Saturday, July 16, 2011

See You in the Funny Papers

You should pay attention to the Quarterly Statements put out by your company. I didn’t think about the first quarter of 2009 until 1 p.m. on April 15th, after twenty-three years of holding the proverbial “Temporary Normal Job Until I Make it Big as a Playwright” position.

I might point out that it was twenty-three years of coming in early and staying late and forgetting my lunch hour. But The Bottom line can’t get sentimental. The Bottom Line has a business to run into the ground. The Bottom Line doesn’t care that you’ve been reliable for all those years. The Bottom Line doesn’t care about the snowy, icy mornings you didn’t call in sick, but came in with MS, moving on a cane, and you were the only one to make it into work and from seventeen miles away.

No. The Bottom Line dares not see or feel any of that. “Surely” it says, “they can find someone to do it for half the salary.” And when income drops, nothing else matters, certainly not quality. Say it over and over “It’s better because it’s cheaper. It’s better because it’s cheaper.”
And as an old employee of Executive Search, I knew that Aetna told them that I cost them too much and Aetna would give the Bottom Line more savings if they let The Gimp go.

At 1 p.m. on April 15th, I felt a cold chill on my neck and looked up to see five managers standing in a circle around my cubicle, and they didn’t look happy. I was the Work Horse, told a million times I was not Management material, but I didn’t mind. I could do a dozen tasks an hour perfectly. In the last week, my jobs had started to disappear, but I thought they would be replaced by new tasks and new programs. After all, I had guided the company through three major network setups since 1985.

The flying wedge of management told me to stop working and come into Debbie’s office immediately and forget about the work on my screen. And let me tell you, it was crowded and I had to pee. I don’t remember exactly what they said, except they spoke of The Bottom Line and layoffs and since I had told them over and over, that I was starting to think of Retirement, they felt comfortable handing me packets of legal papers. Then, I was led me to a small conference room full of the other 6 victims.

They described what we should sign and what we should return and what would be coming in the mail.

They told us that we didn’t have to do any more work. I could just pack up and go home. I asked if I was being paid for a full shift. They said “yes.” So, I said, “Then I am going to finish my work.” All the other laid offs had left. The managers were stunned, wondering if I was planning sabotage, but no. I had to finish my work and make sure everything was in order. Older workers have this useless, annoying habit of wanting to finish the job.

Finally, 4 p.m. came and I had put all my things, such as they were, in  box. In that box was a one hundred year old putty knife that I gotten from my grandfather, a carpenter, to remind myself that I was a craftsperson. I was a typesetter, not a desktop publisher. I knew fonts and kerning and leading and…never mind. It doesn’t matter any more. That all comes with the computer nowadays and that makes The Bottom Line smile.

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