Saturday, June 7, 2008

Golf Buddies and Their Ripple Effect

Being an uneducated thirty-something guy, I've had the opportunity to work for a few companies that have gone the way of the Dodo. Actually, it's happened so often that I no longer feel the shock or the quick dose of panic that is actually visible on everyone's face when the news hits. Shutting companies the hell down is my bidness, and bidness aint so bad, let me tell ya.

One telecom company, one utility brokerage (what the fuck is that, anyway?), and three financial related jobs have all shut their doors under my careful watch. Some of the jobs I liked, most of them I didn't. In the end, they all went the same way.

The thing that I find the most interesting about the process now is the way that people react. Suddenly, going back to school and getting that degree like you should have done in the first place doesn't seem like such a giant pain in the ass. For that matter, to hell with it all, why not just move somewhere you've always wanted to live? There's nothing keeping you here anymore. You've always wanted to paint, or do open mic stand up, or write that novel, and suddenly because you are faced with joblessness all of that becomes more of a reality. Why is that?

Do we get so dulled by the day to day process of accumulating bills and then working to pay them off, that we decide that the other parts of ourselves (sometimes the parts that make living fun and worthwhile) are too big of a pain to indulge in?

Not all people do this. There are people who do what they do during the day to be able to do what's important to them at night. Whether that's spending time with family, doodling in a sketch book, perfecting your karaoke routine, or indulging in marathon Internet pornography sessions, if your job makes doing what you love to do possible, then the job is working for you. I think that's awesome and enjoy being around those people (with the notable exception of Mr. Porn Freak).

It's the people who have invested everything they have into their cubicle that feel the most lost when the rug gets pulled out from under them. I want to give them each a paint brush and tell them to put it on the canvas and tell them it doesn't matter that much in the end. There will be more cubicles, I promise.


I had been working in a call center for a mortgage company years ago while living in Texas. Life got interesting, then bad, then miserable, and I moved back North. When I moved back, I got a new job doing the exact same thing but this time with a new company. I couldn't have been more unhappy then I was taking call after call from customers who needed their escrow accounts explained to them. I had been doing the Customer Service thing for two years in Texas, and now here I was doing the exact same thing.

One morning, I get in the elevator to go up to my pen on the fourth floor, and I'm standing behind a couple of ladies who were dressed fifty times nicer than anyone on my floor could afford to dress. They say good morning to each other, and then one turns to the other excitedly and says:

"You'll never guess what Tom surprised me with last night!" Her eyes were hungry. I had the feeling that she would bite a hunk of her friend's cheek if she dared to even guess.

"What?!?" Her friend was overly excited. I could tell that every hope and dream she had ever had was pinned on what Tom had surprised his slightly stretched but still attractive wife.




"Oh my God. How was it?"

"Oh, that Michael Flatley... In-can-descent!"

I got off the elevator. I walked through the cardboard walls of cubicles until I found the one that had been assigned to me six moths before. I picked up my coffee mug and walked to my team lead's desk.

"Rachelle, I have to go."

"Oh, OK Stephen." Rachelle looks down at the coffe cup in my hand. For months there had been a running joke about my coffe cup that reads "Big Brother is Watching You" being the only personal item I brought to work.

"Um, Stephen...You're not coming back, are you?"

"No. I have to go. I can't stay." I'm talking to her, but inside I'm thinking that if the concept of personal hell was real, when my time comes I will be standing in that elevator for eternity, listening to a review of the touring version of Lord of the Dance. I couldn't take the chance on ever having that happen to me again.

She mumbled something about some paperwork that I would need to sign, and I asked if that was something I could do with HR when I came to pick up my final check. We said our goodbyes and I took the stairs to the lobby.

Even though it was my choice to leave, I was still filled with the excitement of freedom and the fear of joblessness. Maybe this would be the time to go back and get my degree. Maybe I really would start writing again. Maybe I'd really focus on my bass playing. It didn't really matter. All I knew was, that from that point on, I would never work a job that I wasn't passionate about. My optimsim was cute.


It's funny how a small group of men can walk out on a golf course half a continent away for a round while talking some business and then two months later you're looking for work. Lives are changed over beers and chip shots. I've never cared for golf.

No comments: