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A Journey to the Center of the Mind, Book II The Police Officer Years

By

James R. Fitzgerald

(The say, Loose lips sink ships. And theyre right. They also can be the cause of one losing a

potentially pretty decent job. Believe me, I know it. Picking right up from the non-three Martini

lunch left off, the rest of my almost-Wyeth Labs story can now be told.)

Bonus Chapter 46c

It was now after 2:00 on this beautiful Wednesday afternoon, so I decided to drive from

the French restaurant in Media directly to the Villanova University campus. As my Statistics

class started at 7:00, and the school being only twenty minutes away from here, there was no

reason to drive all the way home to Bensalem and then back again just a few hours later. So,

after zigging and zagging my way through the backroads of Delaware County, I was on campus

by 2:30.

I had my study notes with me and was planning to go right to the library and do some

additional preparing for tonights class. However, upon strolling along the beautiful, tree lined

campus walkways, with the colorful spring flowers just starting to bloom all around me, and

noticing the bookstore all of a sudden right there in front of me, I decided to stop inside first and

delay my library visit.

I made up my mind right then and there that I was going to treat myself to something

from the store. I didnt know what it would be yet, but I felt I deserved a present of some sort for
how the whole Wyeth job-thing had progressed up to this point. So, into the bookstore I went,

still wearing my suit (having removed the tie), searching for just the right reward for me.

As quickly referenced earlier, it was only two weeks before when the underdog Villanova

mens basketball team defeated the highly-favored Georgetown Universitys team in the NCAA

basketball championship game. Needless to say, the campus was still in a highly celebratory

mood and the bookstore now had all sorts of merchandise reflecting their recent big win.

After checking out the wide selection of brand new Villanova 1985 NCAA Basketball

Champions apparel and related paraphernalia, I settled on a quality tee-shirt which proudly

touted the schools recent upset victory. Buying it was somehow representative to me of the

winning style in my own very recent professional life. So, I treated myself accordingly.

This Statistics class only met once per week, so it was about three hours in length. The

professor was pretty cool and he realized that most, if not all, of his students were only taking

this particular class because it was a program requisite for attaining their M.S. degrees. That

would include me. In view of that, to provide our mostly non-statistically oriented brains the in-

class rest they needed, the professor would give two ten minute breaks after the first and second

hours. It was much appreciated, especially when attempting to absorb subject material which

was, quite frankly, not all that interesting to most of us.

Having been at Villanova on and off for almost three years now, I had come to know

many of my fellow students and had become friendly with some of them to one degree or

another. A group of us had exchanged phone numbers, both work and home, and would contact

each other if there was a question about an assignment or if it so happened that one of us

couldnt make class on a certain night and needed the other person to copy his/her notes and fax
them over the next day. It was nice to have this sort of ancillary set of friends that I could call

upon by phone if need be, as well as hang out with before, during, and after class, whether to

discuss course related matters or just for giggles and kicks to relieve the monotony and the

occasional academic stress.

However, there was one guy in my Stat class who I had never noticed before this

semester or had the opportunity to talk at any time up to this point. We independently chose on

the first class day in January to sit on opposite sides of the room and as the semester progressed

it seems for whatever reason we simply did not have the opportunity to directly interact at class

time. I remember glancing at him several times from across the room, perhaps just his side

profile at first, maybe his whole face at other times, and telling myself that this man looked

somewhat familiar. I couldnt put my finger on from what part of my life, be it present, past, or

for that matter be it my police or my personal life, but there was just something about him which

seemed familiar. I guess at some point I should just go over and talk to him.

Well, of all nights, this was to be the night, and a fateful decision for me it would be.

At the first break, as several of us were chatting in the outside hallway, the

aforementioned gentleman happened to walk by me to use the nearby water fountain. As he was

returning toward our classroom door and while sort of half wiping his mouth with his shirt

sleeve, I ever so politely proffered a genuine Hi in his direction and introduced myself to him.

Somewhat surprised at first, he nonetheless proceeded to introduce himself to me as we shook

hands.

Oh, hi Jim, nice to meet you, the as of yet unrecognized fellow student said to me.

Im Joe Mueller. (Not his actual name, of course.)


Joe Mueller, eh? Okay, so he told me his name. Hmmmand that name was familiar

to me too. But this guy is older, heavier, and with gray hair, unlike that other Joe Mueller that I

remember from years ago who was younger, thinner, and with a head of black hair. This is still

not connecting for me.

So, I pushed on. I havent seen you here before this semester, Joe. Are you new to the

program?

Yeah, I started back in the fall semester with the Organizational Psychology class. This

is just my second course. Im slowly but surely working on my masters degree while employed

fulltime? Whats your story, Jim?

I then told Joe in fifty words or less of my background, how long Ive been at Villanova,

and the like. But, enough about me. I needed to know more about him. There was something

about this guy. I now know hes not from my recent past, not from my cop life.

Damn! Where do I know this guy from?

After listening to my very brief bio Joe responded in kind, Oh then, were both cops and

both sergeants I see. Im at the Abington Police Department over in Montco. Im going on

twenty years there now.

I knew where he meant. Joes department was about five miles due west from Bensalem

in Montgomery County, PA. So, hes an Abington PD cop.

Hmmmdid I know Joe from Abington? If so when? How? And why?

Wait a minuteAbingtonwhy!!!

AbingtonY!!!

HOLY SHIT!!! ABINGTON Y, THATS IT, AS IN THE ABINGTON YMCA!!!


ITS HIM!!! AFTER ALL THESE YEARS!!! I CANT BELIEVE IT!!! ITS

REALLY, REALLY HIM!!!

It hit me like a ton of bricks, a lightning bolt, and a speeding locomotive all at the same

time, and harder than I had been hit in a real long time by anything oranyone. This was

especially true when that person was not just anyone from my past life, but one who was an

almost mythical figure from my youth. He was a mentor, a leader, a game-changer, aahero

in many ways to me. Well, for eight weeks, anyway.

And this is him, in the flesh, here in my Villanova Stat class. What are the friggin odds?

I suppose we should go back in time a bit here, thirteen years, actually. It will all make

sense. I promise.

As recounted in JCM Book I, in the spring of 1972 I had the opportunity to become a

lifeguard. I already had the job (through my former brother-in-law), I just needed one little piece

of paper to make it official. That is, a Senior Lifesaving Certificate issued by the American Red

Cross. So, I went to the local YMCA and signed up. It happened to be located in Abington, PA,

not far from the satellite Penn State campus I was attending at the time. I had heard previously

from friends who already had their certificates that if you had even basic swimming skills then

attaining the card wasnt all that difficult. I certainly had those basic swimming skills, honed

mostly during the previous fifteen summers slightly past the breakers in the Atlantic Ocean off

the coast of southern New Jersey. The course, I was told, was mostly taught by friendly college-

aged female instructors and it was pretty easy to pass and get that all-important card to then

officially attain employment guarding the surf or the pool.


Well, those friends were wrong, at least about the type of instructor I would have and

how easy the course would be.

My instructor at the Abington Y was anything but a college-aged woman. Instead he

was a 30-something, very fit former military drill instructor and present-day sergeant at the

Abington Police Department. He was a no-nonsense type of guy who wound up tossing half the

wannabe lifeguards out of our first nights class because, according to him, they simply didnt

swim well enough.

As a reminder, I only had basic swimming skills. I could do distance, swim underwater

forever, and I wasnt necessarily slow in the water, but I knew little in the way of form, style, or

stroke variation. So, upon the instructor coming over to me at me at the end of the multi-lap, in-

pool tryout that evening, and after he had already summarily dismissed ten-plus of my fellow

students, he said to me very seriously, Youre close, kid. Im gonna leave you in the class for

now, but Ill be watching you.

I made it into his class by only by the narrowest of margins. I almost quit right after that

first class and seriously considered not coming back for the second week. But, I did go to the

next class and then the rest of them as well. And, I got better and better with each one. In fact,

after the eight weeks were up, I not only graduated and got my official card, but according to our

instructor I was Number One in the class after all the in-class and in-pool test scores were

tallied up.

During this eight-week course, this particular instructor gave a struggling kid (me), who

at times in his earlier life could be a quitter when challenged outside of his comfort zone, a

chance to accomplish something that wasnt an automatic done-deal or achieved by merely

showing up. In this case, it was a hard-earned (I assure you) Red Cross Senior Lifesaving
Certificate. By that last class, this instructor had turned me into a better person. And, after this

hard-fought triumph on my part in my late teens, really the first of its kind for me, I slowly began

morphing into a person who no longer shied away from challenges. It further taught me to NOT

be that person who sometimes quit if I felt something just wasnt worth the effort or it was too

difficult to accomplish or attain.

This new way of thinking stuck with me too, both consciously and subconsciously. As a

matter of fact, over the next thirteen years or so, I told this success story many times, to young

and old alike and to whoever would listen to me. It was my own little personal coming-of-age

parable as to when one should not quit in life, not be afraid to confront difficulty, and to learn to

face and take on lifes problems directly and not retreat or run away. That became the new me

in 1972, with a life-lesson learned and earned in a swimming pool with the help of a certain

hard-nosed and in-your-face Red Cross instructor.

Over the years, I had always wondered what happened to my former senior lifesaving

instructor and Abington cop. I sometimes contemplated what I would say to him if I ever ran

into him again. After all, he really did influence my early life. He challenged me and made me a

better person.

What a guy! What a leader! What a man!

And now, he was my Villanova classmate.

Jim, meet, or more accurately re-meet, Joe Mueller; this time, man to man, cop to cop,

grad student to grad student.

Geez, what do I say to him?

Ill figure it out. Im sure itll all come out very natural.
So, back to the hallway outside of the Statistics classroom

Joe, its you! Its really you! Jim Fitzgerald, remember me?

Joe backed up just a step in the narrow corridor and laid a long, sideward glance upon

me.

Uhyeah, surefromwait, where was it?

The man clearly didnt remember me as I had remembered him. Thats okay though, Ill

just remind him. Itll all come back to him. Im sure.

Joe, as I enthusiastically attempted to refresh his memory, it was back in 72, you

were teaching Senior Lifesaving at the Abington Y. Remember? I was one of your students,

you almost threw me out of the class that first night, but you kept me in it and I eventually

graduated at the top of the class. Remember now? Spring, 1972?

Okayyeah 72, right? Well, I WAS teaching the course back then. Yeah Hey,

great to meet you again after all these years. And now youre a cop too? Thats neat!

Mueller didnt seem all that convincing to me that he actually recalled the young guy

who had the life-transforming moment at the end of his class. But that was okay. It was still

him. A bit grayer, a bit heavier, but now I know it was, in fact, my former instructor and mentor,

even if just temporary him never knowing it. Itll all come back to him.

Maybe.

We talked for the next few minutes but had to go back to class for another hour until the

next break. When I was finally back in the classroom, I was of course paying attention to the

professor, but I still couldnt help but think about how fate brought me back together again with

this man, this instructor, this hero of mine from the past. It was so unbelievable. I wonder
what words of wisdom, life lessons, and/or professional guidance he can offer me this time

around. Dang, I cant wait til the next class break.

The next break came and I found myself a bit more subdued with him as the initial

surprise factor had abated somewhat. But I still went over to him outside the classroom and we

picked up right where we left off. This time, it was more about our police careers and what was

going on at our respective departments. Without going into great detail during this second

discussion, I let Joe know that I was highly dissatisfied with my own police department and that

taking these Villanova classes was one way of hopefully getting me out of there. He asked if I

was exploring anything else outside of my present job and I simply told him that I had a few

irons in the fire.

Joe replied, in effect, Hey, good for you, Jim. Thats important in life to always have

options. I feel the same way.

Wow! Words of wisdom again from this guy.

Well, he was actually just echoing MY words back at me, but what the heck, he agreed

with me. Thats good enough!

Then it was back to class for our last hour. I was paying attention to my Stat professor

the whole time, I can assure you. But, stillthis guy from my past, Joe Mueller, in my class,

here and now, and us reunited once again. Its hard to synthesize it all. Its my distant past as a

very young man (all of thirteen years ago) meeting my present life as a somewhat older man with

Joe as a nexus of sorts. Strangebut really cool!


At the end of class, after bidding adieu to a few of my other classmates, I sidled up to Joe

again and we walked together in the darkness off the campus out across Lancaster Ave. to the lot

were our cars were parked. We talked a bit about our past, including the fact that he quit

teaching the Red Cross course sometime in the late 70s. It just got to be too much for him and

he had become tired of simply babysitting these young kids, some of whom were pretty bad

swimmers. They didnt make students like me anymore, he said half-kiddingly/half-seriously.

Okay. That was niceI think.

Joe brought us back to the present and maintained that he thoroughly enjoyed being an

Abington police sergeant. He was eligible to retire in less than five years and would probably do

so once he reached his age and time. He made it clear that he wasnt going anywhere until then

as he assured me as he was very content in his present duties. He told me in the meantime he

was also focused on teaching some college classes.

By the time we crossed four-lane Lancaster Ave. and entered the large, blacktop parking

lot, Joe also advised me that he was now teaching police courses at Montgomery County

Community College. I couldnt believe it as we now had THIS in common too, well, almost. I

told him I had met Don Nypower just a few months ago and was on my way into the instructor

program there. Joe reinforced to me that it was an excellent program at MCCC and Dean

Nypower was a great director of it. He said he was looking forward to me joining him there as a

part-time faculty member and even offered to put in a good word to Don in my behalf. I

responded with a heartfelt, That would be great! Thanks!

What a guy! My former lifesaving instructor is still helping me out after all these years.

Then, interestingly, the conversation veered in another direction. Joe led the way. It

went something like.


Joe: So, Jim, it seems like youre not real happy over in Bensalem. Yeah, I heard things

are pretty messed up there. One chief in, one chief out. A politician charged with

dealing drugs, then acquitted. Thats screwy! I dont blame you for wanting out. What

are some of the options youre exploring? Im just curious.

Me (Hesitatingly at first.): WellI checked out the security departments in a few of the

new Atlantic City casinos. For now, Im gonna hold off on going there though. Ive also

taken the FBI test. I didnt score as high as I would have liked, plus theres a hiring

freeze, so Ill probably take it again next year. Im checking out other possibilities too.

Joe: Like what? In law enforcement, private sector, both?

Me (Reluctant at first, but geez, hes my hero. He made me into a better person some

thirteen years ago and is even willing to put in a good word at the MCCC for me. Plus,

he has five years until retirement. Hes not going anywhere. I guess I can tell him whats

going on. Especially as its all so fresh in my mind from lunch this afternoon.): Well,

between you and me, Im interviewing with Wyeth Labs for a Security Manager position.

I had my third interview just today, actually over a business lunch. It went really well. I

think I have a good shot at getting the job. The Security Director seems to think so. He

even told me as much today. Fingers crossed right now, you know.

Joe: Jim, thats great. Theyll certainly be getting an excellent candidate in you. And,

youre young enough. You can easily quit the BPD and start over again. Yeahthats

great. Hey, who are you dealing with at Wyeth? Ive known a few guys who worked

there over the years.

Me (What the heck?): His name is Secor. He works out of their Collegeville office. He

told me hes former Secret Service.


Joe: Secor, eh? Im not sure if I know him or not. Maybe I do. Well, heres my car.

Hey, good luck with the Wyeth thing. Maybe by next week youll know more. See you

in class and take er easy til then.

Me: Joe, great meeting up with you again. Really. What are the odds, right? Yeah, see

you in a week.

I drove home. During the almost hour-long ride that evening I found myself still equally

excited about the two unrelated events which occurred today. I couldnt wait to share my

excitement with someone.

Shortly after walking in the house I filled in my wife with details of the luncheon and the

classroom reunion with Joe Mueller. She was very happy to hear of the positive lunch

experience with the Wyeth bosses and that we were possibly a bit closer to me finally saying

goodbye to the BPD. Eileen also remembered the lifesaving instructor from when I was actually

enrolled in his class lo those many years ago, not to mention hearing me tell the story to others

multiple times over the last decade-plus. She couldnt believe that I bumped into him again, and

in a Villanova University classroom of all places. It was a bizarre coincidence, we concurred. I

ended this part of my conversation with my wife by stating, I wonder what life-lessons I can

learn from Joe this second time around?

We silently nodded our heads at that nebulous notion and got ready for bed.

Ironically, the answer to that life-lesson question involving Joe was probably already in

motion. I just didnt know it yet.

*****
Life without lessons for me continued as usual at the BPD over the next few weeks with

my everyday patrol sergeant duties and the seemingly daily issues regarding the disciplinary

matters of which I was forced to confront. Of course, I was also taking my classes at Nova and

teaching my classes at CIST. To put it mildly, balancing these occupational and educational

endeavors was made much more manageable by knowing how close I was to attaining the Wyeth

job. It was only a matter of time, I assured myself frequently, that these various issues would all

be in my current lifes rearview mirror. And that time couldnt come soon enough.

But thenthere was silence. That is, utter and complete silence from Mr. Secor and

Wyeth. Its the kind of silence they say is deafening. It certainly was to me. There was

nothing, nada, zero, from Wyeth personally, telephonically, or even through the mail.

Okay, what the hell does this mean?

I came to realize up until the day of the luncheon in Media that I had been in personal or

telephonic contact with Secor on a weekly basis for over a months time. Sometimes we met

and/or talked twice during the same week. Every conversation, every meeting, every interview,

was a positive step forward as far as I knew, and as far as he had led me to believe. Unless I was

really misinterpreting something here, I was all but told I had the job after lunch that afternoon in

Media. The Security Director only needed some time to get it all in place administratively and

then officially rubber-stamped by his Wyeth higher-ups. Thats how everything came across to

me up until this point. But theres been nothing from him for over two weeks now, and its

already May.
What the heck. Ill call Secor. I wont pester him, but Ill continue to let him know Im

still very interested in the position. He wouldnt be upset by that - at least I dont think so.

I finally called Secors office and his secretary answered. That in and of itself wasnt

unusual and I simply left a message with her for him to call me back. But instead of calling me

within a few hours as had been the norm, it took him a day or two, and then he had nothing to tell

me. So, I waited. And waited. I called two weeks later and he never called me back. I then

called him again after three more days.

Hmmmthis was getting strange. It was definitely out of character for him and our

budding professional relationship.

When the Security Director eventually called me back after my last call he was, at best,

marginally positive. But at the same time he would keep putting me and my hiring off. He

would tell me, Jim, these things take time. And, some of the people who have to sign off are

presently indisposed. Finally, Jim, there have been some delays here in the processits

nothing to do with you, but Ill get back to you when I know more. Ill call YOU when I hear

something, okay? I took that as him not wanting me to call HIM anymore.

Sure, Mr. Secor, Ill await your call. Thanks.

What else could I say to him?

I decided then and there that I wouldnt keep bugging the guy I had been ever-so-

cautiously thinking of as my new boss. Id let him call me when he had some news. That was

all I could do. I was sure it would still be good news. Well, I was hoping it would still be good

news. I SO wanted it to be good news.


As I was very aware already in life, but had it reinforced again in June of 85, one

persons good news can be another persons bad news. I was about to be the recipient of some

news, and there would be another person who would be receiving related news. It would be

newsworthy for both of us, but for only one of us would it be good. For the other, it would most

definitely be bad news. You can take my word for it.

Mr. Secor finally called me on the phone after approximately three weeks of no

communication at all. It was now the month of June. The news he gave me hurt. It hurt bad.

But I intently listened to him. I wanted all the details, all of it thats fit to print, even of the bad

news variety.

According to Secor, it seems that at the very last minute, within just a few days of my

well-received luncheon with the Exec VPs, another candidate came forward and entered the

competition for the Security Manager position at Wyeth. After some probing he told me, Jim,

he came into the game late but hes now been interviewed several times and the big bosses here

feel that because this man is older, has a more extensive CV, and in the end is, well, more

experienced than you, theyre going to approve his hiring.

I maintained radio silence, or more accurately, telephone silence. I couldnt help myself.

The Security Director must have been uncomfortable with the lack of response on my

part and continued, almost apologetically, Jim, dont get me wrong, everyone here really liked

you. You said and did everything right. We all know you would have done fine here. But for

now they want to offer the position to this, quite frankly, more seasoned candidate. I hope you

understand. In this instance, in a way, youre cursed by youth.

I repeated that line in my head a few times. Cursed by youth, eh?


Simultaneously, I found myself uttering barely audible uh-huhs a few times to Secor,

but then I had to ask him a question or two. My head was spinning, my stomach in a knot, yet I

needed to know some things.

May I ask, Mr. Secor, just for my own purposes, what exactly is this mans level of

qualification and experience? For future reference, when applying for these types of positions,

Id like to know who my competition is out there and maybe what I can do to become more

qualified.

Well, Jim, ahsince you asked, I can tell you that hes a retired chief of police and an

FBI National Academy graduate. After his several interviews here the bosses simply felt that he

was better suited for the position. Obviously, he looks great on paper, too.

I responded, Okay, I appreciate that information. Yes, he is older and I suppose he does

have some qualifications I dont have yet. May I also ask though, out of curiosity, from what PD

did he retire?

Oh, sure. Its Abington PD, Jim. Are you familiar with it? Actually, he just retired a

few months ago.

There was silence once again on my part, and longer than it probably should have lasted.

The only words I could initially muster were, Abington PD, eh? Yes, ImIm very familiar

with it.

The knot in my stomach was turning even tighter at this point. Please dont snap on me.

I subsequently cleared my throat, sat up in my chair, and got my wits about me. I now

realized that this was over, ended, kaput, an absolute, positive done deal.

I was NOT being hired by Wyeth, and it was time to move on with my life. As such, I

politely thanked Mr. Secor for his efforts in facilitating this whole process at Wyeth. I agreed
with him, in so many words, that it just wasnt the time or place for me. So, we said goodbye

and I hung up the phone. As it turned out, this would be my final interaction ever with Mr. Secor

and Wyeth Labs.

I came to realize shortly after this experience that the Security Director was correct. It

wasnt my time, or my place. Not yet, not there, anyway. But, it also became crystal clear to me

after this final phone chat that I was the one who altered the temporal and spatial factors which

resulted in me not getting the job in 1985 at Wyeth.

Yes, if its not obvious so far, it was my big mouth that closed this deal for me, and NOT

in a good way. And it was the mouth of Joe Mueller, my now-FORMER hero, mentor, and life-

changing force, who apparently closed the deal for someone else, and in a good way, certainly

for that guy.

I saw Joe during the following few weeks Stat classes. Of course, this was before I had

heard back from Secor. We talked a good bit about our jobs, class, sports, the old days, and life

in general, but with virtually no mention of the Wyeth job. That, in and of itself, should have

been a clue as to his complicity in his former Abington PD chief eventually getting the job which

I was hoping was mine. But my newly-reestablished relationship with this man clouded my

thought processes. I let down my guard that first night in the parking lot and I shouldnt have.

No matter what he may have done for me in the past, it was the present that mattered now. And,

with that lapse in judgment on my part, it affected my future too.

When I finally learned of my outcome with Wyeth, the spring semester at Villanova was

already over. I took a summer class but never saw Mueller on campus. At the time, I recall
wondering how I would handle this situation if I ever ran into him again. Do I not wait to merely

run into him but call him at his PD and confront him? Do I tell him what I deduced about him,

me, and what was perhaps going to be MY new job? This was a first for me, certainly at this

scale of importance.

I was initially very mad at Joe and disappointed in him at the same time. It stayed with

me for a while that spring and summer. However, after thinking about it more and more I found

myself growing even madder and more disappointed at, well, me. After all, it was me one

evening who out of unbridled enthusiasm and overflowing positivity, resulting from both the

successful lunch/interview of that afternoon and then the subsequent surprise reuniting with my

former, unofficial, short-term, but still significant life coach, which allowed my brain to slip

and violate one of the basic dogmas of modern life.

That dogma is, of course, to keep ones friggin mouth shut when certain opportunities,

especially those still in the domain of external decision-makers, are in the works but not quite

decided upon yet. This applies to ones personal life, financial life, and professional life, just to

name a few of the relevant life-scenarios where one should say less and definitely not more while

awaiting a certain outcome or opportunity.

Yes, I violated this dogmatic precept big time.

This singular violation was to or with no one else during this entire timeframe. It was

only this one man on that one emotional and exuberant evening. It was to this one man who I

had placed on a pedestal for the prior thirteen years of my life which in a solitary moment of

serendipitous exhilaration I let down my guard and violated the cardinal rule of new employment

acquisition. That is, I told someone else about it, someone in the same occupational field as me,

who also had friends and colleagues in that same field. He told that friend/colleague about it,
and my fate in this scenario was sealed. Of course, not every similar situation may turn out the

same way, but why tempt fate and take the chance? I did, and I lostbig time.

Clearly, I should have kept my mouth shut and not have given away anything about my

pending new career opportunity. Looking back, not only did I tell Mueller generically that I was

in the running for a new job, but I also told him specifically the company name and even the

name of my contact there. He DID directly ask for that latter information, come to think of it,

but I still shouldnt have given it to him, even if he WAS my hero, etc., from back in the day.

Damn! What was I thinking?

I never saw Joe Mueller at Villanova after our Stat class ended that semester. I learned

later that he took some time off from school and by that time I had completed all of my required

courses in the M.S. program.

I finally did run into Joe again at Montco Community College the following year when

we were both teaching the Act 120/Police Academy courses there. Interestingly, when I talked

to Don Nypower in early 86 on my first day as an instructor there, he told me that Joe came into

his office a few months earlier, told him he met me at Villanova, and gave me a glowing

recommendation. While I was told by Don earlier in 85 that I was essentially already hired, it

certainly didnt hurt that Mueller, who was teaching there already and knew the Dean well, put in

those extra good words for me.

Maybe Joe did it out of guilt? Sorrow? Pity? An honest evaluation of me?

For whatever reason, I appreciated it.


At some point during early 86, after crossing paths on campus a few times, Joe and I

agreed to meet one evening at a local Montco bar after the two of us had taught our separate

classes. We talked there about a number of issues over a few cold beers, from our current jobs,

to Villanova, to the MCCC program, its students, with eventually the topic of Wyeth being

broached. I told Mueller for the first time that I never got the job, and reinforced to him that I

felt I was really close to getting it when we spoke about it on that April night in the parking lot.

He sort of squirmed on his barstool a bit at this point in the conversation and volunteered that he

heard at some point that his former Abington PD chief wound up getting the position.

I responded somewhat sarcastically, Yeah, how about that, Joe?

Mueller took a big sip his beer and initially said nothing back to me.

Then, he turned to me, as if a lightbulb went off in his head and said, Wait, Jim! You

dont think I told him anything about it back then, do you?

I looked at him and said, Yes, Joe, I do. I heard through the grapevine that you were

pretty tight with your former chief. Am I wrong?

NoI mean yes, wait a minute hereJim, Im tellin you, the chief must have found

out about the job on his own. He was already retired from the PD last April when you told me

about the position. I swear, I didnt tell him anything - or at least I dont think I did.

Joe then looked away from me and gulped down the rest of his beer.

I told him, Joe, at this stage it really doesnt matter. Life goes on, right? But I can tell

you, I learned a valuable lesson in this whole episode, and for the second time in my life you

were the teacher. Yeah, you taught me well in 72 as my lifeguard instructor and again last year

as my grad school classmate. The most recent lesson for me is that Ill never, ever, again open

my mouth to ANYONE about a pending job scenario. Not no one, never!


After ordering another beer, and buying me one (guilt again?), without really hearing

what I just related to him, Joe said, Im telling you, my former chief must have found out on his

own. Im pretty sure I never mentioned the Wyeth position to him.

Pretty sure? Talk about equivocation.

I really didnt believe my former hero/fellow grad student/now co-instructor as I dont

think it was a coincidence regarding what happened to me and the Wyeth job. But, that didnt

matter to me anymore. It really didnt. It was all behind me and I was as much as fault as

anyone in how it all played out. In fact, I came to the conclusion that I was MORE at fault than

anyone, including Joe, in this chapter of my life.

Anyway, Joe added, my former chief didnt last too long at Wyeth. You heard about

that, didnt you?

No I didnt. Tell me.

Joe laid it out for me.

Yeah, Wyeth hired my former chief in July of last year and within a few months he was

diagnosed with cancer. Hes been out of work on disability ever since. Maybe they should have

hired you after all. Right Jim?

Yeah, I guess they should have. There was not much else I could say here as I downed

the rest of my beer.

I certainly wasnt happy to hear that the guy who got the Wyeth job instead of me now

had cancer. To be perfectly clear, I was never upset with him personally or professionally. I had

no right to be. But still, what another crazy twist to this whole bizarre scenario.
To this day, Im not sure what Wyeth did or who they hired after this position came open

once again. I had stopped checking the want ads in the newspaper by this time. I was focused

on a few other employment related matters by 86 and 87. One specific job as a matter of fact.

After teaching a few more courses at Montco Community College in 86 and 87, I lost

track of Joe Mueller. My life moved on and Im sure his did too. But, I can say, whether he

meant to or not he taught me two valuable lessons in life, albeit thirteen years apart. And even

after losing the Wyeth job, Im a better and smarter person for it, especially as my big mouth

never cost me a job or promotion again. Never!

Thanks, Joe, I guesswherever you are.

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