or 4 days a week and driving in the other 1 or 2 days. Hmmm, now this might work. Actually I had discussed the idea of telecommuting with my supervisor once before; but then I was talking about telecommuting from Tennessee. The idea didn’t get immediately shot down; but we pretty quickly determined that it would be almost impossible to do all of my duties from that distance. But from Navasota, we were talking about being only 2 hours away. I could come in and do face to face stuff a few days a week and the rest of my duties from home. And in a pinch, I could quickly and easily make an emergency drive down to the office.
Making The Pitch
Now I’ve got to tell you, I was nervous about asking to do this. I know it sounds like it should be no big deal; but you’ve got to realize that I worked with a lot of engineers. It sounds contrary to what you might think (engineers being innovators and such) but engineers resist change. Engineers really, really resist change. Proposing such a radical change as telecommuting would most likely get either that deer in the headlights look or get everyone squirming in their seats and meet with some resistance. But with some encouragement from Candace I went in and gave it my best shot. I had tried to anticipate all of the possible responses that I might get to my request and had counter proposals ready. But the response I received was not one that I had planned on.
My supervisor said he would approach our office manager about my request. So far so good. But, we were right in the middle of renewing our contract with our major customer and it would probably be best if I could wait until that was complete - in October. October! It was June or July – actually I can’t remember exactly when all of this took place – it’s kinda a blur now. But I do know that October seemed like an eternity from then. October! Ooooh boy. As I expected, Candace took this even harder than I did. There was considerable moaning and wailing and gnashing of teeth. It wasn’t a pretty picture. Well great, now what?
Where Would We Go Anyway?
As the reality that we’d have to wait sunk in, we did begin to realize that even if I’d been given immediate approval, we had no place to move to. We had not looked at properties, we didn’t know what was available and we didn’t know what they cost. So to help alleviate the aggravation of having to wait we decided to launch a property search in the Navasota area. Heck, we’d done this before. We were old pros at looking for property.
We began making almost weekly trips to the Navasota area, spending most of the day cruising around, driving down country roads, learning the area and looking for those elusive “for sale” signs. We saw lots of places that were not for sale that we liked. And we saw some places that were for sale that we wouldn’t touch. We called about several places and even had a realtor show us some places. Everything for sale seemed to be in the prairie flatlands. We were more partial to and wanted a property further north in the rolling hills – rolling hills that reminded us of Tennessee. But we found nothing that totally fit our needs or our budget. Oh yes, the budget. We were now trying to figure out how to do more with less (especially if Candace was going to quit her job) and we weren’t even sure if we could do it because we had to wait until October. October!! It was enough to drive us both nuts.
Summer wore on and after many months of searching we still hadn’t found anything that we wanted to make an offer on. But at least it was almost October and we would find out if I could telecommute. The waiting was killing us. October came and the contract renewal date slipped a bit, notching up the frustration level yet again; but the contract renewal was eventually finalized and now I would know, could I telecommute?
Then I was surprised by a curve ball I never saw coming. For years I had been performing the same duties on my contract. I knew exactly what I was doing and how it was done. I knew without a fact that I could do the majority of my work telecommuting. But when the contract was renewed, the emphasis of our work was shifted. What we had been doing was reduced to about 20% of our time and some new and different work was added and became the priority. But since that work was new and different, I didn’t know if I could do it remotely or not. I would have to find out what it was, work it for a while and then if I thought I could do it from home, I could possibly argue my case for telecommuting. And even that was a big if! What if it wasn’t doable from home? What if I couldn’t telecommute? And there was the waiting – more waiting - frustration, fear and tears were the rule of the day.
Then right before Christmas we found out that Candace would be laid off from her Corporate America job, effective in mid January. It appeared that we’d get to “test drive” the one income part of our plan. And before we knew it, 2002 had passed. We had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and it felt like the possibility of moving to the country any time soon was quickly slipping away. Click here to read the continuation of "Our Story"