Friday, December 17, 2010


In the mid-1970's four of us - three from Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Boston and one EDSF employee who serviced our account - spent three months in Dallas working on a joint proposal to the state of Massachusetts regarding the processing of Medicaid claims.

It was fairly intense and became moreso as our deadline approached, but it was made easier by the first class facilities provided by EDS for the team.

The additional EDS employees provided were more than competent and were both professional and friendly.

The Boston four became fast friends. We stayed at a hotel on the North Central Expressway, met for breakfast before going to work, met for dinner after work, and occasionally went out for a drink or two together. Once in a while one or two people would fly back to Boston for a weekend, work shedule permitting. We rented a car for the entire three months, and whoever was staying in Dallas would drive the travelers to the airport on Friday nights and pick them up on their return Sunday evenings.

It was hard work, often involving long hours, but one of the more enjoyable long term work efforts I've experienced. In spite of that, nerves frayed and tension mounted as the deadline approached.

  • We were becoming punch drunk, and with a week or so to go two of the project team got a little too intense. One of the Boston Blues people and one of the Dallas EDS employees were working on a section of the proposal together, and in a large room with perhaps six or eight other people present their voices began to rise as they disagreed over whether a sentence segment should end in a colon or a semi-colon.

    I was the leader of the Boston contingent, and I contemplated telling them to flip a coin, rewrite the sentence, or duke it out elsewhere, but for some reason reached for the dictionary instead. I swear, this was not planned but just came tumbling out of my mouth.

    I cleared my throat loudly, loudly enough in fact to cause everyone in the room to stop whatever they were doing and look at me. Turning to "semi-colon" in the dictionary, I read the definition - used to distinguish between items in a list, yada yada yada. A whispered exchange took place between the two disputants: "See?" "Wait."

    Beginning to turn the pages in my search for "colon," I said "Whereas . . . ." turning, turning, stalling, "a colon . . . ," turning, turning, got it! "is a part of the large intestine."

    Everyone in the room cracked up and I wondered whether some EDS exec would open the door to see what the ruckus was (none did.) The tension was broken and there was no more debate on the issue. To this day I don't know how they settled it.

  • At the very end of the process two Blue vice-presidents and the Boston EDSF account manager flew down to Dallas to review and sign the proposals and to fly back to Boston with us. I believe we were all on a packed L-1011. We were slightly scattered but all seated within perhaps twenty feet of each other. The four of us who had spent the duration in Dallas were pretty much out of it.

    There is ("was" - I just checked and the final race was run on September 18, 2009) in Revere, Massachusetts a dog track named Wonderland. The mechanical "rabbit" used to lead the racing dogs was named "Swifty."

    As we were ready to land at Boston's Logan International Airport, I glanced out the window and saw Revere and Wonderland, and my mouth took off again.

    "Uhh, ladies and gentlemen, we have made a terrible mistake. Somehow we have landed at Wonderland instead of Logan. I knew something was wrong when I heard the announcement from the control tower: "There goes Swifty!"

    At this point my colleagues were turning around to verify that I was the "pilot" making the announcement, and a couple of them were collapsing in laughter.

    I suppose you not only had to be there but you had to be in on the culmination of an exhausting effort. Certainly several *other* passengers were looking at me as if I were a two-headed duck.

    "The good news is that we are an overwhelming favorite to win this race. The bad news is that we will only pay two ten."

    That was about 35 years ago, and I imagine today you'd be at least a temporary guest of airport security if you tried something like that.