The year was 1983. I was about to graduate from college in Philadelphia, and I had some choices to make. As I saw it, there were two directions my life could take. I could get a permanent job, or I could continue on to graduate school.
At the time, I actually had a job, in my field, which I did not necessarily consider permanent, as I was working to simultaneously complete two bachelor’s degrees. I’ve always been a multitasker.
I had an interview with RCA, in Moorestown, New Jersey. That’s Moorestown, not to be confused with Morristown, which is another town in New Jersey. This was explained to me, so I didn’t drive to the wrong part of New Jersey! Oh, and also not to be confused with Morristown Pennsylvania, or Morrisville, Pennsylvania. Got it?
I remember the person who was interviewing me at RCA told me before the interview was over that I would be receiving an offer. Job hunting was so easy, I thought! A few days later, I got a letter in the mail from RCA with an offer for a full time job paying $25,000 a year.
I had another interview with TRW, in Redondo Beach, CA. They flew me out, and they gave me a rental car, a 1983 Toyota Corolla. Orange. I remember how fun it was to be on my own, driving a car in a new city. Being from Philadelphia, I assumed the hot spot was downtown, so I drove to downtown Los Angeles. Mistake! First, I was quickly introduced to the jammed 405 and the jammed 10 and jammed 110 freeways. Second, there was nothing of interest in downtown LA in 1983! Realizing that I made a mistake, I drove back to Redondo Beach and parked near the beach. That looked like a cool place. I liked it! I imagined myself living in a house near the beach, growing mother nature in my back yard. Hey, I was only 21.
I don’t remember this very clearly, but I’m pretty sure that TRW also offered me a job, and they offered a bit more than RCA. Maybe $27,000. I turned this down right away. I wasn’t ready to permanently move across the country just yet.
I had a third interview with the Naval Air Development Center (NADC), in Warminster, Pennsylvania. I still remember the man who interviewed me. He had curly hair and was wearing wire framed glasses. He also told me I would be receiving an offer, and he even tried to sell me on the job. He said the government pays less than private industry, but it has benefits, namely, you don’t have to work hard, you’ll never get laid off, and when you retire, you’ll get a pension.
A few days later, I received the official offer in the mail from NADC, a full-time job paying $17,000 a year. He wasn’t kidding that government jobs paid less, but I remembered his pitch.
After I received my diploma, I told my boss, at the software job I didn’t necessarily consider permanent, that I had received another offer from RCA for $25,000. He had been paying me minimum wage, since I had not yet received my degree. When he found out that I got an offer from a real company for $25k, without hesitation, he said he’d counter the offer with $28k.
I thought about this for a while, and I ended up accepting the counteroffer. My recollection over the years was that I accepted this offer, rather than taking the job at NADC, because money NOW was more important to me at age 21 than a stable job with a pension at retirement. I also was still considering going to graduate school in the fall.
As late summer approached, I was accepted to graduate schools. First New York University, then Berkeley, then UCLA. Remembering my fun couple of days at the TRW interview, I decided to take the offer from UCLA.
I obtained my Master’s degree in 1986. It took me three years, because I was also working simultaneously, from the second year onward. Still multitasking! Along the way, I bought my first car, a 1984 Orange Toyota Corolla. I kept that job for seven years, and then went on to the job that would define my adult career, which kept me employed for 29 years.
As I had friends who worked for the government and had either retired and were receiving pensions, or had plans to stay at their government jobs until they were vested in their pensions, I asked myself if I had made a mistake turning down that job at NADC. And the memory that was still with me was that I foolishly turned down the job at NADC because it did not pay enough.
As my 29 year career at my last company came to an abrupt end this year (thank you very much Covid economy!) I was again thinking back on my decision not to accept the offer at NADC. If I had accepted that offer, I could be receiving a pension now, instead of applying for unemployment benefits for the first time in my life.
So here I am at another crossroads. And it’s the first time ever in my life that I’m not working or in school or doing SOMETHING, with the exception of one or two summers in my early teens when I was too old to go to summer camp and not old enough yet to work. And this free time, off the treadmill I’ve been on for so many years, gave me time to think.
With thinking came some newfound clarity, and I had an amazing revelation. The reason I turned down the job at NADC was NOT because of the lower salary. I suddenly remembered this very clearly. I did not want to work for the Navy! I did not want a job that contributed to killing people.
When I realized this, I also realized that I had a new blog post that I would have to write. I started typing it into my phone, and about ten minutes later, I switched over to my computer to finish it. I Googled to verify what NADC stood for. I knew N was for Navy, A was for Air, and C was for Center. I thought D was probably for Development, but I wanted to be sure. And yes, NADC did stand for Naval Air Development Center.
But I also found some other things. First, the facility closed in 1996, and some of its operations were transferred to a facility in San Diego. But a few years before it closed, the base was renamed NAWC, which stood for Naval Air Warfare Center. Warfare! OMG. So glad I didn’t take that job!
Also, and I can’t believe I never noticed this before, the NADC facility was in Warminster, Pennsylvania. That’s WAR-minster. I had to look up the history of Warminster to see if there was a military significance to the name. Apparently, it was named after Warminster, England, which was originally called Worgemynstre. And it turns out, Warminster, England was the site of some battles in the English Civil War.