Monday, December 7, 2009

EDD Non-Cents

It turns out I am eligible for a partial EDD claim. I filed. I filled out multiple forms. My dear friends in HR completely botched their part and I had to start all over again. Lost a week of benefits. Then I get a letter saying I have a telephone interview. Isn't that sort of like getting a telegram* that you’re going to get a letter? They couldn't just ask me the questions on a form? They want to hear the inflection in my voice to see if I'm falsifying information? Are they that good? Then I remember they are just state employees, and I snap out of my paranoia.

The call is scheduled for 10AM and a very nice lady calls right on time. After exchanging pleasantries, we get down to the matter at hand. I will now translate the call:

EDD Lady: "On your last form you wrote you were available for work, but didn't look for work."
Translation: "You're an idiot, never check 'No' on any of our forms."

Me: "Well, in your handbook it says if I accept an appointment at my same employer I don't have to job search."
Translation: "I tried to follow your logic and failed, obviously."

EDD Lady: "No, you still have to look for work. You did right?"
Translation: "Throw me a bone here....just say 'yes.'"

Me: "Oh yes, I have my resume out everywhere. I misunderstood."
Translation: "Never check 'No,' never check 'No'..."

EDD Lady: "Oh, good. I thought that was what you meant. I'll reinstate your benefits."
Translation: "We're never going to do that again, are we?"

And all is well with the world once again.

*For you 20-somethings: a telegram was the precursor to email. It was as close to an IM as we could get. You'd go to a Western Union and tell the man...yes, Western Union didn't always JUST send money...oh forget it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First Week On the New Job

I have completed my first week in the new department. It's a strange thing to be displaced without your consent. Everyone is very nice and welcoming in the new "country." If you read my September 20 post "Dead Woman Walking," then you know my company treats departments like separate countries. At least I am now working in something similar to Portugal. When people find out I'm in a different place, they ask questions. I don't know quite what to say. "Oh, you're there now? Do you like it better?" Or "Why did you leave?" I've decided honesty is the best policy. They need to know what might be coming.

Don't misunderstand me, I am in a much better situation than many, and I'll get over it, but it's still hard to wrap my head around how and why this all happened. Let's re-cap: two months ago I would have never guessed I'd be here, and by here I mean literally and philosophically. I've essentially been forcibly transferred, taken a pay cut, and am doing a job I don't have any passion for.


Still employed, good thing. Benefits, good thing. Time towards retirement, good thing. Less money, bad thing. Having to learn everything, bad thing. Being grateful all the time, tiresome. Sigh.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Party's Over

Last day, Zero Hour

It's finally come down to it, the last day in my office. I look everything over for the last time. Computer cleaned out? Check. Drawers empty? Check. List of important tasks for replacement? Check. A few people stop by to say good-bye and vow to visit me in my new department. "We'll have lunch!" they all exclaim. It's an excruciatingly long day and I decide to call it quits at 4PM. I load up the few things I still have to cart home in one of those reusable, 'green' shopping bags. I just can't bear any more boxes. I stand in the middle of the office and announce, "Well, I guess this is it. I 'm outta' here." Everyone empties out of their cubicles and alcoves and comes and hugs me.

And then the inevitable happens. I just lose it. I don't mean I start just crying, I'm talking about chest-heaving-can't-catch-your-breath-bawling like a lost 3 year old at Wal-Mart. It was exactly what I didn't want to do, and I did it big time. My only slight satisfaction is that public displays of emotion like that are usually contagious, sort of like yawning. As I turned and walked out the door there were six, full grown women standing in the lobby of the office, sobbing. I had reduced them to mere puddles of their former selves.

"My work here is done," I said to myself under my breath.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Holy Blogs, Batman! It's the Scholastic Scribbler!

I feel like a super hero! I won a Superior Scribbler award! Many, many thanks to Tony for his kind words of support. Please check out his blog: . Have you ever read a post that said exactly what you needed to hear exactly when you needed to hear it? His post "Objects in the rearview mirror are larger than they appear!" was that post for me.

Here are the rules:

My fellow Scribblers must post the award on their blogs along with the Scholastic Scribbler link (which explains this process better than I can).

Each blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, they'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives this prestigious honor.

Each Superior Scribbler must link back to the author and the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

In turn, each Superior Scribe must pass the award on to five equally deserving bloggers. This is waaaaaay harder than it seems people!

Here are my 5 picks (in no particular order):

If you want your brain eaten by really cool (translation: really hard) movie trivia: Seriously, your head will hurt so good.

Charlene at the Balance Beam, always good writing and a fellow SNL quoter:

For good job (and lack thereof) advice:  Power to the laid off people!

OK, painting isn't exactly scribbling, but it's darn close and this is a really nice artistic site. Beautiful, green (and I don't mean the color) paintings, and a good communicator!

This blog is especially appropriate for the upcoming Thanksgiving family gathering and because you know I love me some movie references, you've got to read "The Christmas Michael Bay Killed." Movies, racism...Hilarious!

I know that I am supposed to notify all winners of their award with comment on their blog. Be patient, this may take a day. Sometimes I get lost in the Blogosphere and need to follow bread crumbs to get back home.

Congrats all!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Eleventh Hour Reprieve....Literally

Thursday, 16 hours to go

I decide I'm not going to be in the office much today. I need to clear off my computer, you know, all those pesky vacation pictures, letters to creditors and blog docs. At some point I have to meet with my new boss. Since we haven't even been introduced, this makes me a little apprehensive as I wonder, can she still change her mind? As usual, my mind begins to wander and it occurs to me that my new manager is choosing employees not unlike a fantasy football team. After all, she picked me by perusing only the stats on my resume. Will she want to trade me? There's a lot of laid off QB's out there. Then I was reminded of that play Steambath, where people just start start coming out of the steam, uninvited and they're really dead. What if her office is like that? I'm probably over thinking it...

I drive over to my new office and meet with my new manager. - Ooh! In addition to having access to the best parking lot on the planet, I also have a remote that opens the security gate arm. Sweet! - We meet, we greet and she says, "Tell me what your passion is. I mean, if you hadn't been laid off, would you have stayed in that office and retired there?" I'm taken aback. Is she asking me this because it was a bad office (which it was), or is she trying to see if I have higher aspirations (which I don't). Everything these days seems like a trick to me. Then I had an epiphany.

Maybe, this really is a good thing. A really good thing. I wouldn't allow myself to think that anything good could come of this whole situation because my ego and self esteem were so bruised. This woman only knew that she just got the deal of the century on a good, low miles used employee. An employee who was angry enough to want something better. Not just a passive job change, this. I told her that the reason I want to stay at this level of my job is because I am very passionate about what I do and I'm good at it. This is why it hurt so much to be thrown away like so much trash. I'm beginning to see it was more like I was being recycled and the rest of my old office was put in the compactor.

She seems satisfied that I'm not going to run out the door anytime soon for the first higher paying job, and says that she can pay me full time for a while until she can figure out if she can change it permanently. The budget still sucks. I breathe a huge sigh of relief, as the enormous half paycheck burden is lifted.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Karmic Balance

Still Wednesday

Blissfully, the good-bye lunch was uneventful. Really uneventful. Nice food, very sweet presents and heartfelt cards, but nothing from my director. "Guilt! Table for one!" Was it really that awkward? She stood at the back door while people left like David Spade as that airline steward on Saturday Night Live, "buh, bye...uh, buh, bye" They really should train people for these situations. I guess it's too much to ask to have some people act like regular humans when they need to.

On my way back to the office, I had to pick up a new parking permit as my new assignment is clear across the complex. And as it is in the universe, sometimes you just score. I was telling the clerk my sad story - the abbreviated version, of course - and she gave me the rarest parking permit there is, the Willy Wonka golden ticket of parking permits, the coveted 19 Red. Did you hear that? Every time I say it I hear angels singing. I thanked her, took the permit and skipped back to my car.

Even though it was a small victory, it was the first in the past few, dark weeks. I decided not to tempt the fates. I had just witnessed balance in the universe, no matter how lopsided.  I decided to celebrate my triumph and thank the gods by driving through Starbucks on the way back. I ordered the frothiest, sweetest, mocha, full caf, extra cream, venti calorie drink I could. I took my time getting back to the office. It was liberating! I know I'm a little slow on the uptake, but what are they going to do? FIRE ME?

OK, next time....decaf.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Down to the Wire

Wednesday, 24 hours left

Today I run around like a chicken with my head cut off. I have to cancel my final check being cut because I will now be continuing in another department. And guess what? Payroll is majorly annoyed! It's all I can do not scream "get over it!" into the phone. I learned long ago, the two groups of people you never want to irritate at any job are the payroll clerks and the maintenance crew. Unless you like working with a lot of duct tape around your office.

On top of everything else, I have to go to HR (hellish and rude?) and sign papers and then it's off to the most dreaded thing of all, the good-bye lunch. I managed to have it moved to a much more casual place, instead of the large restaurant originally planned. I wanted lots of activity and noise, to disguise the inevitable awkward silences. We had all been to one of these for a co-worker just a month earlier and I our supervisor said nothing. I don't mean, she was quiet, I mean she actually never mentioned her leaving. No "thanks, we'll miss you!" or "Sorry you have to go.." Nada, zip, crickets. It was as if we all mysteriously went to lunch on the same day at the same place by some freakish coincidence.

HR (hilarious ridiculousness?) tries to help me figure out my retirement contributions, and she says, “Do you want me to give you an estimate of your benefits?” "Sure!" I say, as she moves her phone from her side of the desk to mine and dials a number. On the speaker I hear the automated system I always use. Is she kidding? I tell her I can do that at home not to worry. Later we are talking about what I'll need to do if I end up leaving in December because I can't afford to work part time for very long. Ever the helpful one, she offers, "Would you like me to give you an idea of what your paycheck will be?" I eye her suspiciously, "sure..." and she proceeds to her computer, pulls the same payroll screen I can access, and then turns to me and says, "OK, now go ahead and log-in ."

And I'm the one that got laid off.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

"But wait! There's more!"

Tuesday, 32 hours to go

So here's the deal; there was a program put in place just a few days ago that is supposed to stop new jobs from being posted if there are qualified people on the preferential rehire list. While this might sound redundant, it's pretty obvious from my previous posts that the "pref rehire" program is a dismal failure because of all the manipulation within departments. Now if a job becomes available, HR is supposed to intervene. You'll forgive if I don't do cartwheels down the hallways with enthusiasm. This is like having the Easter Bunny guard the shark tank at Sea World.

Apparently, we now have a fire sale on employees. When this particular department went to post their part time opening, HR sent over my resume for review. Please understand that this has nothing to do with my ego, but they took one look at my experience and said, "I'll take her!" This reminds me of the time I saw a designer suit, in my size for 80% off. Grab it, buy it, take it home, just don't ask questions. I have been reduced to a sale item, no pun intended. I, however, prefer to think of myself as a fabulous pair of Jimmy Choo's at half off, not a 3-pack of Jockey underwear at Kohl's. But I digress...

We strike a deal as I sit along the side of the road, although I have no idea how I am going to survive on half a paycheck. It is actually going to be more like 40% because it's half of a lower salary. I really don't like being rushed into making a decision like this. All I know is one of life's little ironies is that it's easier to find a job when you've got a job.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Reversal of Fortune

Monday, 40 hours left

At the end of Friday's interview I am told that a decison will be made by Tuesday (tomorrow) and they ask hypothetically when could I start. I have no illusion that I'm even in the running. This is also not the ideal job as I trust the she-devil even less than my former supervisor, but desperation makes us do funny things. But that's a whole other blog....

I am working in a sort of fog these days, but a strange calm has come over me. I just can't expend the emotional energy on this anymore and must resign myself to the fact that I will need to job seach from home, on my couch, in my now famous bunny slippers. I make all the preparations for my final check, and since my email will stop the second I walk out the door, I create a new one on yahoo. I begin to think maybe I will leave earlier than planned, but now there are all these good-bye events planned. Ugh, heavy sigh.
As I get in my car to leave at 5:00 and pull out of the parking lot, my cell phone rings. It's a co-worker. "You have to call this number! There's a part time job in another department and they're willing to give it to you sight unseen!" Since this co-worker knows this department I take her at her word. "You've got to call the hiring manager TONIGHT on her cell phone!" I'm taken aback at the urgency. After all, I have been sitting around for 3 weeks on "death row." 

I pull over on the freeway, not wanting to get a ticket (Governor Arnie, if your reading this, you've got nothin' on me) and make the call.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dirty Little Tricks

Friday, 5 days left

We are finally on for 3PM for the interview.  The time and day changed four times, and location twice. In a classic territorial move, the final location happens to be in my building.  This means I have to do the corporate version of the walk of shame; walking through your building dressed better than you normally would for your real job.  I get to the door of the conference room 10 minutes early and nobody is there yet.  I have a key but since we're playing old school rules, I decide to let her win her little turf war.  She rounds the corner and she is wearing jeans, telegraphing her casual attitude.  She unlocks the door, and I am instantly hit with a blast of hot air.  It is literally 85 degrees in the room.  I look at her with a knowing, but not sarcastic glance as she lets me in. "Whoo it's hot in here!" she says as she brushes past me.  She forgets that I see the facilities calendar and I know she was just in this room with another interview just two hours before. Only she would have turned the thermostat up.

For the uninitiated, this is one of the oldest tricks in the book.  Unfortunately, it's a very old and outdated book.  Someone back in the 80's decided that you could/should judge people by the most inane criteria and then predict their success in your company.  A classic used to be to take a prospective employee out to dinner and watch if they salted their food before ever taking a bite.  This was supposed to signal that they were set in their ways, and not open to new experiences.  To paraphrase Freud, sometimes salt is just salt.  The thermostat trick is supposed to make the interviewee sweat so they will remove their suit jacket (and reveal their sweat stains), or remain uncomfortable (yet suffer professionally).  I know this is her goal as she sets out bottles of water for the other committee members.  However, I'm cool as a cucumber.

The interview goes well.  Nay, it goes really well.  The other members seem impressed even though she doesn't.  After the obligatory 30 question round robin, they ask the one question I've been waiting for and the only answer I have rehearsed.  "Why should we hire you?"

I close my portfolio, fold my hands on top of it and smile.  "I would be willing to bet that everyone else that prepared for this interview spent hours, if not days doing your assignment. You don't always get that kind of prep time on the job.  I spent about 20 minutes.  I know what I'm doing and I'm good at it.  That's why you should hire me."

The other two members looked up from their scripts.  One smiled and made some notes.  The other looked a little dumbfounded, although that may have been the dehydration setting in.  He was drenched in flop sweat.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bruce Lee Would be Proud

Thursday,  6 days left

I spend the day dutifully preparing my "portfolio" and researching the items I was given for the impromptu/prepared talk. I felt like I was back in grade school participating in a scavenger hunt. "Excuse me, do you happen to have a paper clip, one blue sock, and a pickle?" But, as I am gathering this mindless drivel I take look at the items I have put in my portfolio pocket. I, in fact, had a hard time choosing only two samples of original printed materials and the two I chose were damn good. I no longer had access to some of my written correspondence so I faked two, which took me all of five minutes. My resume, which has finally reached two pages out of necessity (this happens when you've worked in one industry for 20 cough, cough years) is pretty impressive. Unlike the first interview ("Interview with the Devil," 10/2), I am not only prepared for this, I'm loaded for bear.

She calls a third time to say that she has to move the interview again because she has to respect the schedules of all the committee members. In other words, they don't respect mine. "Not a problem." I say, my steely gaze wasted over the phone. Bring it.

That evening at 8PM, despite the fact that she has previously always called me on the phone, she emails and changes it again. Ooooh, will I see it? Or will I miss it and be an hour late? I serpentine around my PC in my home office. Not on my watch, Missy! I wait until close to midnight to reply back to the email. "Great! I'll see you then!" I swear to God, if I had a black ninja suit I would have had it on when I hit the send button.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Chess Game

Wednesday, 23 down 7 to go

I have my now daily training session with my replacement, which is stick-a-fork-in-my-eye irritating, and I receive an email from the hiring manager for the open job. I know this woman as we have gone to two conferences together and I've even had dinner with her office group. She would like to set up the interview for the next morning at 9:30.

I call HR (don't get me started) and double check that my resume and application are over in the hiring department. I tell her I hope that this is a real - and not a "mercy" - interview. She says (and I quote verbatim), "Oh, no..I have no indication that it isn't absolutely a purposeful interview." I ponder the amount of negatives in that statement as it occurs to me that it sounds rehearsed. Now, I must tell you that I am completely addicted to that new show "Lie to Me" with Tim Roth. He always notices things like that. Things like nodding your head in agreement while you're saying, "No! I had nothing to do with her murder!" However, she assures me that everything is on the up and up. Whatever.

When I get home, I get another call from the manager that there's an assignment due (no, I'm not kidding) for the interview and since it's already after 6PM she's guessing I want to move interview to the next day (Friday). This is a test. I will seem over confident and rash if I don't take the extra time. Fine, I'll take your extra time. We set the interview for 9:30 Friday morning.

I may be an old dog, but these are very old tricks. Your move.

A Day Late and a Multiple Dollars Short

Tuesday, 8 days to Go

Phone calls are a swirlin' today!  One of the jobs above me appears to be open again (I have given up trying to keep track of this).  My manager finally decides to get involved and calls the hiring department and asks why I haven't be interviewed.  I hear her say down the hall, "she's not only qualified, she'd be really good!  You need to interview her!"   She comes in to tell me this and the fact that she's complained to all higher ups that I should be considered for all open jobs, blah, blah, blah.  Oh Great.  So now, I am the wallflower at the dance.  "She's got a great personality!"  Seriously, I don't need a pity interview.

Multiple calls ensue, confirming the obvious:

"Well, she HAS to apply."
"Oh, she did apply?"
"Well, it's NOT preferential re-hire, you know.  We don't HAVE to interview her."
"Oh, she's really qualified?"
"I can't find her application.  Where's her resume?"
"Hmm, they've been here for 2 weeks?"
"When's her last day, we're really in a hurry here."
"She can start tomorrow?  Wow..."
"OK, I'll call her and set up an interview."


More crickets.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

HR Stands for.....

Monday, 9 days to Go

A strange calm has fallen over my office. No one comes to see me, the phone doesn't ring - even my emails have slowed down. They hold staff meetings right outside my office that I don't have to attend. It's like I'm not even there. I get a call from Human Resources - now there's a contradiction in terms. Clearly, the humans at my company are not resources, but liabilites to be cut. Ever see "Who Killed The Electric Car?" They're taking us out in the middle if the night, carting us off and crushing us. Wow, I really need to switch to decaf.

Anyway, they ask for my timesheet so they can cut my final check.  There is some discussion about vacation and sick leave balances and some overtime.  I will get paid for all my vacation (hence why I come in a demean myself everyday) but not for sick leave, and they will pay me for the overtime, where they would have previously made me take "comp" time.  Like Oliver in the orphanage (in, well... Oliver) I ask, "what if I get my check, and then get a job here the next week.  Can I just hand back the money and keep my vacation hours?"  I can't imagine starting a new job with no vacation again.  "No." she snaps.  "Once you get paid for your vacation time you can't buy it back."  Who makes these rules?  Who is this evil despot, this tyranical dictator, this oppressor of people's vacations?  Well, she's about 40 and wears sweater sets up on the second floor in HR.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

One of Life's Little Mysteries Solved


If you noticed, I was finally able to fix the charts in my post below ("I Guess I'm Just Stupid" 10/6) to look the way I wanted them to. I'll admit I am new to the blogosphere, but I am still surprised when things that should be easy, just aren't. Alas, this is my problem with life. My fellow bloggers gave me lots of suggestions, but I am no HTML wiz kid. Much like cars, IRS regulations and my Verizon FIOS package, I know just enough to get me into trouble.

I tried everything but got so lost in the HTML editor I should have left bread crumbs to find my way back. Today I tried SnapIt and had an "Aha!" moment. It's been a long time since I tried anything that makes something so difficult so easy. It basically saves a "print screen" in any format. Simple, yet mysterious. Also a lot like life. And Jello.

Here is the info on SnapIt:

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Party's Over

Friday, 1o days left

Now that I'm down to two weeks left, people are getting used to the idea of me leaving. I can't say as I feel the same way. I have been asked where I want to go for my goodbye lunch. This is the final nail in the coffin. The corporate version of the last meal. I'm also asked who I would like to have attend. Hmmm, I dunno. Andre Eithier? Sean Connery? Jason Statham? Oh, they probably mean people there. My mind wanders a lot lately.

Ever the team player, I tell them anyone who wants to come should be invited. A suggestion is made by my closer co-workers that we should go out the night before for happy hour. Never one to say no to a free margarita and little teeny tacos, I say yes. I know that the purpose of this event is to trash those that need to be trashed, and I'm in dire need of that. My last day, and meal, will need to be sappy and sad, and I'm already dreading it. DWW.....

I just want to slink away into the night without any more histrionics. I'm emotionally bankrupt -which I find oddly appropriate.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When it Rains it Pours

Thursday, 11 days left

Talk about kicking a girl when she’s down! Not that it would ever be a good time for things to break, but now is particularly bad. The lamp on our big screen TV went out in the middle of football last night. Look, there are many things I can live without for short periods of time. Then there are the things that I’ll work a freeway off ramp to get the money to fix or replace. Among these things is my big screen TV. The others would be the dishwasher and coffeemaker, and don’t even try to make me cope without a hairdryer. I remember my parents telling me about a neighbor when I was about five years old that just lost it one night. He was up on his roof, cursing to the heavens amidst a raging rainstorm. I always thought that was the very definition of insanity. But now, I totally get it! He was probably hoping that his leaky roof would make it just one more paycheck before he would have to get it fixed. That week, his car probably broke down, he found out that his kid needed braces and he got an IRS audit notice. The roof was just the last straw. I get it all too well. So I order the part, after borrowing the money from my son (horrors!) because I’m not sure I can deal with no TV. Or movies. Or Dodgers. I really need that part!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mental Flab

Wednesday, 12 days left

We're out of milk and need to go to the store and we all know how that's going to turn out. I've realized that my stream-of-consciousness-inner-voice is my new best friend at the supermarket. At least until the men in the white coats show up. I go down the frozen aisle and look at the frozen pizza. I could deliver pizza. Can they fit my BMW with one of those lighted signs? That's some classy pizza. Yep, I'm going to be the classiest unemployed person in town. At least I won't be stressed out as much anymore. I need to keep my edge though, everyone is stressed out. Can't get all relaxed and mentally flabby. I could dress up in my suit and take my briefcase in to Starbucks (until my gift card runs out) and then go home and drink it. I need to have that frazzled look around 4PM. Hmmm, I could go to the post office and stand in line just to buy one stamp. No, wait.. The DMV! That would do it. That will fry your brain any time. Then, when I'm in the check out line and the clerk says, "I am SOOOO glad it's Friday, how about you?" I can say with conviction, "Whoo yeah, you know it!" It's like one of those science fiction movies where they check the lines on your palms to make sure you're really human. Must fit in....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's my Party and I Can Cry if I Want to

Tuesday, 13 days left

I finally have to send out an announcement to my clients that I will be leaving. Predictably, this doesn't go over well. I purposefully waited to do this because I thought I would be able to say, "I'm leaving but I'll be right over here in this other department." Don't get me wrong, I appreciate everyone's sympathy, but it has become incredibly draining. I find myself avoiding people and the usual gathering places because I can't stand the little pouty faces they make when they stamp their feet and say, "I'm sooo sad!" They've worn me down, and I'm not cheerleader I once was.

Here are my current responses to their inane attempts to commiserate, and yes, sometimes I even say them out loud:

I'm so sad! - Not as sad as I am.

What a stupid decision! - I couldn't agree with you more.

I'm really upset about this! (this one is usually accompanied by a 45 degree head tilt, furrowed brow and hands on hips ) You want to see upset?

What are you going to do? Gee, I hadn't thought about that.

I know, I know, "bitter, table for one!" but I ask you, if there was ever a time you should be able to be bitter, I think this is it. You'll just have to indulge me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Guess I'm Just Stupid

Monday 2 weeks left

I didn't get the job I interviewed for, and that's OK because another "preferential re-hire" person got it. I say to myself, "self; that's the way it should be. That's how it's supposed to work - that job was at his level and he was moved across." Little did I know.

Chart 1

In reality, I find out that the person who got the job I interviewed for wasn't even laid off yet. He was verbally told he would be laid off and they give him one of the jobs now open in their office. So he types up his own paperwork in order to get a job under the preferential re-hire program. In fact, he wasn't actually laid off until he tells his boss what they can do with their internal "re-hire" assignment. They don't tell HR, so on the books he has two jobs! In the meantime, there are more layoffs coming so everyone is in a holding pattern while they manipulate the system. For those of you who are lost, here's what really happened:

I have spent my life playing by the rules and being a good worker bee. I don't have low friends in high places. Apparently, I don't have any friends anywhere - well, not with the kind of power I need.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Life Alterations

Saturday and Sunday

The roller coaster that is now my life is starting to take a toll on me. It's not that I'm not sleeping at all, but if I wake up in the middle of the night I'm up for good. At the risk of sounding like I have acquired OCD, I have taken to cleaning in the wee hours of the morning. You can now eat off the shelves in my refrigerator and I descaled my coffeemaker at 4:30 AM the other day. The strange thing is that I wake up fully alert, but around 2PM I hit the wall and my brain turns to mush. I realized this as I was trying to make a phone call on my calculator, and then on my way home attempted to buy gas with my Home Depot card and stood there cursing at the pump for 5 minutes.

This seems a particularly cruel turn of events. The weekends are supposed to filled with late mornings, second or third cups of coffee and staying dressed in your PJ's and bunny slippers as long as you want. Now I'm scared that this will become my unofficial uniform. I wonder if all the things I used to consider creature comforts become jaded.

Here's a few things I'm afraid will come to pass:

  • I will never again eat at a restaurant that doesn't start with "Der" or "Mc."
  • Starbucks will become a only a distant memory as I am forced to drink...gulp...Yuban?
  • The frozen meals I used to take for lunch will now become dinner for two.
  • This year when I buy Halloween candy it will become dessert for a month.
While we're on the subject of lifestyle changes, how about the things that I used to think were "quirky" but now might become my new life essential:
  • Breakfast for dinner. Cholesterol be damned!
  • The samples at Costco. Should I bulk up and train for this? Are there scuffles around the carnitas lady?
  • The free hotdogs and hamburgers at that big RV lot down the freeway. How will I feel when they ask me if I want the "usual?"

Friday, October 2, 2009

Interview with the Devil

Friday, 18 days to go

I finally got called for an interview! My normal M.O. here would be to research the position and the company, practice my patter and rehearse a few answers . I begin to realize this isn't going to be as easy as it looks. The truth is, I have never been out of work in my life. In fact, within my family I have quite the reputation for gaining employment. On my first summer vacation in college I moved to a resort town to work. Within a few days, I managed to lose the job that had gotten me there in the first place. I cried, walked down the street and was working that afternoon in a burger joint that paid more. I was a legend.

It occurs to me that for the first time in my life I am looking for work when (a) I didn't plan on doing it, nor was it my idea, (b) I don't really want to leave my job and (c) I'm actually desperate. This is not a good combination for job seekers. Not to mention, my self esteem has taken quite a beating in the last two weeks.

I stay home the day of the interview so I can prepare myself (I am afforded as much job hunt related flex-time as I need). However, I spectacularly under estimate how nervous I'm going to get. This becomes quite evident as I sit in the waiting room sweating beads. Let me be more's over 100 degrees outside so it's more like a flop-sweat, I'm wearing a suit and the previous, 20-something-male interview before me comes out looking fresh as a daisy.

I swallow hard as I realize I'm in real trouble here. As I drive home it hits me hard that I really am leaving.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Five Signs Layoffs are Coming

Thursday, 19 days to go

It occurred to me while writing yesterday's post that I must have been blind not to see this coming. I will enumerate here the signs that should have been clear but were not:

  • All of sudden your boss wants to quantify your workload. "How many (clients, vendors, widgets) do you see a week?"
  • There is a immediate need to "back-up" all the computers in your office, or worse, just yours.
  • Your company gives seminars on foreclosure, "doing more with less," etc. My personal favorite was our credit union openly offering loans when they had previously been very stingy.
  • Unexplained workers with tape measures show up in your cubicle and talk about you in the third person, while you're sitting there. Hello...... I can hear you!
  • Your email doesn't work one morning and the IT department calls it a "hiccup"...
I know, I know...there's a river in Egypt called "denial" and I'm drowning in it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked at Home

Wednesday, 20 days to go

I know they say hindsight is 20/20. But, I really should have seen this coming. My employer was about as subtle as a Mack truck. About a month before the layoffs commenced, my company had a series of seminars on "Living Well in a Bad Economy." Most of them were about foreclosure help, retirement investment strategies, stress management, etc. One of them was "Lowering Your Foods Costs" and my co-workers and I thought that would be an interesting seminar to attend. OK, OK - they provided food samples and we wanted a free lunch. Ah, memories. The good 'ole days, when we wanted a free lunch was just because we were lazy.

The woman who gave the seminar was used to an audience of indigent women with large families that had never learned to cook or shop for food. I believe as part of a welfare/food stamp program. She explained this and modified her presentation for the 50 or so fairly kitchen savvy, upwardly mobile (or so we thought) women in front of her, who were now ardently eyeing the food samples. She also explained that she was a chef by profession but her sous chef was not available that day so she brought her 84 year old mother to help. Her Mother, she explained had raised she and her siblings during the Great Depression. Mom responded with an eye roll that would make any teenager envious. And it was on.

This demonstration was supposed teach us to be self-reliant and save money. To not be dependant on what the supermarket (and the "man") provided. She proceeded to show us things like butchering a whole chicken yourself, making everything from scratch (anything pre-packaged was "vile"), baking your own bread. Admittedly, a lot of this was lost on us - I personally drew the line at making my own pancake syrup - but not on Mom. Every time her daughter said, "Bread costs too much" or "money is hard to come by, why waste it" her Mom would say something under her breath, but just loud enough for those of us the front row to hear. She made her opinion of the current economic crisis quite clear.

The chef would say, "Times are tough and they are going to get tougher" and her Mom would suck her teeth and whisper, "this ain't nothin." She looked at us with the disdain that only someone who had been there could. At one point in the presentation, the chef explained that she had ruined the dessert (the lemon bars) and threw them away only to find the current offering of "lemon balls" on a serving plate. The fact that Mom had dug them out of the trash was not lost on us. But she looked at us smiling that sweet octogenarian smile , and whispered, "too good for you all I suppose." You and me sister, you and me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Beginning of the End

Tuesday, 21 days to go

I still have not gotten the call for the "slam dunk" job in my same job title. I email my favorite person in HR about this and she informs me that "there was already an offer on the table for that position. I guess I didn't get back to you."

I will now relay the rest of the conversation as I experienced it in my head:

What came out of my mouth: "Uh, uh."
What was in My head: "WTF?"

Mouth: "You did get back to me. You called me and specifically told me there was no offer and the department head would be calling me. Remember the part where I said, 'that's great news'?'"
Head: "Are %$&#ing kidding me, you idiot?"

Mouth:"What happened?"
Head: "Fix this you cretin!"

HR person: "The department head didn't know there was an offer outstanding."

Mouth: "Wow, that's not good."
Head: "How, by all that's holy did that happen? I am surrounded by incompetence! No, I'm surrounded by idiots - who have jobs! OMG, are you irritated that I'm angry? How dare you! YOU DON"T GET TO BE IRRITATED! I, on the other hand, I get to be catatonic!"

Now, the length of that last inner voice might be the reason people say I'm a little distracted these days with a vacant look in my eyes. I don't know, could be.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Supermarkets are Evil

Saturday and Sunday

Determined not to repeat my previous supermarket meltdown, I pull into the parking lot, square off, and hike up the waistband on my sweatpants. I can do this. I pass through the sliding glass door and down the first aisle. I don't know what is is but something happens to me when confronted with thousands of retail reminders of my cash flow (or soon to be lack thereof). Then I go into this strange stream of consciousness thought mode. "Wow, pork chops are on sale. Probably won't be able to stock up as much as I would like. Crackers, I should get crackers. Generic crackers. What do I get when I can't afford generic crackers? Panko bread crumbs? Maybe I can just mix them in with the margarine, spoon it out and call it a day." Before I realize it I'm hyperventilating and my heart is pounding, and by the look of the mother across the aisle, I'm scaring small children.

I leave the cart mid-aisle, grab the paper and go through the checkout line with my sunglasses on. Like that is going to deflect the bad vibes from the canned goods. Foil...what about tin foil....OMG! I'm that woman!

Layoff Chic

Monday, 22 days to go

I was doing a little web surfing last night since it would appear my brain has decided that I no longer need sleep. I was checking out the HSW blogs as I listened to a few pod casts(see post "Where's an Eight Year Old When you Need One" below) and I ran across the site for Steampunk. If you don't know what this is I strongly encourage you to check it out - it's really fascinating. There's a link in my favorite sites list. It occurred to me that out of necessity I might need some layoff punk, nay, Layoff Chic items!

These would be items that I need to keep up with corporate America but can no longer afford. Therefore, I may have to make it myself. If Martha Stewart can do it, so I can. She's my hero.

Here goes:

The Layoff Chic Cell Phone with Accessories:

A. Layoff Chic Cellphone comes standard with universal cord and cord keeper, comfort earpiece (I'm not an animal!)

B. Organic stylus to tap out Morse Code...why you ask? Hello? Blackberry?

C. Twitter/IM enabled..Oh they'll reply all right.

D. Wall mount

Feel free to submit your own!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Blame Game

Thursday, 26 days to go

Here's another facet of being laid off. I have now gotten used to people being overly sympathic, secretly relieved, cutting me off in mid-sentence, and even avoiding me in the hall (it might be catching?). What I wasn't prepared for was what happens when you are forced to work your full 30 days and you are DWW (see post below about Dead Woman Walking). I guess people feel that since you are neither fish nor fowl, dead or alive, animal, vegetable or mineral you are fair game. I have been blamed for saying things when I wasn't within a country mile of the conversation.

Now, believe me, my feet are well acquainted with my mouth. However, on those rare occasions where I have over-stepped my bounds (and gotten caught) I have owned up it and sheepishly apologized. These two incidents were complete fabrications. Is it easier to blame someone who is going to be gone shortly? Does it somehow make more sense because I'm laid off? It seems to me that the perception is I have no recourse or rights, that I'm a constant reminder of the failed economy, that decisions that can ruin your life are made by others with no more of a thought process than throwing a dart at a dart board? Breathe.......

All of the above may be some of the reasons for their actions, but it doesn't make them reasonable. It would seem that there are no limits to how much humilation I must endure. Because clearly, I have no feelings, nor am I entitled to any. I am expected to I train my replacement, hand over all my passwords and codes, and generally watch all my hard work go right down the toilet...with a smile on my face because that's the "professional" thing to do.

"But everyone really likes you!"

"Wow, you did it that way?"

"Can I have your _______(chair, stapler, wireless mouse)?"


Where's an Eight Year Old When You Need One?

Wednesday, 27 days to go

Today I have decided to clean out my computer files and one of the things I need to tackle are my iPod files on iTunes. I'm fairly proficient with removing files to thumb drives but I'll admit, as much as I love my iPod it completely baffles me. To top it off, I am addicted to podcasts and not being able to keep up with my favorites will probably send me over the edge right now. In particular, I love the How Stuff Works podcasts and Chuck, Josh, Molly, Sarah & Katie are my own little oasis in the midst of my life crisis. And it's free! God bless Apple and Al Gore for inventing the internet...but I digress.

I try valiantly to back up my library and it doesn't work. I'm beginning to get worried. I try another method and it won't cooperate either. The only time I've had a problem with my iPod I was at the airport and I noticed a head bopping tween across the aisle with a nano like mine. I showed him my frozen screen, and clearly from the panicked look on my face and mono-syllabic grunting and pointing he could see I was in trouble. With one roll of his eyes and that dreaded "Tsk-huh" sound he pressed something and all was right with the world. He handed it back to me, all the while never removing his earbuds or making eye contact. Brat.

I begin to wonder where I could again find such an expert to perform the task at hand without being arrested for kidnapping or child endangerment. This is not the time to answer "yes" to that "have you every been convicted of a felony?" question on applications. When I get home I download iTunes on, my home laptop and without ever logging in or entering a password - miracle of miracles - there is my whole library! But how did it know? I muse that like the light in the fridge, I will just trust that it goes off when I shut the door. And I'm good with that.

There is a God, and clearly, she listens to podcasts.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Zen of the Layoff

Tuesday, 28 Days to go

I have become quite philosophical about this now. Since there are 5 stages of grief, I have created the 5 stages of Layoff:

1. Astonishment
2. Fear
3. Anger
4. See #3
5. See #4

For the others around me it's quite different. As I encounter people in the hallway, at meetings - and the true cradle of power - the ladies' restroom, I elicit a predictable response. Some cry and hug me. Some shake their fists and are angry for me, but I get the feeling that they are secretly relieved it's not them. I completely understand this because I used to think it too. There were a certain number of positions that needed to be cut and we all knew this. So, each time I heard of someone being laid off I subconsciously breathed a sigh of relief. As that Ten-Commandments-Firstborn-Fog rolled through each building we all counted it's victims, and counted ourselves lucky.

I have observed another response which is really disconcerting. Twice now when I have mentioned my deep seated fear of having to call my mortgage company and other creditors, two different co-workers have cut me off in mid-sentence and changed the subject. It's as if I have spoken "that which will not be named" i.e. losing your house and possessions. The first time this happened I was a little shocked as I considered this person a caring, compassionate human being. The second time it happened I was less obliging to stop the description of the downward spiral of my life based on this idiotic decision. I don't know, I may have gone a little far, conjuring up the image of that urchin in Les Miserables. In rags.


On the street.


Note: You 'll have to forgive all my movies references, but I'm trying to get the most from my Netflix subscription before I have to cancel it next week...

Dead Woman Walking

Monday, 29 days to go

My first day on the job as an "indefinitely laid off" employee was not fun. I'm going to call it DWW (Dead Woman Walking). I had to physically go to the HR office because they wouldn't return my phone calls on Black Friday. I met with a nice enough person who told me how preferential rehire is supposed to work. I tried to wrap my head around the fact that there were positions open at my same job level, but mine was being cut due to the budget. She said this as if it were like the ability to time travel in an Austin Powers movie and I would just have to go with it. You see, only certain departments are being cut and others...well, not so much. As I now understand it, while we are one big company, we function like small countries and apparently I had been working the last few years in the equivalent of Kyrgyzstan.

This human resources professional - for which the only description I can muster is 'beige' - tells me that IF there is a job at my same level they HAVE to hire me. This is where you should conjure up the sound of marimba "plinks" as I blinked my eyes in disbelief. OK, I'll admit it, it was sarcasm. But whatever it was, I don't exactly call this a recipe for success. I envisioned myself in an interview room full of disinterested people with bad body language at a table that just keeps getting longer and longer... Sort of makes the term 'preferential rehire' oxymoronic.

When I voiced my concern about this the Beige One said, "Oh, I certainly hope people have gotten over the stigma of an employee being laid off by now." Yeah, me too.

Reality Check vs Pay Check

Saturday, 9/12

After the fog of an entire bottle of Two-Buck-Chuck lifted (I felt that was the most appropriate beverage under the circumstances) I decided that the best thing to do was to clear out my office. At least I could spare myself the humiliation of parading through the building with multiple boxes overflowing with Christmas decorations and my hidden stash of SlimFast. Unbelievably, my husband and I filled my SUV to the roof. Note to self: I would like to be never more than one box away from leaving any job at any time.

Sunday, 9/13

I went to the supermarket for my usual Sunday morning paper and sundries purchase. I remembered that California Lottery Ad where the person is standing in front of the cheese case and mumbles to himself that he "can totally afford all this cheese." I begin to realize that if I don't get a job in the next 10 days I won't have a paycheck next month. I look around me and it hits me that I will not be able to afford the cheapest thing in any of these aisles. I begin to look around. Generic soup? Ramen noodles? Does gum have any food value? My heart starts to race and all I can hear is blood rushing in my ears. This must be how Tony Soprano felt when he had a panic attack.

I used to joke about my retirement savings. That I would be surviving on dry cat food in my golden years. That if I could just save a little more, I could life the high life on the canned stuff. Good times. Now, I'm looking sideways at the cat. I get in the check out line and answer the obligatory "paper or plastic" question I begin to think about the paper. Then cardboard. Then cardboard boxes and how I would soon living in one except I would eventually need to turn it in for the recycling money so I'm going to be roaming the streets boxless....I start to cry and the box boy asks, "Maam, did you really want plastic?"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Got Laid Off

Friday, 9/11 2PM

I'm sitting at my desk editing a huge scientific document that might as well be written in Greek, eating an apple because I worked through lunch, when my supervisor walks in and shuts the door behind her. I look up over my reading glasses, with my finger still on my computer screen so I can keep my place and she says, "I am here because I have to serve you with a layoff notice." Now she might have said "I have to send you to Mars to get the mail" or "I have to leave now because the mother ship has come back for me" for all the sense it made. I absolutely could not comprehend anything she was saying to me. The fact is, I don't remember much of anything she said in the ensuing ten minutes.

And so begins my odyssey into the world of the laid off. The down-sized. The Lepers of the working world.

I hope you'll travel the road with me...there's no GPS for this trip.