Waiting For the Other Shoe

There’s no official word yet. Because of course there isn’t. The only official word will be the final word, until then it’s all hearsay, speculation, rumor, suspicion. The unofficial word in the ether is that the official word comes down Monday. Indeed, depending on how the legal accounting of such things is done, it either must be Monday or Tuesday if the front end of the range of layoff dates is going to hold. On the one hand, why make anyone wait until Tuesday even if that is possible? On the other, it’s bureaucracy, so maybe they will. What do they care?

“They”, in this instance, are the HR drones at my current employer. That’s probably too harsh. They’re real people, with real families, real concerns, just like me. It’s just the other side of the same coin; the ease with which one dehumanizes the other in group form. “They” don’t concern themselves with me and how it wasn’t what I wanted this week: to have the shadow of the official notice of my last day of employment hanging over me while I did my darnedest to be thankful. I’m just one of hundreds that will get that e-mail announcing my final day. Similarly, I say “they” because to me the HR department is a bunch of interchangeable, overly cheerful men and women in their mid-20s to mid-30s.

Jennifer or Preston will e-mail to tell me when that last day will be. When the box will arrive for my laptop to be sent back in, since we’re all working from home during the pandemic. What the deadline is for sending it, what the penalties are for non-compliance, and when my health insurance ends. Other things too, mostly likely. This is my first time at this particular rodeo.

They all look like kids to me, by and large; an indication of the passage of time. I looked more like them when I started with the company, 20 years ago. Less beard, fewer gray hairs, fewer responsibilities. A lot of water under the bridge. I shouldn’t think of them as faceless drones serving a bureaucratic behemoth, but it’s easy to slip into that mode of thinking. I don’t know them, nor do I really know anyone like them. It makes empathy difficult; perhaps impossible. Frankly, I shouldn’t be surprised if it runs both ways.

I’ve known for a while that my days are numbered, even if the number is still not set in stone. I waver between being grateful to have extra notice and annoyed that I’ve spent longer living in a kind of limbo than was necessary. This swinging between points isn’t just limited to that either. As an intellectual exercise, it is likely that this will turn out well for me financially. The company has generous severance and it’s possible that, by the grace of God, I will find reasonable employment soon enough to be able to pay down some significant quantity of my mortgage. The other point to which the pendulum takes me, however, is the emotional response to being turfed out after 20 years of work.

Between the day I was told that I was marked down for a layoff and when the news is formally communicated next week when I will last work for this company I passed my 20 year anniversary. In a delightfully ironic twist, no one had bothered to check on if that was going to happen. So I still received all the form-letter congratulations, ostensibly from the CEO and other people in leadership. And the forms still spoke in glowing terms, filtered through corporate buzzwords, of my value to the company and the bright future I have there. I laughed a great deal, but I confess I was somewhat bitter at heart.

I’ve never been a company man. I’ve never been “passionate” about my job or the particular industry (if it isn’t a sin to use that word for a bunch of desk-bound clerks) in which I work. But it turns out I still sting at being told I’m not needed any longer. I’m not wanted.

I’ll stop before I get too maudlin, (too late!) but realistically I’ve moved into the back half of my life now. It’s…not what I expected, nor am I where I expected. Hardly a thing to make one unique, to be sure, but, to paraphrase Calvin and Hobbes, I thought it would be unexpected in my favor. I ought to spend more time remembering that it is better than I deserve. “Use every man after his desert, and who should ‘scape whipping?”

This is the end of the matter; all hath been heard: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.

Ecclesiastes 12:13
Posted in Neh

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