1989 – “One man’s hell” (Phonon Corp)

OK, moving on from the BIOSIS experience…

My first “real” (ie, post-college) job was working for a company that manufactured electronic components for radars and communications systems…or something. The job dropped in my lap courtesy of a high school friend’s dad (Ray Sawin, a great guy). Phonon’s president and founder, Tom Martin, was also the father of one of my classmates.

I worked in a clean lab, which meant that I spent most of my days putting on and taking off special clothing that kept everything particle-free. It wasn’t a particularly challenging job, and because it had nothing to do with anything I’d studied, it wasn’t a very interesting job. My efforts to make it more interesting included growing Sea Monkeys and checking them out through my lab’s microscope (they never did brandish tridents, build castles, or grow three-pronged heads).

One of the more irritating aspects of this job was having prospective clients peer into my lab as they toured Phonon’s stately facility. The windows to the lab were huge and tinted, and it really felt like working in an aquarium. One day when I knew a client tour was coming, I filled one new beaker full of orange Tang powder and another with fresh water, then waited for the tour to stop at my “cage.” I pretended not to notice them as they gathered at my window, and as I went about my business, I took the beaker of water, added it to the beaker of Tang, drank it, then staggered around the lab (a la “Altered States”). The onlookers were visibly startled by this, which made me double over with laughter, which only made them MORE visibly startled. Good times!

One good thing about Phonon is that the company brought in lunch every day and was thus directly responsible for introducing me to General Tso’s chicken (from Main Moon in Simsbury center). So that’s something. Oh, and I also won the company’s Super Bowl pool the year I was there.

Oh yes, the cartoon. This is one of my all-time favorite drawings. The lab looked EXACTLY like this. Even though it was almost 27 years ago, I clearly remember drawing this. I was sitting at my desk in my rented house in Windsor, and I just started doodling. There was no plan or intent to draw anything in particular, but this just came out.

The guy in this cartoon doesn’t look anything like me, of course, but it’s me. The only important thing about my alter ego here is the expression, which absolutely nails how I felt about Phonon.