Damn That Swivel

Ward SwivelsManaging the public access studio was so much fun it didn’t seem like a job. The other producers were such characters. There was never a dull moment. After a couple years I had to face facts – this job would never pay enough to support our family. I needed to get my butt in gear and find sponsors for my show.

I spent a few weeks playing salesman – bugging people for money. Sitting in crowded lobbies waiting to pitch my show to a twenty-something junior vice presidents was a soul-sucking experience. Selling was not for me.

While gassing up the old van, I ran into an old co-worker. He was smartly dressed and driving a brand new sedan. He was running the appraisal division at a national mortgage company and was swamped with work. The real estate market was finally back! He offered me a job right there at the pump – a base salary that was twice what I was earning at the studio along with a bonus program and car allowance. And it got better. Kicker #1: I could work from home and pretend I didn’t work for a corporation. Kicker #2: He was a fan of my show and promised to give me flexibility to keep producing it!

This new job was definitely my Plan B, but it seemed to be the best option and Donna agreed. We’d be out of the woods with financial problems and I’d still have time to work on my show. I wanted to get it distributed nationally then offer the cookbook at the end of the show, which seemed like a better way to make money than selling to sponsors and Donna agreed. We paid off the bills and I felt my life was on track again. And Donna agreed.

At least I thought she agreed.

With this new job there was no commute, meetings, or otherwise wasted time of office distractions which saved me at least six hours each day. I started putting together recipes for a cookbook. A friend who’d published recently turned me onto to a typesetter. I met with them one afternoon and they agreed to take my mammoth document and turn it into something a printing press could recognize – all for a reasonable fee. I drove home that day happy as a clam to share the good news with Donna.

Walking up the driveway, I heard her cheerful voice calling me to the back yard. “Come see what I did.” She’d moved our garden bench to a shady spot beneath a tree. We sat down and I explained how within a few weeks we could have a couple thousand books printed and we’d finally be in business. She didn’t seem to be listening. Something else preoccupied her mind. She grinned from ear to ear.

“Okay, what’s up?” I finally asked.

Her smile got bigger and my heart started beating. “What!”

“They sold the building.”

Donna’s family owned a company called Ward Engineering. Back in the fifties, her grandfather – Ward – invented a shiny little device known as the “Swivel” a lighting component with movable joints. Most people remember them from those ultra-fashionable floor-to-ceiling poles with three lights – the swivel connected the pole to the light. They had other popular uses as well. Her grandfather manufactured millions of them. The once thriving business began to lose steam over time. Lighting parts could be manufactured cheaper in China and the aging equipment was breaking down. Donna’s parents had been running the company since Ward passed a few years earlier. They wanted to retire and had been trying to sell, but couldn’t find a buyer. Recently, they’d decided to just sell the equipment and the building.

“You know what this means?”

Damn that swivel!

NEXT: How Would You Spend Your Inheritance?

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