As I enter my first full month at my new contract technical writing job, I can’t help but reflect on the way things used to be in the work place. As I fast approach 50, I find that a common occurrence. Now, I know why my parents and former coworkers were so bitter all those years ago. You give your life to a company and often have little to show for it – although through no fault of your own. People in the 50 and over category have had the toughest time in this dismal economy. Thanks to Bush’s trickle-down economics on steroids and two unplanned, unfunded wars, we’re still mired in the worst financial crises in almost 90 years. Somehow the clowns in both houses of Congress don’t really get it. President Obama inherited this mess and has had a rough time straightening it out. But, he’s just one person; he can’t do it alone. Yet, while our elected officials try to upstage one another, real Americans continue struggling.
When I landed this job last month, the recruiter was kind of surprised I didn’t react with more glee. “I’ll believe it when I start,” I told him jokingly – but, deep down inside, not at all joking. Last summer I landed a 90-day contract technical writing job that the client pulled after only three weeks because their vendor wasn’t producing the work as anticipated. And, I never heard from the recruiter again. So, I went back on unemployment and revamped my resume to make it look as good as it can with all these gaps. Explaining those three-weeks-on-90-days mess was especially challenging. Fortunately, most people seemed to understand, given the current economic climate. Or, at least they give that impression.
I kept in contact with that recruiter; emailing him weekly letting him know, ‘Hey, I’m still here! I’m still available! I’m free! No plans yet!’ And, I never heard from him again. He must have set my email address to spam. He was young, probably no more than 30. I hope he has erectile dysfunction for the rest of his life.
I also did the obligatory 5 contacts per week to maintain my unemployment benefits. Each time I filed a claim, I wondered when Congress would start proceedings to find out how the big banks and other financial monstrosities were able to destroy our economy in less than a decade. Seriously! Herbert Hoover and Andrew Mellon would be impressed. But, Congress was more concerned about what professional baseball players were using steroids. Kind of like how the Southern Baptist Convention is more concerned about gay marriage than real problems such as poverty and child malnutrition.
Occasionally, my parents still have bad dreams about their working days. I don’t want to imitate that part of their lives. I’ve only had a handful of dreams about work. I can recall two in the months after I lost my job at an engineering company in October 2010. In the first one, I was at corporate headquarters in San Diego with the project manager who had hired me in 2002. The building sat right along the coast, and the entire area was on edge because a tsunami was approaching. We only had a few more minutes before we had to evacuate to the upper levels, or try to flee inland. But, because we had so much work to do, that project manager told me we had to remain in the building. Besides, he said in his usual dull, nonchalant tone of voice, he would stay with me. Then, as the sirens went off and people began marching up the stairs, he disappeared. I looked around the suddenly vacant offices, but he was gone. ‘Fuck him!’ I said aloud and headed up a stairwell alone. I didn’t need his help.
In the second dream, I was back in downtown Dallas, at the regional headquarters of the federal agency where I’d worked for the better part of my career with the engineering company; laboring on a government contract. We had a meeting with some federal officials. I got caught up on a task and left late for the meeting. But, I couldn’t find where everyone was. I wondered all over the damn building, it seemed, before I ended up in the break room – tired and butt naked! Yes, naked. Somehow, my clothes had fallen off. I know a lot of married people say that, when they get caught screwing around. But, there I was – butt- ass naked in a break room with a bunch of equally tired government employees. And, no one seemed to care.
I could get all philosophical about those two dreams and reveal exactly what I think they mean. But, I know the inherent theme is that, in today’s business world, you’re pretty much on your own. Human resources isn’t your friend; your boss isn’t your friend; your coworkers aren’t your friends; and your elected officials aren’t your friends. You’re like a wild dog; just left to your own devices.
No worries. I can handle that. Twenty-plus years ago, people were still going to work for a company and staying there with decent pay and benefits. That’s about the time things started to change – for better or worse is up to personal opinions. Now, people work contract and buy their own insurance. They move from job to job. They take care of and keep to themselves. It’s ironic in that it’s how this country was built – people minding their own business and not expecting others to care for them.
No worries. I can handle that, too. And, run from a tsunami just as well!