The Best of Times, the Worst of Times...all in 30 minutes
No, what you're about to read isn't a bad beat story. Goodness, what I would give to tell a banal tale about how my king-high straight was trumped by a guy who made his straight flush. Which happened last night, actually. Hey, a guy makes a straight flush to beat me, I tip my cap.
I went to work today like it was any other day. Because it was any other day. It was a Wednesday, obviously. We had our bi-weekly meeting at 9:30 and it was my turn to put together the agenda and sorta lead the meeting. No big deal. We sat in our gorgeous conference room, which looks out over the Point, and talked about the issues confronting us. There's one situation that's been a bone of contention for a few months, and again we spent way too much time talking about it. Got back to our seats and me and a co-worker laughed about how I shouldn't have included it on the agenda. Typical Wednesday.
Sat at my desk and my cell phone buzzed. It was the realtor who is selling my house. She took someone to see it last night--they liked it. They're going to bid on it and I'll know tomorrow what they're offering. I thanked her, looked forward to her call, and thrust my arms in the air. I haven't mentioned this before, but I got divorced in January. I've kinda-sorta hinted at this before, but don't feel offended that I haven't confided in you before--I was separated for 18 months before I told my own brother. I was embarassed, you see. My ex-wife and I are still good friends, in fact I have to go to her apartment in a bit to feed and litter our cats, who she's kept since she moved out in December. I guess I'll write more about this another day. Once the house sells and I move into my bachelor pad I'll take Ernie back.
And it looked like that was finally going to happen. After two months on the market I started to think that the place would never sell, and I'd never get to move on with my life. And yet, someone wanted to buy my house. I was almost giddy. Sell the house, move into my apartment...I'd have the world dicked.
I got to enjoy this fizzy sensation (the clinical definition is "happiness") for all of a half-hour. I was at my desk trying to decipher the handwriting on a check one of our vendors sent in. I had $8K to apply somewhere but I couldn't figure out if that squiggle was an 8 or a 3. I furrowed my brow and bit the lower lip and finally sussed it out. Oh, the hidden joys of bureaucracy!!
My phone rang. Odd, my phone almost never, ever rings. It's one of the aspects of my job I like best. All my life I've had jobs where I was on the phone all day, and I've hated them all. I looked at the name in the caller ID window...and it was my boss's boss's boss's boss. Now, that was unusual. Very unusual. I chat with her in the hallway, she's very pleasant, but this was the first time she'd ever called me. I sit 50 feet away.
"Hi, Gene, could you come to my office, please?" she asked. She has a very calm voice. I instantly started sweating all over. I could not think of a reason why she'd be calling me that wasn't Bad. But how Bad could it be? Had I done anything wrong lately? Well, sure, but nothing catastrophic.
I walked to her office...and saw our department's HR person sitting there. There was only one possible explaination. To show you how frantic I was, I actually thought it had something to do with my blog. They'd found it and decided I was unclean. I couldn't believe it what was about to happen. I walked into the office, closed the door behind me...you don't see the condemed man lock himself into the gas chamber, do you?
She told me that today was a very sad day, that my company was re-structuring and seven percent of our work force was being laid off. And if you'll allow me the conceit, I was part of the 7% Solution. Have to read that Sherlock Holmes story now. Guess I'll have time for it.
I lost my job. I sat there, not believing what I was hearing. And when I say that, I'm not kidding. I did not believe what I was hearing. I thought it more likely that I'd had a stroke and was in some fugue state. This was a dream. A nightmare. This can't be happening. This can't be happening AGAIN. I just wrote a post about how I lost my job two years ago. This can't be happening AGAIN.
And not now. Not now
. I'd just received the best piece of news I'd had in six months. I'd been HAPPY. I'd actually been excited about the future. For all of thirty minutes. And just that fast, my life was turned upside-down again.
When I lost my last job, my wife (ex-wife, dammit) said that it was perhaps the best thing that could have happened. And, as I wrote previously, it was. Even under the most optimistic circumstances (and I've had 4 beers) I can't say that now. This is pretty much a disaster. While my job wasn't perfect, and didn't really use my skills, and I wasn't especially good at it...I didn't HATE it. I've hated, HATED, every other job I've ever had. This job was OK. And I loved the people I worked with. They were fantastic. I loved the building I worked in. I had the best view in Pittsburgh, and one of the best views in the world. I sat in that morning meeting looking out at the Point and the Incline and boats gliding up and down the Allegeny, and I ate it up.
I LOVED walked around the North Shore at lunch. I LOVED walking along the river as I walked to work, looking up at one of the great skylines of the world. I loved that I could cross the Ft. Duquesne Bridge and stroll around the Point. It made me feel connected to my city in a way I'd never been before. I loved it. I loved it. It didn't put an extra penny in my pocket but it made my job a joy.
And now it's over. I can't believe it. I don't get to walk that walk anymore. I get paid through the end of August, benefits too. And I get paid for the 10 days vacation I accrued. I also get to use a career counseling service the company retained. Looks like I'll be watching a lot of World Cup the next few days.
I wasn't escorted from the building. That was nice. They let me go back to my desk and gather up my belongings. Everyone was at lunch. Two of my bosses came over to say they were sorry I was let go. They'd only found out a few minutes before I did. And the woman who actually broke the bad news looked stricken when she saw the look on my face. I didn't get to say goodbye to my immediate supervisor, who was about the best boss I ever had. Nor did I get to say goodbye to two guys I talked with the most and hung out with. They're both on vacation. Guess I am too, now.
I wasn't let go becase of my performance, I was told, though that isn't exactly the truth. There were people hired after me who I think were retained, but, frankly, they were probably better than me at the job. That only makes sense. But the fact that they valued my work means something.
I gathered up my stuff, and left a few sticky notes on piles of paper so my boss could figure out what was done and what wasn't. I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to leave that fantastic building. I didn't want to leave my job. I didn't get to say goodbye to the people I'd just been speaking too ten minutes previous.
I hoisted my bag on my shoulder, grabbed my lunch out of the fridge, and headed for the stairs. No more good coffee in the morning...I'll miss that. I took one last look out the window at the Point, and then I left.
I'm still in shock. I'm also half-drunk. On my way to being full-drunk. I have a volleyball game tonight, and I emailed my team to say that I might be a bit late because I have to take care of the cats and then stop at my folks. I also mentioned that we had a bidder for the house. So when I get to the bar tonight everyone's gonna be saying, "Hey, great news, tell me more!" And I'll have to say that, unfortunately, that was only story #2 for the day.
I have no idea what I'm gonna do now. Well, have another beer, obviously. I need to look for work, again. The last year was nice, it was the first time I wasn't depressed because of my job. Like I said, once the house sold the world would be my oyster. After the last three years, I've pretty much had all ambition and hope and dreams beaten out of me. Give me a job that doesn't tempt me to suicide, a quiet place to live, and in me you'll find the happiest of men. I wanted, desired, dreamed, lusted for nothing more. And for 30 minutes it was right there
in front of me. And then my phone rang.
Funny, I keep thinking I'm gonna wake up. It was all just a dream. Funny too is that I think I handled everything pretty well, though my hands were trembling right after I was told I was let go. But what really got to me was seeing the geese as I walked back to my car. All the geese who live along the river and I've walked past every day for the last 4 months. Won't see them any more. Won't have a free parking spot downtown to bring my bike down for a ride. Won't walk this path anymore. And that got me swallowing lumps the size of kiwi fruit.
Don't know what I'm gonna do. I know I keep saying that, but it's the God's honest truth. Maybe it's time I say goodbye to Pittsburgh and look to make my fortune somewhere else. God knows I haven't had much luck here. I stayed because my friends and family are here and I like living here. Thing is, will I be able to live here? I have an apartment lined up, but if the house sells and I have to move next month, do I take the apartment? Or do I just sell everything I own and move in with my folks until I find a job? Or do I wave goodbye and move West or South and see if I can find a job that, maybe, uses the skills I have. I've never had a job like that. Can barely conceive of it.
I'm not an idiot. Things could be a lot worse. I could be humping a rifle in Iraq right now. I could be an Iraqi. In nearly every way imaginable I'm a ridiculosly lucky bastard. I have my health (note to self--make doctor and dentist appointments before August 25th). And I understand that this is how business works. The company was having problems, in large part because of soaring fuel prices. You gotta cut costs somewhere. That's capitalism, and if the system works as capital is freed up it can be applied in more efficient, profitable ways. But was it too much to ask that I surrender my home AND keep my job? Or, if not, could I have maybe a day or two to enjoy myself?
Tomorrow I'll watch the USA soccer game. Here's something funny--a few times in the last week I've watched the afternoon games with an attractive woman in my building who's a soccer fan. I had a good seat in the cafeteria and she asked if she could join me. No ring, lovely smile, wears those narrow librarianesque glasses that I find devastating. I actually dared to think that maybe there was the possibility that maybe I might think about possibly asking her out for a drink. I will almost certainly never see her again. Had I not been laid off, it's almost certain I would've chatted with her on the shuttle after work.
Still can't believe what happened. I'm still in shock. As I wrote a bit over 2 years ago, if you're in Pittsburgh and you need an MBA with a writing degree who knows how to play AQ in late position in a raised pot, let me know. I'm gonna have another beer. I see many beers in my immediate future.