Serving Time With Chapa
It was a rainy Monday morning as I drove over to the LaMarque Kelley’s restaurant to pick up my coworker. We met there every weekday to leave his vehicle and carpool to the island in my ’98 Ford Explorer. Our destination was TDCJ (Texas Department of Corrections Jail). No, we weren’t on a work release program, we were both installation technicians for Halco Life Safety Systems. We were on our way to the TDCJ Hospital where we were replacing their existing antiquated nurse call system. That coworker’s name was Jamie Chapa and at that time he was a grizzled veteran with all of two years’ experience under his belt. While he was 20 years my junior, he had been tasked with teaching me the ropes as well as stepping up his responsibilities as Lead Technician. I was fresh off my 5-year run as owner of a tennis club which ended up not being as successful or fun as I had hoped. Needless to say, he had his work cut out for him.
I picked up my weary traveler, remember it was a Monday morning and he was still very young at the time, and we headed to the island. As I made the hard left turn onto I-45 south, all of the rainwater that had gathered in the header around my leaking sun roof, last one I ever had, cascaded down on him for another early morning shower. He was now fully awake. If I remember correctly from then on, he always chose to ride in the back seat if even the possibility of rain loomed. We were on our way!
Every day was the same routine. The guards would have to inspect all of our tools and material before granting us access into the facility. Once inside we would head to our designated floor and wing for the day where all prisoners had been cleared out so we could work uninterrupted and without fear for our life. The guard would lock us in the wing that we were working on and we were totally isolated. I don’t think you ever get used to the clank of those gates locking you in. I’ll have to admit at first, we were both a little intimidated. I think it might have had something to do about the “we don’t negotiate for hostages so don’t become a hostage while working here” part of the orientation speech we were given. However it wasn’t long before we were both booming out the secret phrase you had to yell to the guard in the picket when wanting to exit the wing. It went like this – “OUT ON C SIDE!” Very basic but impactful. We had become very comfortable being part of the Texas Department of Corrections in just a short time. Wait, that didn’t sound right. Service calls in the Women’s Area were always interesting as well!!
Over the course of our project I learned a lot from Jaime Chapa. He turned out to be an excellent teacher and mentor. Twenty years later I am still working in the same field. While the company’s name has changed and my position has changed, I have Jaime to thank for starting me down my ultimate career path. We have both seen the company name change, our location change ,the owner change , our manager change and our positions change . Together we have over 42 years of low voltage experience -oh the tales we could tell!!! Jaime Chapa has continued to thrive in his career and now is in the position of Director of Service. He is a very valuable asset to Lone Star Communication with the combination of his work ethic and his accumulated knowledge of this industry. Lone Star is lucky to have him as a valuable employee and I am equally lucky to call him my friend.
I wanted everyone to have the chance to know Jaime a little better, so I got him to agree to a brief interview. I caught up with him one busy afternoon.
Q: Where and when were you born?
A: I was born in 1980 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. We are currently replacing the nurse call there. Come to think of it my mom was also born in that very same hospital.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I went to high school in Pasadena, Texas where I graduated in 1999. Home of the Fighting Eagles!
Q: Did you go to college?
A: I attended MT
I where I graduated with an Associates in Computer Electronics.
Q: Do you have any children?
A: Yes, 3. I have 2 boys and 1 girl. Bella is 11, Jaime (not a jr.) is 9 and Gianni is 18 months old.
Q: Do you have any pets?
A: I have two dogs, Apollo and Lola.
Q: What was your first job?
A: I worked at an ice cream shop in the mall when I was 15.
Q: Any other interesting or fun jobs when you were younger?
A: All during my junior and senior years in high school I was a DJ. Me and my cousin had a DJ service and we worked all kinds of events. We were actually pretty good if I do have to say so myself.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: I like to play basketball when I get a chance and I like to go Mexico to visit my Father where he currently lives. Oh, I also flip houses.
Q: Favorite sports teams?
A: Right now just the Astros. I have completely given up on the Rockets and Texans.
They are both disasters.
Q: Ever think about becoming a Cowboy fan?
Q: Do you read or have any shows you are interested in watching?
A: As far as reading, does Audible count? I do really enjoy watching all genres of documentaries on Netflix.
Q: Where is your favorite place to eat?
A: Well it’s not that fancy but I really do enjoy going to Saltgrass Steak House. I’m a Landry’s Club member you know?
Q: Anything you would like to do that you just don’t seem to have enough time to do?
A: Well I guess I would really like to travel more.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your work history at LSCH.
A: I came to work for Margie back in August of 2000 when we were Halco Life Safety Systems. I started as just a technician but soon was given the lead tech role for the Willowbrook project, where we are also about to replace the nurse call. The system we installed when I was there was replaced later by Ascom. Now we are replacing Ascom with Rauland. Full circle. The next big chance I got was to lead the TDCJ project with you. After that I headed off to College Station where I was given more of a PM role for that project and led several teams. When I returned I could really see the need for a full time service department so after talking it over with Margie, she put me in charge of the newly formed service department. For the longest time it was just me and Roberto. I have been in Service ever since then.
And with that he gave me the look that I had seen all too many times in the past. I got the hint; our interview was over. With that I rose, turned to the door, and confidently announced, “Out on “C” side!”
- Jamie Selman, Director of Engineering, Houston