What you are about to read is unlike anything I have ever written for Android Police before. There are no coupon codes, reviews, leaks, specs, or APKs in this article. Instead, this is a story that I have wanted to share with you, our readers, for quite some time. Today, as I reflected on the things I am grateful for in my life, I made the decision to sit down and write the story of one of the most random, timely, and wondrous things that have ever happened to me, all because I was an Android Police reader. If you have a few minutes to read a story, then sit down, and I'll tell you one. If you want some tech news, go ahead and skip this article and go to the next one – I promise I won't be offended.
Still here? Thanks for sticking around, let's begin.
Four years ago, I entered one of the darkest chapters of my life. I had graduated with a degree in communications a couple of years prior, in the midst of the recession. I found a job in radio advertising sales in downtown Seattle, but the combination of a poor economy and my lack of experience caused me to leave that job and to look for another.
The new job I secured was as an assistant media buyer to a promising startup in Seattle. I spent six months there, compiling spreadsheets, and generally hating most of what I did. However, I was happy to have a stable job to help provide for my young family, which at the time consisted of my wife and our first son.
Things were looking good for us. We decided it was time to buy a house, which had been my wife’s dream from the day we were married in August of 2007. After taking a deep breath, we moved in with my parents for a couple of months to save money for a down payment. By combining my meager salary with my wife’s income as a nurse, we were able to scrape together the remaining money we needed to buy a home and soon found one that we liked a few miles north of the city.
We put an offer on the house on a Saturday and anxiously awaited a phone call that we were expecting Tuesday morning at 10AM to let us know if our offer had been accepted. At 9:55 on Tuesday morning I was called into my boss's office and informed that the company had lost its largest client, and cuts were necessary as a result. My position was one of those cuts.
Fifteen minutes later, I stood on a street corner, waiting for a bus, holding a cardboard box filled with the contents of my desk. A cold Seattle rain pelted my face. My face and hands were cold and numb, and so was my spirit. My phone rang, it was my wife calling in excitement to tell me that our offer went through on the home. Telling her what had just happened was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.
A year passed. In that year many of my hopes, dreams, and aspirations died. With little practical experience and a meager job market, one job application after another was rejected. Unemployment checks I felt guilty to open replaced paychecks I had felt pride in. What was originally supposed to be a brief stay with my parents to save money, turned into an extended stay to survive on our depleted income.
After a few months of job searching and soul-searching, we made the decision that I should go back to school to find work in a more stable industry; healthcare. I enrolled in the prerequisite programs to enter the radiology technology program at Bellevue College, across the lake from Seattle.
I took a job at T-Mobile as a sales rep in a mall to help pay the bills and to get us out of my parents' basement and into an apartment. My wife was expecting child number two and I had two years of intense schooling ahead of me, with about $15,000 in tuition to pay. I needed to sell a whole lot of phones to keep our heads above water.
I was committed to being an honest sales rep, so slick pitches and hard closes were not the tools I wanted to rely on for success. I determined the best way to make sales was to become the most educated rep on the floor, the salesman that could answer every question about every plan and device. I started ravenously reading tech news blogs to learn all I could. I followed more than a dozen different publications, but one soon became my favorite.
They broke stories faster, had in-depth reviews, and shared their honest opinions. I would often check for new articles at AP 7-10 times a day and I read everything that the team wrote. Little did I know that one of those articles would quite literally change my life. The article in question was this one, a game roundup. One of the games that was listed in the article was a tie-in to the movie Turbo, a Dreamworks film about racing snails. I wasn’t terribly interested in the game or movie, but this part of the article caught my eye.
Man, I thought, I could sure use some of that prize money, and I've always been pretty good at racing games, I should give this a try. I downloaded the game, created an account, and started to play.
The rules of the contest were simple – each week for eight weeks the racers with the top 10 times on the weekly track would be awarded money. At the end of eight weeks the first place racers from each of the eight weeks would face off against each other in a final race to determine the grand champion.
The contest closed each Sunday, and the first week the contest started on a Thursday, leaving players only four days to post their best time. I knew that if I was going to post a top-ten time, that first week, with fewer players and a shortened schedule, would be my best opportunity.
So I played, and I played, and I played. After a few hours my best time was in top-100. By Friday I was posting times in the top-20. I had the weekend off from work, and I used every spare moment I had to try again, and again. The game would drain my phone in just a couple hours, so I used two phones. I even borrowed an iPad to play on as a third device. When one device would die I’d pick up another and resume. By Saturday I had blisters on my thumbs, but I also finally had one of the 10 best times.
My nerves started kicking in Sunday afternoon as I fought to improve my time and my position in the rankings. To crack the top five I needed a near perfect run, with jumps, power slides, and combos perfectly executed. My hands would begin to shake as I came around the final corner after a good run. More than once I screwed up as my anxiety got the best of me.
With an hour to go until midnight, and the close of the contest, I had my best race yet, and felt my heart skip a beat as I moved into third place. I tried a few more times to improve, but the contest ended. I refreshed the score list one last time and held my breath as I waited for the results. There was my name, Jeffrey B, still in third place. I couldn’t believe it, I was going to win $10,000.
My wife didn’t believe me when I told her the next morning. She had worked most of the weekend while I was home with our 3 year old son, and thought my efforts were a waste of time. When I showed her the scoreboard that morning and told her I was going to win money, she still couldn’t quite believe it. Frankly, neither could I. It was just too crazy that something like this could be real.
Two looong days later, I was finally contacted by the Turbo promotion team. In the conversation on the phone they apologized for the delay in contacting me and informed me that an error had occurred. My heart sank hearing this news, as the realization that all this was indeed too good to be true came crashing in on me.
As it would turn out, the error worked in my favor. The account registered to the person who came in second place was for a someone under the age of 18, and they had been disqualified as the rules stated that you must be 18 or older to participate. Since this was a promotion for a children’s movie, I thought this rule was a bit absurd, but I wasn’t about to complain. As the second place finisher, my prize was now going to be $15,000.
Late one afternoon, a few weeks later, my wife went into labor with our second child. As I headed to the car with my wife’s hospital bag, I stopped to check the mail. Inside was an envelope containing a check for 15 grand. As a man of faith, the timing of the check's arrival, and the amount, which was almost the exact sum I needed for tuition, seemed to be more than just a coincidence. Opening the envelope and seeing that check, that’s when it finally felt real.
Three and a half years later, my wife is pregnant with baby number three, a little girl. This year we’ll be spending the holidays in our first home that we purchased a little over a year ago. The money from Turbo Racing League paid enough of my tuition to make it possible for me to go through my program without taking out any student loans.
I now work full time as a surgical radiology technologist at a hospital a few miles outside of Seattle and my wife works part time as a nurse. That job pays my bills, and this job, as an AP writer, fuels my passion for tech (how I got this job is a story for another day). My family is in a much better place now than we were just a few short years ago.
The check that helped ease the financial stress of some of the hardest years of my life may have been signed by Dreamworks, but I never would have heard of the contest if it weren't for Android Police. I'm grateful for that. I'm also grateful to Artem for giving me the opportunity to write for AP, which I believe is truly one of the best tech blogs out there.
Most of you probably haven't had an experience as random, or as crazy, as mine with Android Police, but I suspect many of you are also grateful for this blog and the community that we share as writers and readers. If you have a moment, please let me know why you are thankful for Android Police in the comments below, I (along with the rest of the team) would love to hear your thoughts.
Well, it's time for me to help set the table and get ready for a turkey dinner. Let me wish you in farewell a happy Thanksgiving (US only, sorry international readers), may it be a warm and happy holiday for you, and your family. Make sure you spend some of your day with them, not just reading tech blogs. There will be plenty of time for that later while everyone is passed out from over-eating.
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