The phone rang this morning, around 9 AM. I’ve gotten used to that; my recruiter’s been calling me around 9 for the last few days. But this time there was a different tone to his voice. He was nervous.

Great, I instantly thought. Another rejection. What is this, high school?But I let him finish, because he said he had some good news. "Dave, they’re excited about you. But there’s a problem. Do you think there’s any way you can start tomorrow?"

Tomorrow. He’d told me yesterday he thought they’d probably be interested in me, and that we’d be preparing for a start day of July 5. Being able to start tomorrow was about the last thing I expected.

I wasn’t the least bit prepared, but in reality, what did I have planned for tomorrow? A trip to the post office, certainly. A trip to a thrift store or two, most likely. Maybe I’d get ambitious and change the oil in my wife’s car, and maybe I wouldn’t. So I’d make $7, maybe $15, and I’d save another $20.

I figure that every day I didn’t work cost me between $150 and $200 (pre-tax). So you do the math. I told him I’ll start tomorrow.

Actually this was a longshot if there ever was one. The job position involves Unix administration. I’m not a stranger to Unix, but it’s been a year since I’ve done any Unix on a regular basis. I pulled out all the stops on the job interview, showing up in a suit and tie on a 90-plus degree day on just a couple of hours’ notice. It was all downhill from there. The entire department of five interviewed me, plus one guy who’d been recently promoted out of it. They peppered me with Unix and e-mail questions. One of them asked me why to never type "rm -rf /" and I asked him whether the "r" was uppercase or lowercase. Apparently in Solaris it doesn’t matter. It does in every Linux distribution I know. But I got the rest of the question right. I struck out on the others, sometimes badly.

I left the building with a little more than a thank-you for my time from the supervisor. I made a note to myself to make sure my recruiter briefed me better on what the responsibilities would be, and to get me enough time to actually brush up so I’d look like I know something, and not some idiot off the street who can barely spell "Unix."

Then they started interviewing other people. And with each passing interview, my recruiter felt more hopeful. I started to feel hopeful too. I didn’t count on anything–my wife and I all but started a business last week, and we’re profitable. It won’t pay the mortgage, let alone make us rich, but we made more than enough to pay the electric bill, and we did it on our terms.

And then the phone call came. A few hours later I drove 10 miles, signed some papers, and it was official. I’m a professional Unix administrator.