Sometimes it’s easy to say “yes.”

When my long-time friend and mentor Lori Cook introduced me to Christine Feuerstein, the Microsoft sales rep putting together a unique project, committing to earn a commercial driver’s license, drive a converted 70-seat school bus thousands of miles, and travel as a software evangelist to more than 20 cities earned an easy, affirmative response.

My undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan was just a year young. I was running shipping and receiving at a faltering business that leased, sold, and serviced copiers and other business machines. I was ready for a first “real” job and for some adventure, something missing in my day-to-day. This assignment was one of the best things that could have happened to me at the time.

I’m glad I shot photos along the way with my 35mm point-and-shoot camera. More than 20 years later, I finally got around to scanning the photos I could find (I know there are many more than you’ll see here; I wish I could find them) and thought I’d write this up.

Drop a comment at the end with any feedback or questions about the trip – or about a great job you’ve enjoyed!

Chicago skyline from Navy Pier
Navy Pier, Chicago

Preparing To Be a Software Evangelist and Bus Driver

For four or five months, I ramped up for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by teaching elementary-school-aged children basic programming and software use in one of those learning centers you’d find in an upscale strip mall. Like today’s Kumon, but specifically computer-oriented. The year was 1996, so computing was viewed as the “plastics” of The Graduate and a parent would be happy to sign her or his child up for such things.

While I was learning patience and developing teaching skills, I was also building such skills as parallel parking a 35-foot-long school bus. I don’t remember the driving tests or licensing process, but it all worked out.

Meanwhile, a clever team was ripping seats out of a school bus, installing a 10-station computer lab that ran off servers in the back, installing an amazing sound system with a marine, multi-disc CD changer, and wrapping the exterior with custom artwork. Many people told me the look reminded them of the Partridge family bus, a reference I didn’t understand but accepted as fair. In hindsight, the Microsoft Discovery Bus looked better than theirs.

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