How his lime green shorts almost lost us a deal!!
“That must be him”, said Anand.
I turned around from the table that both of us had sat down at with a glass of wine waiting for somebody I had not seen for nearly two decades. “Sure it is”, I said.
The perennial smile was still there! That facial hair (which, of course is a mandatory feature for males in Portland) was still being sported. And when he opened his mouth – that booming voice was still intact.
Unmistakably Walt Buehring.
You see, this week Steve Martin (remember the gentleman that I managed to meet for a couple of minutes at Atlanta airport a few weeks back?) had helped me find the co-ordinates of our common colleague from the nineties – Walt, in Portland. When I was in Portland this week, after our partner dinner was over, I grabbed Anand – who was also a colleague at that time and we are again team mates now – and went to a bar to meet Walt.
It was a very long evening remembering the old days and it did not seem like we were done when we had to leave. There were a lot of memories to cherish, a lot of fun to ruminate over and lot of colleagues to update each other on. I have a lot of remembrances of Walt from those days – all those nightly builds, regression testing frameworks, porting of software and so many more.
“Do you remember our first story?”, I asked him.
“Which one was that?”
“How you almost lost us a deal with your shorts”.
Walt immediately broke into his big booming laughter. Anand kept curiously looking at both of us.
“Tell the story to Anand. I will get you started,” I said and then turning to Anand I started…
“This was in July, 1995. On my first day in the new company as a developer, the head of development – Dan Stenger – went around introducing me to the various team members. We came upon a room that had the door closed. Dan gently knocked and then opened the door. If I remember correctly, the door was usually kept closed because the developers inside – Walt being one of them – used to smoke inside. I know, these days, one cannot think about doing that.
In any case, Dan introduced me to this bearded, always-smiling guy and said – Walt, why don’t you tell Rajib how you almost lost us a deal?”
And like this day, Walt had laughed aloud then and explained to me as he did to Anand on this day…
“Anand, what had happened was…”, Walt started lighting up another cigarette (yep, that has not changed either), “one night I was working very late. And since it was late night, I had come back to office in casuals – and I mean lime green shorts, when I say casuals – and was pounding away at the code. Completely unknown to me, our company founder had just finished dinner with a prospective foreign (I think European) customer and had come back to the office together with the customer to pick up some of their stuff.
Upon seeing light in my office, they had swung by to say Good Night. Everything went hunky dory.
Except we found out a couple of days later that the potential customer had decided against us. Apparently they thought that employees coming in lime green shorts to office (mind you, this is very late at night) was not the sign of a professional company.”
As Anand grinned hearing the story, Walt looked at me – “Do you know the other reason why the customer was against us?”
“Apparently, our founder had not offered wine while sitting down for dinner. The customer had to ask for it. That did not go down well with them!”.
Now, it was my turn to laugh. You see, we were a start up those days. We might have been very passionate about what we did – yes, even in our lime green shorts – but we were not the most sophisticated folks then.
We did mature over time. And we did get that customer back. And the company did succeed a lot.
“Too funny,” I said, as all three of us were trying to wipe off the grins from our face!
And that is how life always turns out. The small incidents, the side stories of the intense times that you spend together with somebody almost always are the lasting recollections you will keep with yourselves.
It was great to see the good old Texas boy living life on his terms. He is singing in multiple bands, writing songs, enjoying the North West landscape and weather…
Good for you Walt! For all the cheerfulness you brought to our office two decades back, the hard work that you put in and selflessness you showed, you deserve every bit of the best things that life has to offer you.
And more, I might add.