It seems like I write these posts all too often and when I do, they always seem to bring me down.
This is the one time that I refuse to do that.
It was at about 2:45 pm on Friday when I saw one of the ladies from my staffing agency/employer walk in the building. As usual, she had her leather folder with her and as is normally the case when she arrives, all of the contract workers feel the hair on the back of their neck stand up because they never know what news she may be bringing.
She came into our little corner of the building and smiled, asking how everything was going. I gave her my input and then she asked if she could speak to me.
I was taken into an office where my supervisor was already sitting and waiting. Well, at this point it wasn’t hard to figure out that this meeting would have little to do with my getting a raise or an award for Outstanding Service. Kathy, the pseudonym I’ll be using for the agency rep, spoke first but not before she let out a sigh.
“As you know, the company has been going through some budget cuts…”
That was pretty much all I needed to hear and knew exactly what the next line, or at least the only line of speech that mattered, would be.
“As a result, your assignment is ending as of today.”
I sat there and showed no emotion. Kathy continued to speak which then turned into some spiel about how dependable and hard-working I was during my nearly three years on the assignment. She glanced over at my now-former supervisor as if to get some input from her.
“We’re really, really sorry to see you go,” she said. I spoke only two words to her the entire meeting and they were “Thank you.” I will explain later in the post when things get a little more…detailed.
The meeting ended without much else. I signed no papers, got nothing in return. It was over.
As is the norm, Kathy gave me a few minutes to gather my things and to say goodbye to the rest of the crew. It didn’t take me long to do either: as a contract worker, you learn to travel light and that’s exactly what I did. I stuffed what few personal belongings I had into my backpack and slung it over my shoulder. All the while, I explained to my fellow proofreader Lola what had just happened. She immediately burst into tears.
“You have my contact info. Give it to whomever asks about me,” I told her. I later texted her with a precautionary “Use your discretion when you give out my info. You know who I liked around there.”
It was always my wish that when the time came and I finally found another job, I would leave this place without a word. No news is good news; I figured it’d be best if they all found out as a group during the next painfully boring Monday meeting, which they will this coming Monday. Not that many would give a crap. I adhered to that wish but sadly, under completely different and unexpected circumstances.
Lola, still crying, asked if we’d catch up sometime.
“Karaoke Night, July 19th, 8:30. You know it.” I then shook hands with Grant, the other proofreader in our little nook of an office.
I then said goodbye to another fellow proofreader, telling her that Lola has my contact info if she wanted it. With that, I met Kathy and I walked out of the place for the last time – not a single regret, not one tear, no remorse.
Kathy later met me at the parking structure gate so that I could turn in my ID to her after I used it for the last time to leave. I walked to my car and gave Ann a call telling her the news. Naturally, she was upset but it’s nothing we hadn’t gone through before and nothing we won’t get through again.
I got in the car and made my way to Level One, where Kathy was standing at the gate. I swiped my ID, handed it over, thanked her, watched the arm raise and gave the Yaris some gas. I looked up at the Google building one last time.
And with that I was done. My time at this place was finally over. A contract position that was originally scheduled to last only from October 2010 to February 2011 nearly made it to July 2013. Not a bad run if you ask me.
Now if I may, I’d like to go into a few details about the job and why I show no remorse or pity toward my layoff.
In addition to traveling lightly, a contact worker understands that the chances of them being let go for any reason are exponentially greater than a regular full-time gig. That’s just how it is. I was there for almost three years; I’ve seen people get cut after only a few weeks. That’s the nature of the business.
As such, one of the things I decided to do was to not get too close to any of the permanent employees, most of whom had already dedicated a good portion of their sad, pathetic lives to this company. They will live out the rest of their working careers here in complete misery doing a mundane job and deal with the rigors of it because they have the safety of job security no matter which way the projects flow. Contractors, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen and when one is let go and another big project begins, the list of potential candidates is long. While I did associate with the permanent people, I didn’t get close – for my own safety and privacy. Many of them would be hard-pressed to tell you more than five things they knew about me if anything at all.
Let me put it to you this way: it’s highly unlikely I will be receiving any Facebook Friends requests from any of them and in the likelihood I do, they will not be approved. Aside from the few coworkers I’ve trusted to connect with on Facebook, nobody from there needs to know anything else about me.
There is a strange dynamic between temps and permanent workers. I had always felt that the temps were treated like second-class citizens who knew little to nothing about the job and could be replaced a moment’s notice. This is even more true when you are proofreader, rushing to get projects done only to have all of the glory go to the project manager or content owner. You try proofreading a foreign language like Bulgarian or Greek or even Chinese for 40 hours a week, in some cases under deadline pressure and people breathing down your neck, knowing you will get no glory or even the proverbial pat on the back.
Then there’s my supervisor. All I will say is that from the moment I met her, she was cold, unfeeling and robotic, which is why I only spoke two words to her during the meeting. Praise from someone like that is absolutely meaningless and if anything, insulting. During the meeting her eyes were cold and steely and said nothing just as they always did. I didn’t say a word or even glance at her as I walked by her office toward the exit. She’s just as over me as I am her.
On the job itself, one word: tedious. Okay, maybe two: tedious and boring.
Let’s kick it up a notch: tedious, boring and monotonous. You will never find a less rewarding job than this one. “Proofreading” in terms of this company meant comparing two copies to each other and noticing any differences. It was very similar to those children’s cartoon drawings where you have to find the difference between the Easter Bunny on the left and the Easter Bunny on the right.
“Oh, look! That egg only has one star but THAT one has two! Daddy, there’s a difference! I’d better circle it!”
That’s about how exciting it was to do my job. In addition, I can’t tell you how inconsistent things were around that place. What was correct on one document wasn’t necessarily correct on another and there were no style guides to refer to. We couldn’t mark up anything unless it was absolutely, positively, 100% wrong. All corrections had to be noted with a sticky and our notes on said sticky. We were not free to edit, suggest, do anything outside of count whiskers on the two Easter Bunnies. And when we did, The Old Guard of Proofreading came into our office and pontificate about what we did wrong and usually in a condescending manner. There was no reward here, ever.
The Monday Meetings were always a joy. What they usually came down to was how low the coffee supply was and what needed to be ordered for the next time. When work was discussed, it was always a “Me! Me! Me!” mentality. Every single one of the people in our department thought their project was the most important and always placed the blame on someone else when things didn’t get done. The Blame Game ran rampant around there and I will not miss it. The level of incompetence was astounding and I’m surprised anything got done at all. Way too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
The new boss, who still lives on the east coast and flies back and forth frequently, seemed more interested in assembling teams designed to manage our workload using PowerPoint presentations filled with Venn diagrams and business acronyms useless to anyone outside of management. I swear, if I hear the word “kaizen” again I’m gonna puke. We knew she was not the same as our old boss the moment she arrived: we never had a meeting announcing her arrival and she rarely spoke to us. I will not miss her. At all. There’s nothing to miss. At least our old boss was a fire-eater at Burning Man.
But I will miss my fellow temps — just not the commute. Not at all. It was an absolutely crappy drive, day in and day out for almost three years. Someone else can take it from me and I won’t complain.
Finally, there’s this. I was on the job for nearly three years and there were plenty of opportunities to move to different departments. Not necessarily a promotion but a chance to get away from proofreading. During my time, I saw many, many people (some of much less seniority) get placed into open positions and even taken on as permanent employees. I can’t think of a bigger slap in the face than that, even if I had no intentions of accepting any of these open positions. A little recognition, like perhaps inquiring with me about the position, would have gone a long way.
But it never happened. Thanks for nothing, yet again.
So with that all done, now what?
In the past I would have cried and gotten really upset over a situation like this, but today it’s different.
I pick myself up. I dust myself off. I move on. We have gone through this before and we will make it through again, this time with less financial difficulty. We recently refinanced one of the cars and with our last tax refund, paid off all of our credit cards. We have very little debt outside of utilities and we have a little stash in case of emergency. It will work.
I refuse to let this nightmare of a job make me shed one tear over its decision to let me go. If anything, it forces me to look at other opportunities I may have never considered and perhaps work outside my comfort zone. No, it won’t be the fantastic summer we had planned but we will still be able to go through with some of the things we wanted to do.
In my studying of Buddhism and meditating some evenings, I’m finding that there are things to worry about and things not to worry about. This, while certainly monumental, will pass as all challenges do. I will overcome it and things will continue because they must.
To quote the Dalai Lama:
I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.
Wise words. And it’s what I’ve chosen to do at this point in time.
Dave v2.0 is obsolete. This is the beginning of Dave v3.0, and I like it. I will pick up and continue on Tuesday. But why not Monday?
Because shortly after I got home last night, I started calling the casting line for Central Casting, my background acting agency. This has always been my backup, my go-to, my last resort for income should I ever need it.
I found a call I thought was a good fit and had the CD submit my headshot.
Then I waited — and got the call.
So the reason I can’t do anything on Monday because I was cast for a TV show. It’s my first background acting gig in years and it’s less than seven miles from home. Sure it’s only a one-day shoot but I get fed and paid to do nothing but walk around.
My layoff isn’t the end of something. It has already proven to be the start of something better than I ever imagined.
Namaste, my friends. And here’s to brighter days.