Dysfunctional-workplace anecdotes

The first in a series of tales from a different time and place. This installment: Partying hard in Texas.

Steve Tobak
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Steve Tobak is a consultant and former high-tech senior executive. He's managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a management consulting and business strategy firm. Contact Steve or follow him on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Steve Tobak
3 min read

I joined Texas Instruments as a chip design engineer in 1980, straight out of school. I had thought we partied hard in New York; I realized how wrong I was when I moved to the Lone Star State.

Open containers of alcohol and drinking while driving were actually legal in Texas, back then. That's right, you couldn't drive drunk, but you could pull up right next to a cop with a beer in your hand. Wild.

Lots of guys--including our manager--would sometimes go out drinking at lunch. I'm not talking about a beer with lunch; I'm talking about pitchers of beer with maybe some food. In case you were wondering, we worked on defense projects, like missile and radar guidance systems. We all had secret security clearances.

Our manager used to throw annual keg parties at his home. They were a blast and great for morale.

The timeframe happened to coincide with America's country-western phase. You know, when Dallas was a hit show and everybody wanted to know who shot J.R. A bar called The Corral served, not two-for-one, but three-for-one happy hour drinks. I wish there was a videotape of all those engineers from New York and everywhere else trying to do the Texas Two-Step after a few triple Jack and Cokes.

Anyway, every year one of the guys organized a bus trip to a Texas Rangers game. There was a keg of beer on the bus. Imagine a busload of 40 engineers, managers and friends, downing an entire keg on the way to a ballgame. That's four 12-oz beers per person, just to get to the game.

One year our organizer, in his infinite wisdom, felt that one keg wasn't enough, so he added a second keg.

Predictably, we all got a bit too rowdy at the ballpark. The first bad sign was when all the other drunken bleacher bums moved clear of our section. Then the cops came and warned us. Some individuals, I'm not saying who, responded by throwing things at the nice men in blue, who then threw us all out.

The police took one guy to jail for drunk and disorderly conduct. When his co-workers got him out the next morning and drove him to where we originally caught the bus, he found one of our managers asleep under his car.

Another guy, in a drunken stupor, got on the wrong bus and ended up in a very bad part of Dallas. He eventually made it home OK, as did everyone else.

Several people who attended that game went on to become successful technology industry senior executives. I guess we eventually dried out.

In fact, TI's Defense Systems and Electronics Group (formerly known as the Equipment Group), where we worked, developed the TMS320 architecture--TI's flagship digital signal processor (DSP) and the core of two-thirds of the world's cell phones. That group was sold to Raytheon in 1997.

OK, so we worked hard and played harder. We accomplished great things and partied to the max. After all, we were young and excited to be a part of what became a revolution in digital technology. It was a great time to be alive, and a lucky thing that we all survived.

Texas Instruments was a different company under different executive management, back then. I'm sure it doesn't endorse this kind of behavior.

Kids, don't try this stuff at home.

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.