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May 8, 2002

Rant Of The Free Time Endowed

At long last, I'm breaking my semi-self-induced silence. It's been about five weeks since I last wrote anything, and for that I apologize. I should have easily been able to find the time to continue my weekly frothing, but I just didn't. Bad writer! Bad writer! However, I think you'll agree that I have a damned good excuse for not being in the mood to write.

I've been thinking nearly every day over this period of silence that I should really get down and finally write something again. The big question was what to write about? Should I write about what's going on in my life? Originally I thought no, I should just keep that to myself and continue on, business as usual. That's getting harder and harder to do, however, and as of yesterday I finally decided once and for all that I'm not going to put on a happy face and not mention anything. To hell with that - I'm going to rant long and loud about exactly what's happening. There's no reason any better than I just need to vent.

On April 5th I came into work at a slightly earlier time than normal, I believe I got there around quarter after seven. I like my early mornings at work, because no one else is in my part of the office at that time. I'm usually alone, or pretty much so, until eight o'clock, when everybody else starts arriving. I check my e-mail, go through my normal morning web reading routine, and get down to work before most of my co-workers show up.

I had been there for about two hours when my boss calls me into his office. Uh-oh. I know I haven't been the nicest person to work with over the past two weeks, due to Marketing being a royal pain in the ass that doesn't know what it wants, and dumps its troubles on me. I go in expecting a reprimand, which I have had before for this reason about five months back.

I'm fired. Canned. Here's your papers, please clean out what you need off your computer in 30 minutes. Un-fucking-believable. I'm sitting there with my boss calmly telling me what happened and why he's doing this, numbly holding the 3 pieces of paper that explain that as of today I'm gone and I get this much severance and so on and so forth. My hands are shaking, and I'm probably a really interesting shade of ghost.

Somehow I eventually come out of that, and start trying to figure out how I'm going to take the personal files I have on my computer home. I quickly dig out a blank CD, move everything I want to a special directory, and start looking for a CD burner. One of the IT guys has one, so I get him to burn the CD while I head off and find and empty box. I try to quietly and unobtrusively empty my desk of all its personal content, remove my calendar, and pack up my plants without anybody noticing what's going on. I go back and retrieve my CD, and log off and shut down my computer. Now I get to take my box to my truck, and come back for my hanging plant and jacket. Do you know how hard it is to walk out of an office with a jacket and a spider plant without raising suspicions? The last person I see is someone in Accounting. They take one look at my plant in hand, and get a horrified look on their face. I say something stupid like "I'm taking it for a walk", and they just say, "Good-bye..." They know full well.

It's now just shortly after 10am on Friday, and I'm unemployed. The best part? My wife and daughter are in Winnipeg for my sister-in-law's graduation, so I have nobody but my cats to go home to.

When my wife came home, I finally told her (I didn't want her worrying all the way home on the airplane). I got around to telling my family and friends too, and they've all been quite supportive. I even have one friend who was laid of under odd circumstances three weeks earlier, so she and I have had some good conversations. I've been sending résumés out by the dozen, I have half a dozen headhunters searching for opportunities, and I'm scouring the local industry base for possibilities, sending out résumés to just about anyone that might need my services. I've had a few interviews, but no offers yet. I'm now halfway through my severance package, and am starting to seriously worry how the bills are going to be paid in June.

One the sympathy for my predicament wears off, you might ask, "Well, OK, you're unemployed. Doesn't that mean you have tons of time to write?" Yes and no. I spend about an hour a day (on average) looking for things to apply to. That is negligible compared to the time that taking care of my daughter requires. Yes, my wife (who is staying at home to care for our daughter) has done it all by herself for many months now, so I should still be free to do what I need/want, right? No... we share the workload pretty evenly, which means while one of us watches her and plays with her, the other gets breakfast or lunch or dinner ready, tries to do some laundry, or we're taking advantage of the nice weather and going for a walk. So my time is quite effectively absorbed by my family.

Another factor that contributed to my long silence is the fact that I'm a cheap bastard, and don't feel the need to shell out $40 a month for a broadband connection. Admittedly, it would be quite useful in my job search right now, but as it is, we're stuck with a 56K dialup account. Having previously done all my surfing from work, with its big fat pipe to the Internet, browsing from home is downright slow. Nothing curbs my desire to surf more than waiting a minute for graphics to pop up, so my average daily amount of browsing has plummeted. Other than reading the Gordie strips, I haven't looked at anything on since I was canned.

[Please forgive any meandering the story line may take in this article. This hasn't been written for your benefit so much as it has been for my own. I hope to eventually get back to my former writing style, but it's really hard to be light and amusing when you see mortgage payments looming in the future.]

Where am I at now? I'm officially worried now. It's been over a month, and I've only had three interviews. There's been nothing in the local classifieds for three weeks running, and all my good leads from a couple weeks ago have either gone dead or haven't panned out. I'm now at a point where my career path is a secondary consideration, the primary one being keeping my house.

We moved here not quite two years ago, and we like it here. It's a nice neighbourhood, we know our neighbours, and we just finished painting and wallpapering the kitchen and dining room, and as of this week I'll have finished painting the living room as well. We're established, we've got a lot of stuff in the basement that I really don't want to have to pack up, and there is no good reason why I shouldn't be able to find work locally.

Of course, if push comes to shove, we have already decided that relocation is an option. It's not a very nice option, as we'd be leaving behind all of our friends and community ties, but I'd be negating a future possibility. My mother is going to retire in 2004, and when she does she plans on moving into town to be close to her first granddaughter. Neither my wife nor I have family that is close by. We both have aunts and uncles that live 60 to 90 minutes away, but our parents and siblings are much, much farther than that. We are both looking forward to being able to call her up and have her baby sit for an evening while we go watch a movie or something. It would be a luxury we're not accustomed to, but that a lot of our friends have in spades. Colour us slightly green.

So, other than the worry and the possibility of effectively canceling an attractive future event, the biggest thing I'm dealing with right now is an emotion located somewhere between shame, uselessness, and feeling like excess baggage. I'm a graduate of one of the (if not The) highest-regarded universities in Canada, have a broad range of experience, have a skill set that should be highly marketable, and yet it's come down to me wondering when I should apply to labour-type jobs just to pay the bills. What the hell is going on?? My field should be less affected by a soured economy, but as it turns out, I'm just not wanted anywhere. On top of failing to be the household provider, being effectively deemed "surplus" by a lack of employment interest is resting heavily on my mind. Yes, I was fired from my last position, but my boss still had good things to say about me, and I have a positive reference from him. It's the first time I've been fired in my career, and I have an excellent history of getting the job done, done well, and quickly. I'm creative, adaptive, learn quickly, have a sense of humour, I do design work in my spare time for fun... what the hell is going on?

I realized exactly how bad things really were in my mind when I found myself planning on winning this week's Super 7 Lotto prize of $24 million. It would certainly solve my immediate problem, and allow me to solve many more problems for a lot of other people, too. Unfortunately, God doesn't grant lottery winnings on promises of charity, and I've probably just paid another $10 into the People Bad At Math Tax. Unfortunately, it's a slim ray of hope, and right now I'm grabbing all of those that I can.

If anybody knows a company that designs combat robots, alternatively-powered vehicles, or anything cool like that, please let me know. Oh, and thanks for letting me rant. It gets things off my chest, for a while anyways.


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