Friday, October 08, 2010

I get pushed out the door.

Today is the four-year anniversary of this blog. I started it a few days after being fired, with an inaugural post about terror and I guess faith. In the post I debated whether I was let go, or laid off, or fired, or made redundant as the English say. Whatever the terminology was, the situation involved me walking out of the office I'd been working in for 364 days with all my shit in a box. Fall day. My eyes went all trippy and everything looked over-exposed. If there is a floor in the bottom of your guts (well there is, it's called the pelvic floor, I've since studied anatomy) it really felt as if it had dropped out and the trunk of my body was just an empty cavity.

Here had been my boss's parting words: "My advice to you? Don't over-promise and under-deliver." Let me share two more facts about the day. One, she terminated me one day before I would have received a one-year bonus. Two, she fired me on the first day I was back in the office after having flown to England to attend a funeral. It wasn't just any funeral, it was for one my step-siblings. Once upon a time I knew this person who had a blog. After making precautions like not using his or her last name, ever, on that blog --- and after making sure none of his or her work contacts knew about the blog, nor were on Facebook where he or she sometimes posted his or her stuff --- this person may have hypothetically said that his or her ex-boss was a "crazy-ass bitch married to a pot-smoking asshole who ran their shit-for-nothing company into the ground."

If I really stretch my imagination I can picture how this anonymous blogger felt.

After that initial post four years ago I didn't write anything in it until 2009. I've since deleted all of those drafts. No reason, just none of it was inspired at all or turned out being any good. However, that doesn't mean things weren't "busy, busy, busy" during that time, as it is written in Vonnegut's Books of Bokonon. No.

Between the years 2006 and now I enrolled in a Masters program for acupuncture, got separated from my wife, worked at another place for two years and got fired from there also, and met Elizabeth. I started a commitment to start writing again earlier this year with a post about my dog. Then last month Elizabeth and I agreed to start writing in our blogs every day.

I've been terminated from four jobs in my life. The first time I was 23 or 24 and got fired from a job as a security guard.

My job was doing nothing. I was supposed to sit in a K Car with lights on the roof that did nothing in the parking lot of a high school to help the attendees of an adult ed ESL program feel safe when they went to and from their cars at night. My boss and the client, the woman who ran the program, effectively said, for real, you have to do nothing. The ad for the job said "Study While You Work!" It was hard to study under a dome light in the front seat of a K Car that you couldn't keep running in the middle of winter because it burned a quart of oil every time you drove it. I had to fill it up before and after driving from the dispatch office to the site.

In between the beginning and end of the night class I was supposed to sit at a desk in the lobby and, like I said, do nothing. The high school janitor took his job very seriously, a man my age with a long pony tail fond of Winger tee shirts and denim shorts. He resented me openly for the fact that I did nothing. Apparently someone slammed a door on my watch and it broke a "cotter pin." I never heard it. Another time there were these two girls, the teenage daughter of the director of the program and her teenage friend. They hung around while classes were going on, typically making noise. The janitor knew them and would stand in the lobby during classes telling them stories, with his chest kind of puffed out into his Winger tee shirt, about heavy things he had lifted and broken things he had fixed. One night two of the men who attended ESL classes, both of them maybe in their late 20s, appeared to be looking at the girls. It's hard to be sure, I don't speak Spanish. Maybe they were just looking in that direction while talking about something completely mundane in animated tones. The girls raised their voices.

"Ewww! Stop looking at us! You're gross!"

This was very awkward. I had no idea whether or not they really were ogling the teenage girls and didn't want to insult them. Latino men and women on Long Island have a pretty hard time because Long Islanders are typically openly racist and to be honest, call it liberal guilt, but I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. At the same time the girls were teenage girls and I thought maybe I should be valiantly protecting them. But I had been told to do nothing. The girls got louder, the director of the program bolted out into the hall to see what was going on, I quickly stood up to appear like I was doing something even though I'd been trained to do nothing, and the janitor swept in, clapped his hands on the men's shoulders and valiantly told them to move on---these are teenage girls, guys.

A week later the janitor confronted me in the parking lot, asking me about the "cotter pin." This was in the broader context of my generally doing nothing. He brought up the incident with the girls and the two men, and the way I had stood up dramatically, for show, because that's all I was, for show. I felt heat coming into my face and my muscles started quivering but I didn't yell, I didn't get in his face, I didn't tell him to wad up his Stryper concert shirt and shove it up his ass. I did quietly suggest he didn't have to be such a douchebag because I was just doing my job. The word douchebag nailed it and I was politely dismissed the next time I came into the office. The manager of the security firm told me I would have to, quote, "turn in my badge."

Soon after, still in my 20s, I was even more politely dismissed from another "Study While You Work" job as a retail salesperson in a store that sold woman's handbags called, I checked, it's out of business so I'm safe, "The Nauti-Bag," in Port Jefferson, Long Island. Not only did I have to get comfortable with the fact that I worked in a shop that sold purses but also, whenever I told people who asked where I worked, it sounded like I was saying "Naughty Bag." There was a giant leather sandal hanging outside the door of the shop and 60 times a day I heard people from the street through the open door in Summer say "Look at that big sandal!" The bags were knockoffs, and people would wander in several times a day and ask me if they were Coach bags and I'd have to say No. The owner, a nice Greek man, wanted me to dust the bags and make sure they were hanging neatly on the racks instead of just reading my Early American Literature textbooks. He ended up telling me, like I said, politely, that the Naughty Bag wouldn't be needing my help anymore.

The third time I got terminated is the time I already told you about in 2006 and the fourth time was on April 30 of this year. A Friday.

I got laid off this time because, while I did "excellent" client work, I wasn't making enough sales to bring in revenues and the small firm couldn't justify the cost. This last one was a big one. I keep meaning to write a dramatic post about how scary it was, still having two kids and now being a single dad, and how significant it was to be blogging again unexpectedly about big changes, and about terror, and about, I guess, faith. But it's kind of anti-climactic. By that Sunday I'd pretty much locked up a contract job through somebody in my personal network. Soon after I got another contract and another and have actually been so busy I've debated hiring someone at a few points. I like my clients, a lot. They have been very happy with my work so far, and I think they like me a lot, too. I'm also pursuing a couple of entrepreneurial ventures I didn't have time for before, and am proably going to be teaching a class as well. I'm on my own schedule so I can finish school faster. The money is OK. I'm working on my laptop at a coffee shop right now. I'll also add I still have very positive business ties to my most recent ex-boss. Our relationship is far from over, it has just changed. It works better. This time getting let go was a big present.

So if I were that other person I was telling you about with the blog I'd probably want to wish the ex-boss who fired me in 2006 a big, giant Happy Anniversary.

I would express condolences that I've since heard she'd fallen on hard times, for the very reasons I suspect she couldn't appreciate how much of an asset I was to her business, namely, being crazy and disorganized and a terrible business person with unreasonable expectations she can't communicate so nobody could live up to them. If I was that other person I might write something like that. I might also say I hoped the door of her office didn't hit her in the ass on the way out when she had to, as I've since heard, close that office; if I said that it would be much like the parting shot she gave me on my way out the door four years ago.

If I were that anonymous blogger I'd want to wish my other ex-boss a big, giant sandal.

I'd tell the janitor he wasn't just a douchebag but a big, giant douchebag. I'd say I hope the door doesn't hit him in the ass on his way out of my life, because he'll just have to fix that "cotter pin" all over again.


E said...

Our lives have a way of pushing us through transitions without asking our permission...and the real significance of those changes can sometimes only be felt with years of distance. It's quite possible you could still be in one of those jobs viciously sanding away at your corners hoping to fit into the rounded hole clearly not meant for's to life's kicks in the ass!

Nerd said...

Ha ha, Stryper Tshirt. TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL!

Anonymous said...

Man, thank goodness no one ever held me to standards like this anyplace I ever worked. We used to steal entire cars full of food and beer from the Rite Aid where we used to be employed and then hit up the Ice & Liquor distribution center where my cousin sat around and picked his nose. Come to think of it, we probably should have done a stint in jail.

Eric said...

Thank you, because I don't feel like such a bad employee now Felonius Monk.