Who has two thumbs and JUST GOT LAID!!?? (…off…)
Remember how I always complain about how much I hate my job? And the people I work with? And the schedule, third shift, 11pm to 7 am?
Well, three weeks ago, I got laid off. Laid off from the job I hated.
I saw it coming. About a month before, a friend (I didn’t have many there) who had been out on work furlough emailed me that he had been permanently laid off. I was surprised, he was a good worker, had a way better attitude than I did, and was way more willing to learn and advance with the company. He hadn’t been there as long as me, though.
It was a surprise to the rest of the plant, too. In several earlier meetings, the top management repeatedly told us they wanted to maintain the current work force through work furloughs, and not lay offs. Who’d have thought management would lie?
So, I figured, if they are laying him off, I gotta be going too. I went in the next night and cleaned out my toolbox, threw out the shit I didn’t need, packed my tools, and waited. The news spread quickly, with several people from our department having been axed. Two people per shift was the rumor, and we had lost only one, which led to a night of tension and veiled jokes back and forth between me and my coworkers. I even joked with my supervisor about how much he’d miss my shitty attitude. He laughed, but would not reveal who, if anyone, was headed out the door in the morning. I had everything prepared to get out in a hurry if it was me. I figured, I have less of a chance of doing something stupid if I got out of there quickly. I’d had PLENTY of revenge fantasies about what I’d do on my last night there.
It turned out, it wasn’t my last night. The guy that got the ax was an ass kissing slob who was generally considered incompetent by the set-up men and other supervisors, but he was a constant bootlick and crybaby. He would cry to the boss whenever he screwed anything up or someone looked at him funny, so he seemed to get whatever he wanted. No one expected him to take the hit, but most of us HOPED it would be him. And as happy as I was to see his fat ass get walked down the aisle and out the door, I reserved my jokes for the next shift. After all, there for the grace of God, go I.
For close to a month after that, I held my breath every week, waiting for that tap on the shoulder. I won’t lie, the idea of that place finally not wanting me as much as I didn’t want to be there didn’t bother me at all. It was the waiting that killed me, the not knowing if I would be next, or if I had another week to wonder. I hated the job, the shift, didn’t love the work, and really disliked most of my coworkers. It was a paycheck, nothing more. Well, it was health benefits, too, which I need now that I have a wife and a baby. THAT would be the pain in the ass. I can collect unemployment, I can make some money selling toys, I can make things work financially. Health Insurance would be a pain. I had been laid off before, and paid into Cobra for 18 months, at about $400 per month. That was in 2002. My health insurance NOW was over $500 per month, and that was still carrying pretty high co-pays, and it wasn’t even the best plan offered.
So, I psyched myself up for the worst case scenario. I’d be let go, file for unemployment, sell toys and try to finally figure out what I want to be when I grow up. We could get the baby insurance through Chip, a state run children’s insurance plan. Getting insurance for my wife would be more difficult.
Still, as the weeks went by and nothing happened, it all became a great big joke between me and my few friends. “You’re a LIFER, you ain’t goin’ nowhere.” They’d say. Or the opposite, “Keep that toolbox clean, the next guy will appreciate it.” I became a bit complacent, and I let my guard down. The first Friday in February, I got that tap on the shoulder.
I turned and looked at my supervisor. “Oh, I guess it’s my turn, huh?” I joked. He shook his head slowly and looked downward. “Oh shit, really?” I yelled. Even after psyching myself up for this moment, it still shocked me a little. “Yeah, I didn’t know it was coming, man.” he said. He could have been bullshitting for all I know, it really didn’t matter at that point. I grabbed a rag and wiped the oil off my hands, put a big smile on my face, and said, “Fuck it then, let’s do this quickly.” My supervisor walked me through the department and into the boss’ office.
Our manager was a big guy, a little larger than me. We didn’t always get along, but we didn’t hate each other, either. He basically had two modes-High school sports coach with a community college business management degree, frequently spouting off sports euphemisms about “being a team player” and “stepping up to the plate and blah blah”, or a pissed off, cursing, screaming asshole. He could flip between the two pretty easily, and seemed more at home as the latter, while the former took a visible effort at times. Today, he seemed outwardly neither. He knew how to put on a diplomatic face when it came to company policies and procedures, even when he didn’t agree with them, but I didn’t see that either. He just seemed like he didn’t want to do what he was about to do. Almost remorseful, but not quite. I guess I don’t blame him, no one wants to be the ax man. He stammered just slightly into what sounded like a pre-memorized speech, starting with how I probably knew why I was in there, and he didn’t want to do this, but I kind of cut him off. “It’s OK, I get it. Let’s just get this done. What do I have to sign?” I said. He went on a bit more candidly after that, saying that this wasn’t an indication of my performance, and that he and my supervisor had already signed a paper saying they would happily take me back, when call backs came. They were hoping the work would pick back up later in the year.
I was still slightly in shock, and zoning in and out while he spoke. I kept my head about me enough to crack some jokes. I know I asked about other lay offs, what was determining who went, etc. I had over 4 years with the company, and I knew of at least two other people with less time, but at this point, making that argument wasn’t going to do anything.
I shook the boss’ hand and was escorted by my supervisor back to my toolbox. He handed me a big cardboard box to put all my shit in. Packing only took a few minutes. A few coworkers came by to shake my hand to tell me it was nice working with me, and good luck, and they’d see me when I got called back. I handed all my shop towels to one guy, he went and distributed them to other people. Shop towels were like currency there, like cigarettes or anal virginity in prison. My supervisor was very supportive, telling me he really thought I would get a call back, that the boss seemed a lot nicer with me than with other lay offs, etc. I really saw it all as procedure, to be honest. I am sure there were rare occurrences where someone might be told “Get your shit and get the fuck out”, but I would think you’d want to keep things as calm and friendly as possible to get the person out of the building without incident. I am sure they say all that to everyone.
I did my last walk through the plant with a big smile on my face, and noticed that not one person would look me in the eye. They saw me holding this large box with the company logo on it, being walked out by my supervisor, and just looked away. It was like some “dead man walking” type shit. I signed all my paperwork, and walked out into the parking lot for the last time. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me, only to be replaced with the new, heavier weight of uncertainty. I will not miss the drive in to that shit hole, but I will miss the paycheck.
The last three weeks have gone by quickly. It has been difficult “rejoining society”, so to speak. Four years of operating while most of the rest of world is snuggled up in their beds has left me even more antisocial than I was before, and I have absolutely NO tolerance for traffic. Transitioning back onto a regular day schedule took over a week, and it threw my whole body out of whack. I got a really nasty cold, my face broke out, I felt like I put on a few pounds, and the full realization of not having a job at 34 years old didn’t help my already crippling sense of failure. I have been sleeping longer, since I don’t need the 4-5 cups of coffee per night to make it through a shift. I’ve had twinges of anger and guilt hit me here and there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be one of those guys that blames everyone but himself over his downfall. The guys who say it’s all bullshit, that the company robbed them, or that everyone was out to get them, or “They just don’t like (insert religion, color, creed, nationality, or non-Philly sports team fan here) people”. They blame the bosses, their coworkers, the economy, or the President, because it is obviously his fault the company threw their fat, lazy ass out on the street.
No, if I was really going to be upset about losing my job, I would only have myself to blame. I was certainly no saint.
While I performed the job itself, the act of making aircraft parts, well, I had a shitty attitude, and made no effort to disguise it. I would argue with my boss any time I felt the need. I would draw unflattering pictures of my coworkers on the bathroom stall doors. I had no problem calling out of work when I was out of vacation or sick time, and was repeatedly written up for it. There were stated overtime quotas each employee had to meet, working at least 2 weekends per month, but I NEVER did overtime (I always used the excuse that “I don’t want to spend more time here than I have to”). When there was an attempt by a union to organize the workforce, I made it clear I happily supported the union to any boss that came up to convince me otherwise, and would write pro-union propaganda on the bathroom stall doors. At one point, I had a chronic lateness problem, clocking in at 5-6 minutes late 3 or more times a week, though I eventually got out of that habit. I would write anti-company propaganda on the bathroom stall doors. I would draw unflattering pictures of my coworkers on large pieces of cardboard and leave them in plain sight for all to see. I stopped learning new machines and techniques, purposely trying to halt my advancement, because I felt the company was more likely to teach me all I was willing to learn so they could pay me less to do someone else’s job. I would write dirty limericks on the bathroom stall doors (I spent a lot of time in the bathroom, I got a condition). I frequently, and purposely, clashed with my coworkers, and on at least two (two? or was it three?) occasions, came very close to a physical altercation. I did all this with full self awareness. I knew I was being an asshole, or at least, not the best possible employee, and while that tended to be the norm for most of the other employees there, I knew it could easily lead to me losing my job, eventually. Which it did, but at least I did it…
And, I made good parts. There won’t be any planes falling from the sky because my pieces didn’t hold them together.
So, now what?
There seems to be a possibility of a call back (at least until this gets published), and although the thought doesn’t appeal to me, if I haven’t found anything else, I’d go running back like a beaten wife just for the medical benefits. That is still an issue, currently. Cobra was going to run $1600 per month, so that wasn’t even a possibility. We’re looking into a few options, but my wife needs certain medication for asthma, so we need to figure that out quickly.
I will continue to make ends meet selling collectible toys on eBay, and collecting unemployment, until I find another job. Which means, I will need a resume. That is HUGE because I have never, ever had a resume. I have never applied for a job that required one. I either walked in and got the job on personality, or with a good, old fashioned job application. But the way things are now, I am going to need to change the way I do all that. I don’t look forward to my first real world, adult job interview.
In the meantime, I am enjoying spending more time with my daughter. Every morning, I get her dressed and ready for day care. I watch Sponge Bob with her while her mother eats breakfast and gets ready for work. The baby actually seems to know who I am now. Before, I would mainly see her on the weekends. I felt like I had to reintroduce myself every Friday. “Hi, I’m Daddy…Nice to meet you.”
I will work out every day. I am off to an admittedly slow start, mainly due to the weather. But I walk the dog about a mile each day while wearing a 40 pound weight vest, and up to 35 pounds of additional weight on my legs and arms. That is a pretty decent start.
I will work to simplify my life. I will get rid of old shit that I haven’t had the balls to toss before. Old clothes that just don’t fit, out. Old furniture I can’t say goodbye to, it’s gotta go. All my old paintball guns that I haven’t used in 10 years, say hello to eBay. Old books, VHS, my collection of 1200 CDs, extra toys, buh-bye. I plan to clean up my life as much as I can, selling the things with value, and tossing the garbage out. There are a lot of things weighing me down, and it is time to shed some extra pounds.
Based on a comment from my Editor, I will keep a blog about being unemployed. Though, I am already WAYYYY behind updating it, and I had already registered the name just in case this whole blogging thing went anywhere.
Beyond that, I will keep doing what I’ve always done. Live crisis to crisis, and survive as best as I can, keeping my family together.