April 15, 2009, year twenty-three on the job. I’m sitting at my desk, as I’ve done for 5,000 days, when I see a reflection on my computer screen and turn to see that my cubicle is surrounded by upper management, a rag-tag group of men and women varying in height from 4 foot ten to six foot three. My typesetting job had changed over the years until I was simply emailing and posting United Media comics and cartoons on the computer. It was supposed to be a temporary job till I made it big as a playwright, but somehow I had become a genuine professional Typesetter…the Workhorse who showed up every day, rain or shine, who guided the company through three major system upgrades. I considered myself invaluable.
Debbie, the head of my department told me that I was to stop working a go to the conference room where six other stunned employees sat around a table. Carol, the HR Manager told us that we were being laid off. She handed out papers. blah, blah, blah, sign here. Blah, blah, return this and wait for that in the mail. She told us to stop working, pack up our things and leave.
I asked if I was being paid for a full shift. She said yes. I said, “Well, then I’m going to finish my work and make sure everything is in order.” All the rest had left, but management knew they could trust me. So, I returned to my desk and finished up what was on my screen and to do list.
Since I was close to retirement, they gave me this, a gold Dilbert Watch. But the most important thing I took from the office with me was this hundred year putty knife that my Grandfather, the Carpenter had given me. This reminded me that I was a craftsperson, a typesetter, not just a computer operator. I am a craftsman. I know fonts and leading and kerning…and never mind. All that comes with the computer nowadays and the name we had for newspapers: “Dead Wood” meaning paper, becomes more and more true every day.