Tuesday, December 8, 2009
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.....