OPEN DOOR

SOUTHWEST DIARY

OPEN DOOR

February 12, 2017

By Duncan

I made a tough decision right before Christmas. The word tough is a relative term. Maybe you handle life’s little challenges differently than I do. As some of you know, I was a mortgage lender/banker for most of my peak earning years. Then, at some point, the pilot light in my gut went out. I’m told this can happen when you do the same thing over and over and over again. I would try to relight that light in my gut off and on, but my passion for mortgage lending as a profession for me was gone. I think some might call that “burnout”.

Maybe I was suffering from depression from a second failed marriage. Maybe the mortgage lending business was changing and I didn’t want to change. Savings and Loans were on the brink of collapse, being merged into each other by the federal government because they simply couldn’t compete given the market conditions.

You might remember when banks were cannibalizing each other faster than the printers could change the logo on the stationary. It was also a very profitable time for sign companies. My world was changing and changing fast. Maybe, I simply didn’t want to change. Subprime lending was toxic, noxious, but the current fad. Sub-Prime lending to my way of thinking was slimy and unethical. In my heart, I knew I was being forced to use questionable lending practices. Like I said, subprime mortgage lending was certainly in vogue, the fashion statement for its time. Mortgage lending was parroting the country song, “I Like My Women a Little on the Trashy Side” and I was trying to play bass guitar in the band.

To me, it felt wrong, wrong, wrong. And, I was right! History would prove me right. You remember the meltdown of the housing market in 2007 – 2008? I just couldn’t bring myself to continuing to screw people with high-interest rates and tons of unnecessary fees. I tried, I really tried to live in that environment for a while. I remember working with a butcher. He was working day shift in the meat department of a Kroger. He was buying as many homes as he could get his hands on with our no money down mortgage program. People buying, buying and buying who had no experience at owning or managing residential real estate as an investment. “I don’t care what it costs, give me the money.”

I can’t say I quit the band. I really didn’t know how to stop. I think my brain couldn’t process what was happing around me. But how do you stop the music and have the courage to say to yourself, enough is enough when you’re earning path for the last 30 years has been mortgage lending? Where do you go, what do I do? I decided to leave the band. A door would open to me somewhere, somehow, someplace. I simply had to believe there was something else in this world I could do.

I went looking. Looking for almost anything. I remember opening the want ads of the Indianapolis Sunday Star newspaper for the first time. I looked at the classifieds and thought I don’t have a prayer of finding anything.

I did notice an ad for a public speaker. Not a lot of detail. I circled it anyway. I kept looking at the paper and I’m sure I circled a couple of other jobs. But, I kept going back and reading the ad for a public speaker. Monday, I called the number. They wanted a public speaker to travel a nine state area speaking to 50-100 people a night. In order for me to be considered for the position, I had to send a video of one of my talks or a speech I had given in front of an audience.

I told the person on the other end of the phone, “Okay, I will get it to you as quickly as I can.” Here is the joke, I didn’t have a clue how I was going to come up with a video.

I had a friend over for a couple of glasses of adult beverages. I was telling her my sad story. I told her I found this public speaking job in the paper, but I had to come up with a video. Now here is where a helping hand from a friend comes in handy in life. She had an idea.

She worked for a major corporation. In the building, they had a presentation room with lights and a small stage. She said the room is about four rows deep and 10 seats wide. The company also has a video recorder. She felt she could borrow the company camera for a few hours. If I could write a speech she would record me on the small presentation stage. I would simply pretend there were people in the room. The camera angle would never show the empty seats. So, anyone watching the video would assume there were people in the room.

I liked the idea. “I’ll drink to that!”

The date was set. I put on a dark pin-striped suit, white button down oxford cloth shirt and a nice tie. I even shined my shoes. I walked on the small stage and looked at the empty room. She turned the light on, and suddenly I was bathed in light. She put the camera on a tripod and said, “Okay, are you ready?” I gave an impassioned rip-roaring inspirational speech to a very grand audience.

I think I looked at the video a half dozen times. This video will never fool anyone. My friend didn’t agree. “Send it, what have you got to lose?” I held my breath and put the video in the mail.

I received a call from the owner of the company and he wanted to fly to Indianapolis from New Jersey and meet with me. Apparently, the video was good enough to get him to fly into Indianapolis.

The Boss wanted to meet at a fast food restaurant near the airport. I should have suspected then that this company didn’t have real deep financial pockets. Anyway, he told me that his company was in the weight loss business and their stick, (stick – is my word) was hypnotizing the people who came to the evening’s event. The event is held in a good size room, normally a hotel ballroom in a smaller city. They rent the room and charge a forty dollars admission fee. Then, at intermission, we sell a product that helps with weight loss. Then on the way out the door we sell a reinforcement cassette tape. He continued, like a carnival barker. In the first half of the evening, we talk about weight loss. Then we schedule an intermission and the second part of the evening is hypnotizing the people in the room.

“So, what do I do while the hypnotist is doing his thing?” I asked.

“What do you mean, what do you do? You are the speaker and the hypnotist.”

“Me? I don’t know how to hypnotize anyone.”

“The beauty of the whole thing is, we’ll teach you.” He said.

I took the job, I traveled five nights a week in nine state territory for a year and a half hypnotizing 50-100 people a night, five nights a week on how to lose weight.

4DUNCAN – WEIGHT LOSS SEMINAR

I needed the time away from home, time away from all women. Being on the road gave me time to screw my head on straight. I‘ll go into greater detail on the year and a half if you want to hear the details. But not right now let’s just stick to the basics.

The weight loss payroll checks started bouncing. I could see the writing on the wall. I would be looking for a new passion soon, a new door to open to me.

I had an idea. I decided I was going to study for and acquire a Commercial Driver’s License. In my mind, I had this fantasy of driving a large motor coach. I figured I could see the country on the cheap. I had come to an understanding with myself. My mind was now at peace with my body. I had this idea I would be out and about with people enjoying life. So, I went down to the Department of Motor Vehicles and asked for the CDL driver’s manual. I studied and passed the written test and received a 6 month temporary CDL. But the second stage of the CDL test and the most important was the driving test. That test, I knew I couldn’t fake.

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CROOKED CREEK BAPTIST CHURCH BUS

I had a very good friend by the name of John Logan. John suggested I use the Crooked Creek Baptist Church bus to practice backing, parking and all the other moves required of a large charter bus. Again, a helping hand in life from a friend. I took my driving test and was awarded a real CDL class B driver’s license. Now I was ready to drive, except no one would hire me. I had to have experience. I was told, “Our insurance company wants experienced drivers behind the wheel.”

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SUNDAY MORNING MOTORCYCLE MEETING. 

So, I went to a Sunday morning meeting of my motorcycle buddies and talked about my problem. Well, they had the answer. Glen drove for a concrete company and he said his company (IMI) needed drivers like crazy. Meet me at the sand quarry and I will teach you how to handle a concrete truck. Are you seeing a pattern to my life? Ask for help and people are only too willing to offer a helping hand. It took a couple of days of practice before I felt comfortable enough to say, “Let’s do this.” Glen put in a good word for me and told the powers that be he had trained me to do it the IMI way. With that recommendation, I was hired and now I was a professional driver.

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TRAINING IN AN IMI TRUCK – DUNCAN 

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ON THE JOB – DUNCAN

I found out very quickly that IMI has over a one hundred concrete trucks in and around Indianapolis. That means they need one hundred drivers. I was the new hire, driver number 100 in the food chain. Can you see a problem I’m getting ready to have here? If it rained in Indianapolis, construction projects in and around Indianapolis would be called off for the day. If it was too cold, construction projects would be canceled. So on any given day, IMI might only need 50 – 90 drivers. Health insurance was not available until I became a “real” employee. So, I was sitting at home waiting for a call to come to work, looking out the window while it was raining on my parade. The chances of work on that rainy day were slim to none. It was obvious this job wasn’t going to provide me with a stable income working one or two days a week. No wonder they needed drivers. They didn’t need drivers they needed just in case drivers. Plus, I knew in my heart this job was only my stepping stone to being on the wide open road behind the wheel of a charter bus.

I moved from IMI to a couple of part time very small charter bus companies in Indianapolis and was hired. Again, Larry McCoy helped get me get hired. Driving a cement truck was, in fact, my stepping stone into charter, motor coach. Thank you, Larry McCoy.

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LARRY MCCOY

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LARRY MCCOY

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I-V COACH – DUNCAN

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I-V COACH  –  DUNCAN

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CHARTER BUS DID HAVE IT PERKS AT TIMES. NO NAMES PLEASE

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THE FREE ENTERPRISE SYSTEM – DUNCAN

I approached a very large company called The Free Enterprise System and was hired. In the beginning, a lot of the driving assignments were boring. Driving around in a big circle for days and weeks on end. Then, at some point, I was moved into the big coaches. Taking people to Chicago and New York and every place in between. After three years, I realized I was never going to be home. I was always going to be on the road. I felt I needed to change my lifestyle again. I wanted to be home at night, I was tired of the road. Someone suggested I drive a school bus. I thought they were nuts. I don’t remember who suggested I drive a school bus, but here again a helping hand.

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PIKE SCHOOL BUS – DUNCAN

I could talk about the challenges of driving a school bus, but no one wants to hear the problems and no one really cares. In a nutshell that’s the basic problem. But, I did it, I drove a Pike school bus for four years. And made some terrific friends.

WHAT GOES ON IN THE BED STAYS IN THE BED.

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TWENTY-FOUR HOURS AFTER DOUBLE KNEE SURGERY –  GEORGE R DUNCAN

Then, out of the blue, I was told I should consider being a marketing man or a sales guy again. Let me explain. My Dad, George, elected to have double knee surgery. Then, from the hospital, he went to rehabilitation. I got to know most of the nursing staff during that time. One of the nurse staff suggested I should be involved in the health care game. I laughed and said something like, “Health Care, I don’t know anything about health care.” They assured me I knew more than I thought. You see, when you visit your father every day for almost 100 days, you learn a few things about heath care facilities. (You also learn how to pay for it.)

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HUSTON – WE HAVE A PROBLEM WITH DAD’S LEG.

So, a plan was hatched by the nursing staff. I should approach a “Home Health Care Company.” Ask for a job as a representative or whatever they call this job and become a “Health Care Professional.” I didn’t consider myself a serious candidate for any kind of health care position. But the encouraging was formidable and relentless. So, I succumbed to the pressure. Another helping hand that leads me to a door of opportunity.

But, I had to push the door open.

In the back of my mind, all I had to do was the interview and I would be off the hook with the girls. In other words, I didn’t want to disappoint them by not interviewing. Who is going to hire an old guy with absolutely no professional experience in health care? I applied for the job and was invited to interview with the recommendations of the professionals at the rehabilitation facility. (Several helping hands again) I sat in the waiting room looking at the other candidates. They were all young and obviously experienced and very professional looking.

School was out next week. My school bus driving duties would be over for a week. My mind was focused on heading to Florida for spring break. I wanted out of the Indiana cold and into Florida warm where I could sit looking at the beach with a glass of wine, some shrimp, cheese, and crackers. All I had to do was go in for the interview, tell them how and why I was qualified for the position. How was I going to do that? I wasn’t qualified. I sat there and looked at my competition waiting their turn. They were young, professional, educated and obviously experienced sitting across from me in the waiting room. They looked at me and gave me that half-smile and a nod. They must have been thinking, “Why are you here pops?”

I was called in first. Sitting across the room from me were three mature and experienced woman. The owner and two other women who were officers of the company. I started my presentation by telling them my Dad had been in the hospitals and in rehabilitation facilities twice. I had a six-month learning experience on what really goes on inside a health care facilities. I suggested to them they need to pull the curtain back and get real. From where I sat, Home Health Care revolves around marketing and sales.

This job you’re trying to fill isn’t about health care, it’s about money, and it’s about sales. It’ about finding out who the decision makers are. Finding the man or woman in charge. They are the one who give the red or green light to the venders. That decision maker is sitting in a back office somewhere and he or she allows the staff to use only certain home health care companies. The decision makers aren’t on the floor taking the blood pressure of the “cheeks on the sheets.” The way I see it you’re looking for a seasoned sales person, not a young health care provider.

And when it’s time to talk to the person in that hospital bed leaving the facility, going home, who are they going to connect with? A young fast-talking hard-edged health care professional, shuffling papers and asking rude and blunt questions, with little or no empathy. Or, someone who understands the pain of that person in the bed? Someone who has been there with a loved one?

This frail, older adult has been through a lot of discomfort and pain and wants to tell someone about it. Believe me, I know they do, based on my father’s experience and the countless other patients I have watched leave for home. Don’t you think that person would appreciate an individual with maturity, understanding and life experience? Yes, the questions need to be addressed. But, as you know 90% of the time it’s the same needs for almost everyone going home, isn’t it? As a represented of this company I simply offer a more measured and relaxed approach to getting them where they want to be. From the day they entered the health care facility, they want to go home.

So, I leave you now to decide. I ask each of you to put yourself in that hospital bed. You desperately want to go home. You’re worried about making the transition from hospital bed to home. You have a choice, a young aggressive hard-edged candidate with limitless education. Or a candidate like myself who has lived through the experience of a parent at home using home health care services, twice. Your decision should also put weight on a candidate with life experience. People in these beds are older adults. Also, ask yourself, should sales and marketing experience be considered along with a mature and measured health care approach? There are plenty of possibilities for you to consider sitting outside in the waiting room. I can see from the look on your faces you have a lot of new questions to consider and ask the people waiting to talk to you before making your final decision. Thank you for your time.

Finally, I felt free to live my life, my way again. I had interviewed like the girls wanted me to. Yes, I felt I had connected with the women sitting across the room from me. But, then again come-on, what are the odds I would be considered? Zero. I could now move on and focus on my mini vacation. I wanted warm weather. Bad.

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BEDROOM – CONDO – FLORIDA

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LIVING AREA – CONDO – FLORIDA

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KITCHEN – CONDO – FLORIDA

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VIEW FROM CONDO – FLORIDA

On the drive back to Indianapolis I refocus on driving my school bus. I make a few phone calls as I drove through Georgia and then Tennessee. I was calling my buddies to rub in the fact that I have been in warm weather for a week.

When I arrived back in Indianapolis, I checked my voice mail. The “girls” wanted to know if I had heard anything from the home health company. I wanted to tell them, “Get real.” I kept my opinion to myself and told them, there was nothing on the machine.

You won’t believe the phone call I received on Wednesday or was it Thursday after being back in Indianapolis. They, the home health care company, wanted to hire me for the sales position. How in the world, were they justifying hiring me? Here is a life lesson. Sometimes in life, you need to let people wake you up to your own potential, your own latent qualities, talents, and abilities that can lead to future success, you think you may have left behind.

I asked if it was possible I could finish out what little time I had left driving a school bus. They indicated it would be perfect timing for them too. Dear reader, understand at this point, I am now a “Health Care Professional.” Also, remember you too may need a little help or a push from time to time to awaken your own possibilities.

The job required me to be coherent with certain medical terms and procedures. I had tests to pass and accreditations to garner with whoever the paperwork was sent to. But, I was on the road, calling on hospitals and nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers, finding the decision makers, “the person in charge.” After a year of being in and out of nursing homes and talking with people in constant pain, I realized being a health care provider required a heart bigger than mine. The visits to health care facilities and the constant smell of human suffering, the atmosphere of sickness and pain are not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. All I can say after a year in the health care business, I salute the health care professionals. I don’t know how they get up every day and do their job, day in and day out. I respect them more than I can say.

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GEORGE R DUNCAN – LEONARD ALEXANDER

Leonard Alexander, a very good friend of mine and 1962 Pike High School graduate called. We talk from time to time. He also drove a school bus for Pike when I was driving for Pike. But, Leonard had moved to the Zionsville school system and was driving a school bus for them. He knew I was considering driving school bus again after my year in health care. He encouraged me to abandon the idea of driving a school bus for Pike with the somewhat rebellious and confrontational attitudes of the students and parents. He asked me to think about driving for a more controlled and focused student body population. “Duncan, almost all the students have two parents. The parents expect their children to behave in a respectful manner. It’s a real pleasure to drive for Zionsville. The students say Good Morning and have a nice day and don’t misbehave. Please do yourself a favor and if you’re going to drive again, do it with me.”

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TREE WITH TREE ROPES 

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PALM TREES WITH TREE SUPPORTS 

I may be wrong, but I don’t think so. At some point in life if you are in and around school children you’ve got to ask yourself an obvious question. Why is it that some children seem to grow up straight and tall, focused in school and succeed their whole life? While other children seem to fall behind, always seem to be in trouble or end up on the low end of the economic totem pole of life?

The picture of the trees above is an example of how children succeed and some don’t. The answer is restraints and ropes. Just like the trees in the picture. The ropes encourage the young tree to grow straight and strong. The ropes are giving the tree guidance and direction. The three ropes or the two by fours could mean different things to different people.

The restraints could mean two parents and grandparents interested in that child achieving success. So parents, grandparents, family expect the child to perform and push and pull that child to be as good as they can be. Or, the restraints could mean, parents on one rope, a good school system on one rope and a solid religious foundation on the third rope. Whatever the three ropes might mean to you, I submit there are three ropes on every kid that succeeds in life. I’m not sure what motivates every child, but there is always a guiding hand or a force requiring that person, kid, student, child, to succeed in life.

Leonard was right. The parents were completely different from what they expected of their children. My friend Leonard, however, had ulterior motives for encouraging me to come to Zionsville. I found much later Leonard received a $200.00 spiff for a new bus driver hire. That hire was me. I didn’t receive my customary 10%. After 4 wonderful years driving for Zionsville. I decided it was time to move on.

I had fallen in love with the idea of moving and living in Florida. Remember when I was visiting Florida over spring break? I asked myself a very basic question while sitting on that balcony of the eighth floor overlooking the ocean. “Why can’t I live here all the time?”

So, I decided, there wasn’t any reason I couldn’t live in Florida. I put the wheels in motion. We sold the houses and had many garage sales. We got rid of a lot of Dad’s life and mine. I packed a moving van with what was left and said, “Look out Florida here we come.”

The first 3-6 months in Florida was spectacular, it was nothing but a big party. I was invited to house party after house party. Christmas open houses, New Year Eve house parties and an all you can eat and drink super bowl party at the clubhouse in February. Then the parties stopped. Things started to get a little monotonous. I was sitting in my wicker swivel rocker on the Lanai every morning with my morning coffee, watching the golfers tee off the first hole behind my home. I was bored. I needed something to do.

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MBI – DUNCAN 

I decided to see if there were any charter bus companies in the Southwest Florida. Yes, there were, several in fact. The first charter company I working for was out of Naples. They worked me like a borrowed mule. Seven days a week, all day every day. This was not the retirement schedule I was thinking I would have lived in paradise. I expressed my displeasure with the woman who scheduled the trips. I requested time off.

“Duncan, this is the season, we’ve got to get it while we can get it. You’re just going to have to suck it up.”

Needless to say, I’m at an age where I don’t feel it necessary to tell me, “I need to suck it up!” I made time to write a letter of resignation. I think it started like this:

“SUCK THIS UP – I QUIT!”

I then approached a different charter bus company. I called. “Do you need part-time drivers?”

The answer was … “Yes.”

“If I request no more than three days a week and off every Sunday do you still want me to come in and talk with you?”

“Why do you want Sunday’s off?”

“I take my 97-year-old father to church. He wants to go to church on Sunday and I’m going to make sure he gets there.”

“I understand, yes, come in and talk to me, I can use a part-time driver.”

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AMERICA CHARTER – DUNCAN 

That phone call was 2 years ago. The hours for a charter bus drivers are killers at times. Up early in the morning to very late at night. My last two days of driving a charter coach involved getting out of bed at 4:00 in the morning. Getting home about 10:00 a night, two days in a row.

I was making silly stupid mistakes. I was running the rear wheels of the 52 passenger bus into the begonias at the fancy high-class hotel driveways. The turns were very tight and I realized I didn’t have it anymore. I didn’t see the curb on the hard right-hand turn until I realized I drove up over the curb and into the flowers? I was making mistakes. On the way back to the bus barn, I called the boss and told him “I’m making mistakes. I believe it’s time for me to hang up my keys. I need to stop driving before I hurt someone.”

So there you have it. Now I’m sitting behind this computer keyboard trying to let you know what I have learned living my life. What can I share with you, if anything?

Ask for help. Be honest with yourself. If what you are doing is wrong for YOU, stop doing it. I believe God open doors. Trust that doors can and will open for you. He has opened many different and exciting doors for me.

Smile at others, they give it back very quickly.

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THE LANAI – THINK TANK

I’ll be on the Lanai in the morning with a cup of coffee, swing by and join me. Maybe you can help me decide the next door I could walk through.

About the author

Stephen A and Scott Duncan publish "ByDuncan.com" Scott photographs (Duncan Photography) and is the guy who keeps this site running. Steve (left) is a photographer (Duncan Photography) and writes to "ByDuncan.com"