I have a job.

I have a job. That’s a good thing, because for about three hours today, that was in doubt.

It was nothing personal. My whole office was out of work for that three hours. It turned out to be an administrative error. I’m not quite sure how an administrative error leads to an entire office being let go for three hours, but maybe I’ll understand when I’m older. And Mike Judge, if you’re out there anywhere, I can tell you some stories that make Office Space seem positively tame.

I’ve had worse days than this. Definitely.

I won’t tell you about all of them, but I’ll tell you about one of them. It was the fall of 2005, either October or early November. I interviewed for a job with a box manufacturer in Alton, Illinois. That’s a long, long drive from where I was living at the time, and it was just a temporary job, and it was boring printer administration work, but it was work, and work was scarce, and I needed work. And neither the pay nor the job title was going to hold my career back any.

I nailed the interview. I usually interview pretty well. I fully expected to get an offer the next morning, and since I was literally working on a week-to-week basis administering cable modems at the time, I was pretty sure I was going to have a new job the following Monday.

But that drive home from Alton was nearly an hour, and a lot can happen in an hour.

I expected to call the guy who was trying to place me there and give him good news, but he’d already called and left a message before I even got home. With bad news. I hadn’t been gone five minutes when the pink slips started flowing. My would-be boss no longer had a job. And the job position I interviewed for no longer existed. It wasn’t even clear if the department existed anymore. The company was having financial troubles, and those were the breaks.

I knew financial troubles. I think I’ve only worked six months of my career for a company that wasn’t having financial troubles of some sort.

I understood. I was disappointed. But I understood. I found steady work a few weeks later and never looked back until now.

Not many people can say they’ve managed to get laid off before their first day. Hopefully I won’t pull off that dubious accomplishment a second time.

6 thoughts on “I have a job.

  • March 23, 2011 at 1:47 am
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    Not many people can say they’ve managed to get laid off before their first day.

    No… but some of us have experienced termination on the morning of Thanksgiving… via fax.

  • March 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm
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    Try a few years in the working class, not the middle class. You haven’t seen anything.
    I spent fifteen years in the oilfields of Texas before all the federal job laws. I’ve been replaced, along with a whole crew, so that the Rig Pushers brother, and his crew, could have a job. We had driven sixty miles to be fired.
    The working class now shares the jobs with illegals so it’s even worse now.

    • March 23, 2011 at 6:07 pm
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      Joseph, I’m not complaining. Like I said, I have a job. Any chance I get, I advise people to go to college and get that degree and learn a skill, so they’ll have options. With my degree and certification, I haven’t had the smoothest of careers, but I’ve done OK. So far I can give my sons the opportunities I’ve had, which is the most important thing to me.

      Bill, about the only thing lower than that that I can think of is terminating via fax on Christmas morning. I once worked for someone who terminated a bunch of people on Christmas Eve, but at least they had the, uh, whatever it takes to do that in person.

  • March 24, 2011 at 2:39 pm
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    I was once hired, told to show up for a six hour training session, and two hours into the training the announcement was made that closed the store I had just been hired at! I was given four hours pay (the legal minimum to call in an employee, in those days) and was sent packing.

    My wife was once laid off on Christmas Eve…

  • March 25, 2011 at 3:33 am
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    Bill G’s comment reminded me of an ‘Oh Shoot’ moment of my own. To wit:

    Was a Navy electronics tech on multi-megawatt radar who went to work thereafter within the realm of industrial scale power conversion, specifically induction heating starting in R&D for a company new to the genre as was I. Later bumped to Field Engineering which became my niche and a couple years after that switched employment to a competitor with all hopes of them being more experienced, stable and sane. Interviews with the Operations and Field Service Managers went extremely well with their offer of position and my acceptance coming the following day. This was a Wednesday. Thursday was a walk thu meet & greet, Friday picked up my print sets along with various items of test equipment and Saturday spent the day at a house party of the Field Service Manager (Rodger.. remember that name) rubbing elbows with my fellow Field Engineers, some odd half dozen of us collected from various points on the globe sipping margaritas by the pool swapping war stories.

    I had made a good decision. Rodger was a stand up guy who had been there and done that. He knew what we face on the road from years of experience. Rodger was the go to guy, the lifeline, and if it wasn’t for him there would have been far more serious reservations in taking the job. By way of contrast my previous manager was a former bartender, which actually sounds worse than it was. He had great people skills, but no background outside of a bar. A good listener and able to rustle up what internal assets there were, I hadn’t left because of him. Anyway, I bounced down the four lane whistling a happy tune on the way home. Monday would start two weeks of training covering five completely new power systems that I had yet to so much as lay eyes upon.

    Just as I was ready to leave the house Monday morning the phone rang. It was Rodger and it just so happened there was a company in my home town with a problem machine. So rather than drive the hour and a half to the office, or they sending someone else out, would I hop skip over and have a look see. Rodger, I say, I don’t even know what it looks like. It’s blue, he said. Well they’re all blue, unless they’re brown, I shot back. Ours are all blue, has the company name on it, he countered, somebody is bound to meet your from engineering or maintenance, just follow them. Yeah, then what, I’m supposed to go for the fix? Rodger comes back with him realizing I haven’t actually started with the company yet but go through the basic checks, hang a couple scope probes off a circuit board or two — doesn’t matter where, get out the prints in a professional manner and call him back. He’d walk me through. Ok Rodger.

    Walking through the door I’m met by the head of maintenance and former high school classmate. In fact three former classmates worked there and they think I’m the big company hot shot tech/engineer who has come to save the day in a rather ‘home town boy’ makes good paradigm complete with many handshakes and much back slapping. Apparently tube annealer #1 is down and they have nothing to do until me and my white horse make things right as they pulled up buckets and chairs in prep for the show. No pressure.

    So I ran through the basic checks, set up the scope, froze a couple waveforms on the screen and was getting out the prints when the head of engineering stopped by. Grad you’re here, he said, been down for the better part of a week and need to get back in production badly. Something I’d already deduced from the five gallon pail of blown electrical parts, most hockey puck sized thyristors tipping the scales at near a thousand bucks a pop. My two thousand a day plus expenses would be a mere drop in that bucket. Haven’t seen you before, been with the company long, he goes on to ask. Including today?, I laugh, still in full rock star mode which seemingly satisfied him, followed by a hey, is there a phone around here I can use? Yes, yes, there is an office right here, all yours, make yourself at home and if you need anything just let us know. Thanks… fine, let me check in so they know I made it…

    Closing the door I call 1-800-thecompany and hit the switchboard. Yeah, hi, this is Bill the new guy in Field Service, can you transfer me to Rodger?

    Ahhhh…. Rodger’s not here at the moment.

    What do you mean ‘not here’?… I just got off the phone with him an hour ago. When will he be back?

    Ahhhh…. I don’t think he is coming back…

    What ya mean he isn’t coming back??…

    Ahhh… I think he quit…

    What do ya mean ‘he quit”???

    He quit.

    Quit quit, or smoking a cigarette in the parking lot quit?

    Quit quit.

    This is not working for me, I’ve got my ass hanging out a mile here, can you hand me over to one of the other Field Service guys?

    No, they’ve already left for the week.

    All of them?

    All of them.

    Anybody else?

    Not at the moment but we’re working on it. Hope to get somebody back by Wednesday.

    Wednesday?!

    I look out the office window and they’re all smiling in anticipation. My audience awaits, along with opportunity to face plant in my own home town. A distinct possibility that hung in the air like a dark cloud of doom, not encroaching from the horizon but directly overhead. It was show time.

    For the record I pulled out a win on the second day and escaped with my honor intact. Also taking twice as long as necessary but under the circumstances I took it. By Wednesday one of the guys had made it back to man the phones as I was sent north to cover one of his appointments. This one a foundry and another new experience. My former employer had been on the more highbrow end of industrial heat processes, the new company was all of that, plus induction melting and more. I no longer recall what the problem was but it was simple, a one day job at the end left packing up tools and test equipment as the operator cycled through a test melt. In the process of that, unsealed a degas tablet and placed it on the edge of the furnace. It was a humid day and me having no experience in a foundry took no notice as the operator donned his fire suit and pushed the degas tablet to the bottom of the melt with his dross skimmer. Me, not standing much further from the furnace than he was, got to witness about a thousand pounds of molten aluminum steam eject like shot out of a mortar. All the way to the ceiling a good thirty feet up, it stuck to the insulation for a moment. Wow! It was an awesome sight — glowing red globules amongst the flames. Then a rain of molten aluminum started coming back down. The operator took off on the sprint, I was able to duck and dance but not my open tool case which took about a twenty pound splatter right in the kitchen. Two, one KV Fluke meters and a thousand amp probe among the carnage. Monday I would be back to the electronics supply house with a fresh PO after a weekend peeling Al from the salvageable. I never did see the operator again. They said he got in his car and left, still wearing his fire suit and thus ended my first week.

    An auspicious beginning no doubt, how little did I realize just how interesting this job would ultimately become, not the least of which two weeks later getting a new Field Service Manager named Ken. A like-able fellow of sorts and former department head from GE Electro Medical which was about as far away from what this company did as possible. Ken was eye rolls out of his element and pretty much kept the chair occupied. Pleasant if not incompetent, had I known the company was that desperate could have recommended a bartender known for being a good listener nor taking of offense at getting no respect. There would be no margarita pool parties at Ken’s house and was avoided like the plague.

    After our initial acquaintance I had barely seen the guy in almost a year when my first annual review showed up in the mail, blank to be filled out. A couple weeks later a phone call from him in the area and wanting to meet up for general chat plus collection of annual review. I figured forty five minutes at a truck stop diner along the interstate doable, arrived early, filled out the review and spent the bulk of quality time haggling over my status being the company’s only perfect employee. I think we settled on my inability to find fault with myself, or something. Anyway he left happy and I got my six percent raise.

    Never did get any of that introductory training.

  • March 25, 2011 at 2:40 pm
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    Bill, very fun stories. Closest I can get is leaving one job the day before Thanksgiving (it was quit or be fired – we had a serious disagreement about overtime work and pay). Then I started back at company N minus 2 for the third time on Monday, left them on Christmas Eve (I had warned them I was still looking), and started at my current job on December 26. That was 15 years ago, but I still talk about being unemployed for the holidays. And the 15 years here is really playing havoc with my prior 18-month average time on the job.

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