The Lockheed Years

Back in the 1980s I completed a BS degree in Electrical Engineering and got a job as a Systems Engineer working for the defense contractor, Lockheed, on their Tomahawk Cruise Missile Program. I spent my days in a labyrinthian sea of cubicles writing weapon system specs and going to tedious meetings run by former military toadies. Typically, I worked for months on some trivial technical paper only to have the government hand down a design change that forced me to start from scratch.

The highlight of my brief engineering career was being sent on a month long boondoggle to the naval shipyard at Long Beach, CA to test the launch program on the USS New Jersey battleship. Being young and single, I used my per diem to go drinking in clubs all night. During the day I was usually AWOL. At some point I got my first tattoo from an old tattoo artist with cataracts (it has since been covered up). Because of my outstanding efforts in the field, Lockheed bestowed on me their ‘Zero Defects Award’ which I proudly display to this day.

The end came when 500 employees had to be laid-off and I had no seniority. Having already made up my mind to go back to school in the fall, I amused myself by taking a job at an ice cream parlor a few blocks from the Lockheed facility. For an entire week, I wore a sandwich board sign and stood near the entrance waving to my former co-workers as they drove by.

To summarize: 10 agonizing semesters of engineering school; 27 worthless months as a cog in the military-industrial complex; one blissful week saying farewell to my old life as I began to look forward to my new one.

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