Bob Layfield

I’ve posted before about my old company, Comnetix. The head salescritter was a retired RCMP officer named Bob Layfield, who passed away last week after a long battle with cancer. Here are some of my memories of Bob, as a sort of online memorial.

First of all, let me say that I always used the term “salescritter” in a sort of endearing way with Bob, as a number of us did. We even used that term when talking to him, as well as about him, and he always took it in the joking manner in which it was always intended.

Bob was very proud of his RCMP career (and justifiably so). He retired as a Staff Sergeant, and was a part of the Musical Ride for a while. He was posted in numerous places all over Canada in his years as a Mountie. He had two daughters and when I knew him, one grandson, all of whom he talked about frequently. His family was always the most important thing in Bob’s life.

Bob was the consummate salesman. He knew the products inside and out, and could spin just about anything to his advantage. Occasionally, he sold our customers on features that hadn’t been written yet. Sometimes he gave them a specific date by which the feature would be ready, and then came and told us what he had promised. This, of course, annoyed us to no end. He even sold customers on features that we had no intention of implementing — he told people our application was ODBC-compliant, and that we could use any database product that supported ODBC, when in reality, none of us knew what ODBC was, and our back-end stuff was completely Oracle-specific. He had no CS education and often told us that he didn’t understand the technical stuff that well but could fake it well enough, but occasionally he would surprise us with how much he did understand.

Bob grew up in, I believe, northern Alberta, and one story he used to tell was about when he lived in a log cabin as a boy. In the middle of winter, the walls of the cabin would be covered with ice a couple of inches thick — on the inside. They’d light a fire in the middle of the cabin first thing in the morning and keep it going all day, and by the time they went to bed at night, the ice was gone and the cabin was warm and cozy. Overnight, the fire would go out, and by the time they woke up in the morning, the walls were covered in ice again.

When we first delivered the Boston Police system, all the developers spent a lot of time in Boston, and Bob was there as well. I’m sure he was down there for the better part of several months. He had a suite at the hotel, and his room eventually became the storeroom for spare parts. He had a stash of keyboards, mice, workstations or fingerprint scanners yet to be installed, platens for the fingerprint scanners, and cables galore. In addition to the hardware, Bob always had a large bottle of rum in his room as well (he was a rum-and-coke man), a couple cartons of smokes, and sometimes a few bottles of Sam Adams chilling in the snow on his balcony.

I took the GO Train into work every day, since I lived within walking distance of the Burlington station, and the office was within walking distance of the Port Credit station. One day while I was on my way into work, Gail called the office to say that she had gone home but had locked herself out, and asked Denise the receptionist (who is still working at Comnetix and is a freakin’ director now – way to go Denise!) to ask me to return home to let her in. Bob was there when Denise gave me the message, and without a moment’s hesitation, tossed me his car keys.

Bob was doing a demo for some company at some very expensive hotel in Naples, Florida, and I was going to go with him to set up the hardware and such. Since I was going to be in Florida for a couple of days, Gail took some vacation and came with me. The company that was bringing us down would only pay for one room, so Bob insisted that Gail and I take the room, and he would get a room at a nearby Howard Johnson’s or something, rent a car, and drive into the hotel every day. We offered to take the room for half the trip and then switch hotels with him (seeing as it was him the company was paying to see, not me), but he refused.

Bob could be a PITA sometimes, and we had many disagreements in the three years I worked with him, but he was a stand-up guy, a loyal friend, and I truly liked and respected him. I regret not having kept in touch with him since I left Comnetix. My condolences go out to his family.


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