“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
It’s been two years now since I lost my job at the engineering company – and I haven’t been able to land a full-time job ever since. Each of the two contract positions I’ve found in the past fifteen months have been pulled out from beneath me. It’s an interesting dichotomy. I was so miserable that last year at the engineering firm it was almost a relief to be let go. Key word – almost. The only things I miss are the pay, the benefits and one of my favorite Mexican restaurants that’s a couple of blocks away from that building in downtown Dallas.
It’s a stab in the gut when you give your life to a company, and they reward you with a lay off. People put up with a lot at work: bully bosses, rude coworkers, office gossip, office politics, piss-ant reviews, chicken-shit salary increases, traffic, bad weather – us working folk go through quite a bit just to earn that paycheck. I had hoped to retire from that company, or at least work there until my writing career took off.
As tempting as it is, I won’t name the place, but you can probably find it on my Linked In page. They were two years into a contract with a large government agency when I joined them in 2002. They had a nice office in suburban Dallas, which was closer to home and where I’d work occasionally on other projects. But, I spent the bulk of my time in downtown Dallas. I’d worked for eleven years at a bank in downtown Dallas, so I was somewhat accustomed to that lifestyle.
The engineering firm had undergone the usual series of management and staff changes in the eight years I was there. But, by 2010, when we lost the prime contract with the government agency to a small business and were kept on as sub-contractors, things were different – vastly different. It wasn’t the same place I’d started with the week before Thanksgiving 2002. It had gotten so bad that everyone I knew was looking for another job. When I told a colleague not to say that too loudly, or they’d help her out the door, she casually said even our supervisor knew she was looking around. The company had experienced a number of harassment lawsuits from disgruntled former employees. Not all of them claimed victory, from what I understand, but it’s still a wonder no one returned with a shotgun. Yes, people really can get that angry. But, murder won’t just ruin your weekend; it doesn’t look good on your resume. Mercenaries and military special forces can probably get away with it, but the average white-collar fool can’t.
My parents each have been retired for some time now, but they occasionally have bad dreams about their working lives; lives they left long ago. Together, they put in a century’s worth of labor and came from an era where people went to work for a company and stayed there until they either retired or dropped dead. I’d vowed never to let a job get to me like that. Despite all the crap I endured at the bank, I never once dreamed of the place. I don’t know why, but I guess I subconsciously realized it wasn’t worth that much of my time and energy.
Yet, for some ungodly reason, I’ve had two dreams about the engineering firm. In the first, not long after they let me go, I found myself at their former corporate headquarters in California with the same project manager who had hired me. A massive seaquake had struck not far from the coast, and a tsunami was approaching. Our building sat right on the coastline, and everyone nervously went about their daily tasks, while preparing to evacuate to the upper levels once those alarms sounds. My manager told me not to worry; that if I stayed with him, we’d be alright. He’d lead me and the others to the building’s upper floors. He’d been there several times in the past, but this was my first time visiting the place. Then, I heard a distinct rumbling in the distance and realized the tsunami was on its way. But, when the alarms sounded, my manager was nowhere to be found. He’d disappeared. As chaos gripped my panicked constituents, I calmly proceeded up the stairs alone – and then woke up.
In the second dream, I was getting ready for a meeting. At the designated time, I stepped into the conference room – and found it empty. I then began running all over the damn building looking for my colleagues. To make matters worse, I was butt-ass naked. Now, don’t get me wrong! As a bona fide, red-blooded American male, I normally like being naked. But, I didn’t care to be nude in front of the menopausal debutantes and lecherous old men who populated that government agency. Alas, I couldn’t find my constituents and wandered into the break room – still naked – and sat down with my mug of ice water, a pen and some notebook paper. I’d decided to start working on a new story – and then, I woke up.
Okay, I don’t want to get too esoteric about this. They were just two stupid dreams about a company that had turned on me quicker than a rabid dog. But, I wouldn’t blame a real dog for doing something like that. Still, the dreams made me realize three things:
- Anyone in the workplace can turn on you.
- Don’t worry too much what other people think of you – especially the assholes at work.
- When disaster strikes, you’re pretty much on your own.
It’s why I’d proceeded calmly up the stairs in that first dream and why I said ‘fuck it’ in the second dream and sat down to do what I really love: creative writing.
But, am I still angry about what happened? Well, in a word – YES! Yea, yea – I know you’re supposed to let that shit go. Put a period on it and move forward with your life. But, here’s how bad I let that dump get to me. In September 2010, I visited my dentist. A back lower tooth had been aching for some time, and I was horrified to discover it was loose. I’d just been there two month earlier, and everything was fine. My dentist couldn’t understand what happened.
But, I knew what had happened. I’d been under so much stress at work that I must have ground the crap out of it, and now there was no other remedy except to yank it out.
So, along with the paltry raise and office politics I’d had to live with that last full year, this is how my career ended with the engineering company: a loose tooth. That’s it. That’s what I got for busting my butt for nearly eight years. Yes, the experience looks great on my resume. All those technical skills make for nice business conversation pieces as I scoot in and out of companies now with a bloated grin; feeling like an ugly pitbull being shuffled from one foster home to another.
Resumes never tell the full story behind a person’s working life, but it’s just not that easy sometimes letting bad experiences go – especially at work where you dedicate so much of your life. I think of that project manager who I’d considered a friend and mentor and now hope he has a radical prostatectomy that leaves him permanently impotent. I guess it’s wrong to feel that way. But, I don’t. In fact, I really hope something like that happens to him and I hope other bad shit happens to some of those people. Call me childish if you want, but – oh well. In this rotten economy brought down by the wealthiest 1% and the politicians they have stuffed in their designer pockets – none of whom can relate to us average working folks – there are a lot of people who understand exactly what I’m saying.
Still bitter? Yea, you could say that. Still moving forward? Oh yea! A tsunami couldn’t stop me!