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Little Everyday Miracles | 2009 | Rosemary and (a Good) Time

06.18.09 2:15 p.m.

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.  

-Kahlil Gibran

 


Damocles

i can haz new job?

Melanie has a theory that I am going to have to struggle a little more in every other aspect in my life to balance out how lucky I am to have found her and fallen into such a nutritive love. It's sweet and I don't disagree. It's a pleasant mantra to keep in mind on days like today.

It's odd being downsized because you are keenly aware that you've done nothing wrong beyond work for a company that never saw you as more than an interchangeable part. At first, they try to blame me, to say my work wasn't up to snuff. But I'd been given an email a week before, telling me how I made a catch no one else did, saving them many thousands of dollars and improving their credibility, and that I was doing well. The example they then trot out wasn't my job. It would be like firing me because I unstopped the toilet in a way they didn't like after they begged me to do janitorial work. Once confronted with the flimsiness of this, they switch their tactics, admitting that they will no longer have proofreaders in the company owing to "corporate restructuring", instead only using temps. Given that part of my duties had been catching and correcting the frequent mistakes the temps introduced into our documents (nothing against the temps, though, they just don't know what the company wants given that they will be working at a different location in a week), I can't say this makes sense from a quality perspective, but I'm sure some number cruncher in Minnesota figured out that this would cost ten cents less per year and so it made financial sense to eliminate me.

This all sounds bitter, but I'm not, which is the part I find so strange. I'm aware that there was nothing I could have done to save my job and resent their making me worry when this had always been the plan, but I am more amused that they are making what is going to be a mistake (their contracts with various states penalize them hundreds of thousands of dollars for lateness and mistakes in final documents). That fact that I was hired just as the school year began and let go just as it ended is not a coincidence, since the work of creating testing materials trickles off in the summer. I was always a temp, simply one they were lying to about my tenure. In fact, during a prior meeting, my direct supervisor asked if I could see myself doing this kind of work more long term and seemed stricken when I said that I felt better doing this than some of the jobs I have had. This is true, as I can be task- and detail-oriented when not threatened with micromanagement. I did an excellent job for them, despite the inherent tedium of the work.

When I go to clean out my desk, the boxes already stacked on top to expedite my egress from the company, I notice that my coworker - who had a better job title owing to considerably more experience in the publishing field, but who was hired weeks before me and did very similar work - has already cleared out, further validating that this is downsizing that they are pretending is something more pejorative to justify some pencil-pusher's edicts. I remember every email I received while I worked here, describing how whole departments opted to quit suddenly to pursue other jobs or take care of children. Even when I comfortably had a job waiting for me the next morning, I knew that these emails were not close to being true. Have they already sent out fiction about why my coworker and I no longer work here? The location where I worked bought out another company a bit before I started and, is seemed, the new location became the favored son; I wouldn't be surprised to hear that this location closed in a year, as the jobs are farmed out to temps or moved to another state. I don't imagine that those who fired me will survive many future cuts, which is honestly a little sad. On some level, as I suspected, they must wonder when the sword will fall on them to save a dollar.

My supervisor pops her head out of her office and says that, though it's a little weird, she will happily write me a letter of recommendation since I "do a lot of things really well." I wish I could say that I saw guilt in her eyes, but I wasn't looking for it, too concerned with rifling through my desk for anything worthwhile I might otherwise leave behind in my haste to return home and deal with this latest challenge.

Of course, I am angry at the greed, at the culture that sees people - specifically me - as disposable commodities. I'm aware that I am far from alone in this complaint, but it seems a terrible way to run an economy, insisting upon overtraining and then giving jobs to the unqualified because they work for peanuts.

The department manager pops by, perhaps expecting me to have some deeper emotional reaction to the filling box on my desk. "I'm not the disgruntling type," I assure her brightly. In retort, she and my supervisor try to get me take a plant in my cubical.

"Oh no, that's not mine. It's [coworker]'s."

"You could take it anyway, spruce up your apartment."

I refuse again. They laid off my coworker. They could deal with her plant now, especially since I shouldn't have anything else dependent on me for survival until I find a job.

Driving home, I am not hit by overwhelming terror, though I can't manage to listen to music or NPR over the static in my head. I do, at one point, single out a cloud and say, "Okay, I'm not looking at the door that closed. Now where is the window that opened for me?" I don't think cumulus clouds respond to these petitions though, or perhaps they are just piled down with them and can't mind single petitioners.

I am barely inside the door to my apartment before I am checking to see about getting on unemployment. I intend to be jobless for the shortest time possible, but I will not be letting my apartment and lifestyle be yanked away because of some penny-pinching bureaucrat I will never meet. Apparently, as I have worked in the past week and it wasn't in fast food, I am not eligible for another week.

Then I sit, get comfortable, make myself some tea, and send out applications. In the course of two hours, I've sent out 36, some to genuinely promising jobs for which I am uniquely qualified. Obviously, schools are not hiring quite yet, but I worried I would be stuck with something terribly menial. I may get a reprieve to justify how terrified I am not.

I figure, I have about a month before I've eaten away at all my savings. Unemployment - should it come through - will keep me afloat another couple weeks. This isn't an eventuality I want to exploit. I would much rather be gainfully employed, but might be able to breathe until August should nothing come through.

Soon in Xenology: Jess. Job hunting. 80s Night. Jacki.

last watched: Before Sunrise
reading: Tao of Pooh
listening: Cyndi Lauper href="http://www.xenex.org/journal/m2009.php">2009 | Rosemary and (a Good) Time

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.



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