Monday, December 31, 2012

TING AND I, Tina's Crash and Ramsey, NJ


During the first few years of our marriage, Tina’s gait was steady, though the steps were small. She drove our second car with care, but with decreasing ability. I tried to get her to cease. We first had the car adapted to hand controls for the gas pedal, but she had trouble learning their use and usually reverted to foot controls. Toward the end of the Ledgewood Commons phase (1986-93), she pushed the gas pedal rather than the brake pedal while backing up, shot past me and through the open area between the buildings, then smacked into a neighbor’s garage, causing $17,000 worth of damage to their garage. We love you, too, State Farm Insurance.

Fortunately, no children were playing where they often did, or the mishap could have been lethal. Reluctantly, Tina relinquished her car keys and never drove again. Thereafter, she felt, perhaps correctly, that the neighbors viewed her as a bit of a hazard. When I decided to accept a buyout offer from IBM soon afterward, she was not sad to leave, except for having to say goodbye to Ruth and Mal Goldberg, Zane and Wendy Garfein.

RAMSEY, NJ, 1993–2000

In 1993, IBM had a slow year and decided to cut costs by offering an early retirement package to a subset of its workers. Eligibility required being over 50 and having worked more than ten years with the company. I just qualified in both criteria and was one of the very first to take the offer. The key item for us was continued participation in IBM’s medical benefits program. The buy-out offer came at about the time that Tina could barely make it up the stairs to our bedroom in the two-story condo. During one MS exacerbation, we had a temporary chair lift put in, running up alongside those stairs. The handwriting was on the wall, the wall beside the stairs: We would need to move soon.

I predicted to an IBM friend, also qualified for the buy-out, that first IBM would pay some of us to leave, but in the following years they might just push him out. He disagreed. I was right.


I did some job searching before I left IBM. Pickings were slim. The best was a small family-owned firm, the Texwipe Company, in a town next to Ramsey, NJ. They employed roughly a hundred people, split between the New Jersey headquarters and the North Carolina manufacturing site. They made very clean cleaning materials for manufacturing areas that need to be ultra-clean, primarily

for the micro-electronics and pharmaceuticals industries.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that an institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man. In this case, Texwipe, the man was Edward Paley, the smart, decent, and creative founder of the company.

Before being hired, I visited the headquarters several times, once giving a talk, and found Ed Paley the most impressive of the bunch. His three sons–Steve, Bill, and Doug–were involved in the business, which presumably they would inherit. Steve, not a scientist but an interested and intelligent layman, focused on technical matters. He was my boss, and generally a good one. Bill was mostly involved in marketing. When he was not skiing, Doug got involved somehow, also. When the firm was later sold, none stayed on.

I had developed a good reputation in contamination control science and technology. The Texwipe Company sold its products on the basis of their technical merits. For example, its wipers were cleaner and more absorbent than most of the competitors’ products. Their needs and my skills were a good match. I was nominally the Director of Contamination Control. I supervised testing and quality control for their products and made a few, unwelcome, visits to the plant in North Carolina to show them how to do things more cleanly. My other major activity was to represent the company on various industry panels and to do some scientific publishing to give the company added scientific panache. I was a public-relations scientist, if you will.

On the verge of hiring me, they had one remaining concern: would Tina’s health coverage be their responsibility? When I assured them that my IBM retirees’ insurance had that covered, they sighed in relief and signed me on. While their concern was understandable, prudent, and all that, it was not–shall we say–lovable.

The work was reasonably interesting. The people were nice, and some are my friends to this day. I published some more papers and was involved in setting some industry standards. In prestige and challenge, the job was a step or two down from my Research Staff Member position at IBM, though it paid as well. Ramsey was a pleasant town, and we only needed to get Phil through middle school and high school, then we could move on, as we did.

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