How I Got Here from the Place I Was Before
By J. Breaalibak
[Posted on behalf of my friend, who does not have a Medium account. Or a computer. Or a phone.
You may want to check out the previous article in this series, How I Got Here To the Place that I’m Currently Am Now. It doesn’t provide any more context on J’s story, but does provide more words.— Chet]
Later on, I found my way into the transportation business. A city had put out a general bid for a light-rail system. Although I wasn’t working for a transportation company, and didn’t have any specific knowledge of transportation systems, I had been a user of public transport ever since I caught my first bus when I was nine, latching onto the rear taillight to make my skateboard ride faster. The technique worked perfectly, except for the part where my skateboard hit a rock and ricocheted off to the curb and I was left hanging there, wearing a hole in my sneakers the size of my foot.
I’ve always been a big proponent of transportation, because I believe people should be able to get to other places, especially when they are not happy in the place they’re currently at, which accurately describes most of us except the ones that are lying. Here was my chance to make things better for the little guy, and for all of the taller people at the same time. I was going to solve this city’s traffic problems.
I spent the next several weeks furiously scribbling plans and drawings and typing up my bid on an old IBM Selectric that I found mysteriously abandoned outside a clothing warehouse. Mine was going to be the hallmark of a new way; a light rail system for not just this year, but next year as well, and maybe even the year after that.
Light rail systems have been plagued for years with complicated power infrastructure issues, needing not just the rails for the cars to ride on, but also a system of cables above those rails to provide power to the cards. But with my simple and arguably ingenious insight, those cables would be a thing of the past; my system would be wireless.
All great ideas don’t live on their own, but rather combine other ideas from different areas to produce something new. As Isaac Newton wrote:
“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Of course, Sir Isaac meant “clavicles,” because standing on shoulders is unstable. Obviously, anatomy was not his strong suit.
Regardless, thus it was with my light rail proposal. I took the need of the light rail system (running on rails) and the power system from subway systems (powered through electric rails) and combined them to propose the world’s first “Electric Third Rail Light Rail™” system. There would be no need for cables in this innovative system; just an extra rail to supply power to the cars. My system would be simpler, more elegant, more robust, and easier to maintain.
Unfortunately, my bid lost out in what I can only assume was some kind of internal corruption ring. The city managers obviously wanted to give the contract to one of their buddies, instead of to me, the new player on the block. Their rejection of my bid used obtuse and often hurtful language like, “Insufficient detail” and “Lack of experience,” and “Schematics unclear, drawn with crayon.” but I could tell they were just looking for paltry excuses to shut me down and get back to lining the pockets of their buddies.
The city managers also went to the unnecessary extreme of pointing out that my ETRLR™ system was in some way harmful: “The proposed system would be lethal to anyone touching the electric rail, which will happen to anyone crossing the street. Is this some kind of joke?”
I pointed out that my proposal was not, in fact, a joke, because there was no punch line. Also, I told them in my 500-page response, the system works safely in most subway systems today, with the use of helpful “Danger: Electric 3rd Rail” signs. But they said that would not work on open streets where everyone crossing the street might touch the rail by accident. As if that’s actually true.
I further responded by saying that maybe the city didn’t need people that didn’t read signs anyway (cleverly playing to their selfish desires to have their city signs read and obeyed by their citizens), but the city didn’t favor me with a response beyond a simple, “We said it was a joke. We didn’t say it was funny.” The job was then given to a transportation company that was obviously in cahoots with them.
“We said it was a joke. We didn’t say it was funny.”
It was obvious at that point that I was playing a rigged game; Big Business doesn’t appreciate someone playing by different rules. So I resolved to work the system from within, which is when I took this job at Office Supplize. Here, I am building my experience in the corporate world so that I can use their powers against them. For every stapler I sell, I’m figuring out how to market products to consumers, and how the money flows from people to the corporate bureaucracy that we all live within (Hint — it’s through the cash register). I’m also building my knowledge of costs and profits, as I take the money from people (“cost”) and give them back their change(“profit”). These lessons will be invaluable in my future endeavors, when I next venture out on my own to take the business world by storm.
Never stop innovating, and don’t take “no” for an answer. Remember: you can’t spell entrepreneur without “neu” (which is “no” in Belgium. Or Norway, maybe).