Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Box

Yesterday I was fired from my job.

Oh, sure there are euphemisms for it. Laid off. Let go. Downsized. Rightsized. Whatever. The fact is, when I got up yesterday and muttered "Man, I wish I didn't have to go to work..." I had no idea how quickly my wish would be granted.

When I turned into the parking lot at the office at 7:59 a.m. and saw the vehicle of an extra colleague in the lot, I had an inkling. I'd heard the story of how this fellow was brought in to sit and observe when our boss - now my former boss - had fired another employee. That happened before I was hired, but the story stuck with me, perhaps because it foreshadowed of my own release from the organization. The first thing I thought when I saw that white SUV was uh oh.

Obviously, being fired wasn't a complete surprise. I mean, I wasn't expecting it, mind you, but the sad reality is that our industry, which is tied to housing construction, is really struggling. I suppose you could say that I am victim number seventeen billion sixty two of this messed up economy. The ripple effect finally reached me, that's all.

My intuition was correct. I could feel it in the air as soon as I walked in to the office. My boss, looking wan and nervous in his green sweater behaved just like our cat, the secret out-of-litter-box pooper, behaves when he knows he's about to be busted for leaving his leavings next to the box instead of inside it. The extra colleague, the one brought in for The Firing wouldn't make eye contact with me. Ah, yes, okay.

I'd just put my things down in my office when my boss barely paused midstride by my door and said, "Come in my office, let's talk."

I smiled, said something like "Okay, should I bring something to take notes?" There was the way, way, way outside chance that we'd be discussing the Board meeting coming up later in the week, but I knew. Oh, I knew.

The boss (not The Boss, because why bring Bruce into this) hesitated for a split second. His hesitation told me all I needed to know. "You can....," he said with false cheer. I picked up a legal pad, my favorite uni-ball pen and willed my face to remain serene.

So I sat and listened to my boss tell me the terms and I was amazingly calm. I figured that there was no point in getting upset. I've been wanting to get out of that line of work for quite some time and voila! You know, I could never have quit such a job, especially in this economy and in our personal circumstances, but having it forced upon me seemed to be something I could accept with an uncharacteristic Zenlike quality.

After learning about my severance package, I went back to my office and did the best I could to clear some things off the computer and then set about organizing some files and things that I'd been in the middle of. I tried not to giggle too much when I realized that the big, boring project that would never end had finally ended. For me, at least.

My boss stopped in to say goodbye and complimented me on my professionalism for the way I was handling things and for taking care to leave things in a way that would make it easy for someone to pick up where I'd left off. It was nice of him to say, but it made me wonder what he'd expected from me. Crap! Had I missed an opportunity for drama?

I didn't send out any poison pen emails. I let one contact know that she should send the hotel contract directly to my boss and let another know that I could be reached at another email address. I had no interest in burning bridges because goodness knows, very little good comes from that. My friend came into my office and we had a bit of a cry, then promised that we'd stay in touch.

I packed up my things and carried them out to my car. It was not lost on me that this ritual carrying out of the box is something that many other people have experienced in these hard economic times. This was the first time I'd ever been laid off and, strangely, I felt a little glad to now know what that felt like. Okay, maybe glad isn't the right word here, but at least I sensed that I was part of something bigger than myself. Shoot, that sounds ridiculous, too. I guess I figured it was my turn and just like the statistical case for dying in a plane crash or winning the lottery, I decided that now that this had happened and I'd survived and hadn't used the word fuck even once, well, I was off the hook existentially. At least as far as firings go. For the next eight weeks, at least. Unless, of course, MathMan and the kids decide to fire me and then you can bet the word fuck will be used and with vigor. As in fuck yeah! see ya!!!!

I started to think how I could use this time to finish my first novel and start to find an agent who can help me get it published. I thought about how I could go to the gym in the middle of the day and how I could do a lot of things that I hadn't had time for because of work. Ultimately, I decided that this was the gift of time that I would have never given myself and I wasn't going to let money worries crowd that good feeling. Not yet. I pushed the money worries to the back of mind because there will be plenty of time for that fretting later and when there is alcohol available.

The rest of the day would be spent trying to figure out what to do first and coming up with a long list of want to, have to and like hell I will things.

I gave my friend a hug and walked out to my car. A favorite song was on the radio when I turned it on. I backed the car out of my spot and drove away singing.....


  1. Lisa, you are embracing this change with totally the right attitude. I think you will take this opportunity to do wonderful things! And hey, if we're both out of work at the same time maybe we can finally arrange a meet-up!

  2. Best of luck finding new employment. Our basement is yours if you ever need it. ;o)

  3. I hate your losing your job. But, fuck yeah, you are so funny and wonderful.


  4. Wow. I mean, wow! You are an amazing person, Lisa. Good things are indeed ahead for you, my friend!

  5. It seems best writing and best novels come from within and also from life experiences. You just got a dose of grist. Keep moving forward, that's about all we can do anyway.

  6. Kudos to you, Lisa. I would have been a sniveling puddle of a mess in your situation. For the past year, I count every day I have a job as a lucky day. I have no doubt that you will take this and come out of it in a positive and productive way. Looking forward to reading your first novel. :)

  7. My sympathies for losing your job and my congratulations for handling it with class and dignity.

    Best of luck in navigating your new future.

  8. You're doin better than me.... I frittered away my entire first day...didn't get out of mu pj's didn't post ....did nothing..except dance a wild dance to Imelda May.... Today? Well, Xmas shopping.... including the entire Imelda May disc, Love Tattoo, which is FABULOUS....that's not frittering away a second day, is it?

    "Pack the car and write the note....."

  9. What a class act you were in the leaving! So sorry for the economic impact, but so glad you are thinking silver lining-y thoughts already.

  10. Something to look into. Check to see if waiting until next month will be better for unemployment. A lot of states go by quarters (the better to screw the worker) and sometimes it is better to wait until the next quarter to apply for unemployment benefits. This has happened to me and The Old Lady. Once or twice couldn't qualify in the quarter that the lay-off occured, but did in the next quarter. Also it could mean a bigger check next quarter.

  11. As my friend Will observed,
    There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

    I believe in you, Lisa. This could be the start of something big.

  12. You need to seriously dive into your book damn it. I am sorry to hear you lost your job but you seriously need to use this opportunity to work on the book.

    I would have expected nothing less than a class act when you were cleaning up your workspace. I am the same way.


  13. I admire your dignified exit. I don't think I could've done that. Hope you find something new that you like.

  14. My sympathies on your job loss; hope you find something you like when you go hunting.

    You showed more class than I would've.

  15. Definitely take advantage of the time to regroup and shop the book.

  16. Well, getting RIFfed beats getting fired for cause. You should qualify for unemployment compensation with minimal hassles.

  17. Such mixed feelings reading this.
    My husband has been having to lay off people today and he could talk of nothing else at dinner. It sucks, right before Xmas. No way around that. I hope they gave you some decent severance.

    On the other hand, I feel so happy that you are finally going to have some TIME. I know you are fired up about writing right now. I think this is the moment for you, Lisa. Or should I say "moments?"

  18. There is every chance that this will lead to bigger and better things. And you are putting a wonderfully brave face on it. But I know it's not as simple as that.

    I have every hope for you. You are talented and funny and wonderful. I will pray for you whether you like it or not.

    I just wish life wasn't like a Monopoly board right now, with every square you land on a bad one. You just need to pass "Go" one more time...

  19. I'm going to email you some HR-type advice for the fired. And I need your phone # again; I lost my old phone and am still re-creating my contacts.

  20. I must tell you that you look so much more relaxed now that you are out from under the job. I hate that you are were fired but having been there, I know that they did you the best favor ever.

  21. Remember the old saying....
    When one door closes, a better one opens.

    We've been in that situation and in the end, it was always a blessing.

  22. You know Lisa... I'd really like to meet you one day! In the year or so that I've been reading you.. well you're my heroine!

    "start as you mean to go on..."
    Merry Christmas!

  23. seems like everything has been said but I'll still chime in.

    you pretty terrific in my book and I know you and the clan will come out on top.

  24. I think it's time for a vacation in fabulous tropical Wisconsin!!

  25. I"m sorry that this happened, but happy for you as well. Your attitude will see you through this. Fortunately, at least there is unemployment insurance...extended unemployment insurance. I have to admit that hearing that there are going to be even more firings at my work place that I sort of wondered (a little hopefully) what it would be like to be on that short list. Truth is, I would probably not be happy to be laid off (i.e., fired, because they rarely ask people back). I hope that if it happens I handle it half as well as you have. Sending best wishes.

  26. So sorry Lisa! I've had the same "well, glad that's over" situation a couple times in the past three years, and I'm sure you will make the most of your "time off."

    Keep singing, and as the Brits say, keep your pecker up.

  27. Lisa, this happened to me once too and, believe me, I was not anywhere near as classy as you. Nor could I have ever written a narrative like this one the very next day. I was reliving my past in this post. But I not only survived, I realize now it was the catalyst I needed to launch into a better life. You'll go even farther than I. It ain't easy, but it's worth it. Love and hugs!

  28. You are so so classy...and amazing....many hugs...many

  29. Damn. Don't they have the greatest timing. Why are layoffs made just before Xmas? I don't get the reason for such cruel timing.

    Oh well, more time to write and look for the perfect agent on twitter. Only don't get snared in the fun times like I have. Now all the time I have for writing is spent tweeting.

  30. Well, fuckery of fuckeries but really, no postalizing? Color me disappointed.


    Much luck to you and your thermonuclear family. Since everyone here will buy your book, we just need to find one of those stupid agents that will grab the damn thing.


  31. Take the unemployment and get to work on finishing the book. Yeah, like I'm your new boss, ha ha.

    Okay, I didn't read what everyone else wrote so they probably said the same thing I did still: here is your chance!

  32. Well, crap. Been there. When they canned me from a job and they asked "is there anything we can do for you", my first thought was to quote the line from the movie Broadcast News, where a terminated employee responded "you can certainly die soon."

  33. While I know that the ex-boss did not want to do it, why do they always wait until the next day to "let you go?" I'm pretty sure they could let you know the afternoon before, and save you the trouble of driving all the way into the office the next morning.

    We're all so proud of your stellar way of looking at this as an opportunity, and not a failure.

    Will you sign my copy of my book?

  34. Lisa, did that racist bitch get shitcanned too?

    Thats the only thing I can think of right now..that I would of wanted to let her have it before I left..verbally of course. ;p

  35. Mr. Bee just found out he's going to be having a two- four week involuntary (unpaid) vacation. This coincides with my winter (weekday) break. I can't say I'm all that thrilled. I think it's going to cut into my porn viewing.

  36. You know that is way better than how I got fired. I was a work from home employee. They fired me over the phone...I knew I was getting fired that day and I had spent most of the last two weeks prior pretty much doing gardening and spending LOTS of time with my daughter.

    I had a new job lined up already, fortunately, but unfortunately I hate this job.


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