I was pleased to land the contract: 30 stores from July to mid-August. As far as contracts go it was modest but for a solo operator like me it was just right.
I got the package in the last week of June that covered the stores and the scope of work. I was expected to come up with a schedule. The contract was administered by a nation-wide systems integrator that I had worked with from time to time. They would be skimpy on the hours but as long as I was good about documenting the expenses, things would work out just fine.
I wanted to do a couple of the closest stores first to get an idea of what was involved so I scheduled Jackson for Monday, Pearl Tuesday and Yazoo City for Wednesday. After doing three, I would know what to expect. I scheduled Biloxi and Gulfport for Thursday and Friday so I would have an excuse to spend a night on the coast.
Monday morning I showed up at Graybar Electric and purchased the supplies that I needed and headed off to do the Jackson store. It turned out to be a wiring nightmare. Whoever had set up the network had either been on acid or just planned on making a mess. I spent three hours fixing the mess and finally got down to installing the new equipment and upgrades. Total time on sit: a little over 8 hours. It was hard, physical hot work. A lot of the cabling is done in the attic or crawl spaces. I got everything working and discovered that the sites could be a real mess.
The Pearl store was easy. It was under good management and wasn't nearly the mess that the Jackson store had been. I got 5 1/2 hours.
Yazoo City was difficult because of the building. Pulling wire through that monster solo was like trying to use dental floss on a Saber toothed tiger. I got 8 hours and felt like the building had fallen on me by the time I was done.
I was looking forward to Thursday. I hadn't spent any real time on the coast since Katrina and I wanted to see how things were. I left my home in Byram at 6am, had breakfast in Magee and arrived in Biloxi a little before 10:00. The Biloxi store turned out to be a piece of cake. It was newly rebuilt since the hurricane and I was able to get the wiring and equipment in four hours.
After I finished up, I grabbed a late lunch at Lil Ray's Po-Boys in Gulfport and checked into a hotel north of I-10 to avoid the beach front premium. When I arrived I stowed my gear in the room, cleaned up and drove around Biloxi and Gulfport to explore.
Keesler Air Force Base sits right in between Biloxi and Gulfport and Thursday they were putting on quite a show. I saw F-15 Eagles, F-16 Falcons and A-10 Warthogs flying over all day.
Both towns took a horrible beating during Katrina. There are still a lot of empty spaces on the beach where hotels, resterants and amusements used to be and have not returned. Many of the places that I remember are just gone. What is there is brand new and the areas off the beach are growing wild. Pass road which runs parallel and a quarter mile off the beach is wall to wall business.
I ate supper at Claw Daddies in Gulfport and had Cajun styled crawfish for supper. It was great.
After supper I went back to the hotel room and did paperwork for a while. I put on my swimsuit and decided to cool off in the pool and sit in the hot tub for a while. When I arrived at the pool it was obvious that the Air Force had landed. They were all over the place hanging out. I turned out that they were performing manuvers that day.
I got out of the pool and sat in the hot tub for a while. The Air Force guys were talking about the days work. They were working on SAM suppression and everything was electronic. By 10 most of the Air Force had vanished. I went to the room and went to sleep.
The next morning I packed my gear and got to work on the Gulfport store. It was new too and I was done by 2. After I was done, I packed the truck and headed home. I stopped for a sandwich in Hattiesburg and was home by six.