Framing the Dialogue

Life Meanders

1119090658The last 36 hours has been really weird.  Hence the lack of posts for the last two days.  One of the stretches of road that I take to work is a four-lane road characterized by an abundance of traffic signals and they seem to add one more each year.  It is not too bad during off peak hours, but during rush hour it stinks.  I am able to flex my schedule and start early, but the past few months, that has not made much of a difference.

Yesterday was the first day of rain after an extended period of nice weather which generally means traffic.  As I approached the light to turn on to the main road a funny thing happened.  I actually caught the green light.  As I drove, I kept getting green light after green light for several miles.  I was quite happy to be riding that green wave.

Of course like all good things, it came to an end and that end was traffic as my green turned to red. 

Like many folks these days we are waiting for word on personnel cuts.  As rumours swirl because no information is given, I plod on.  Our first word on layoffs came from news reports.  Many of us took to the Internet for the best information.  As we saw the numbers were reported, the cuts did not seem as deep as anticipated.  Hope?

My plans took me out of the office which is always nice until the time to return where I again met that red beast…traffic.  I realized that the traffic would make me late getting back so I called my family.  My in-laws had come up to visit and we were going out to dinner.  Crab cakes on the horizon. 

My visions of a plate of carefully prepared crustaceans went away in a puff as I received a call from my boss.  She advised me that I needed to be in the office the next day in order to meet with the Regional Director.  She, of course, could give me no other information, but I could tell that she was uncomfortable.  So there I was sitting behind all of these red lights feeling a little red myself.  No hope?

I called my wife to break the news and let her know that they should go to dinner without me.  I wanted to pack as much stuff as possible and bring it home.  After 17+ years, I had a lot of stuff.  The act of packing and lifting helped release some energy and I reversed the process when I got home.  That evening was weird. 

FURLOUGHIf you look at my sidebar, you may have noticed that I am reading Machiavelli’s book and many Machiavellian thoughts rolled through my head as I prepared for the meeting.  That’s cathartic.  The were just thought because the folks who have to do cutting were not the ones who made the decision.  I am not one to crab at the sales clerk because the store screwed up.  Sleep came, but ended long before the alarm was due.  Rather that lay there I decided to shower and head to work.  I had more packing to do.

It’s funny (weird) how people react when they sense you are being furloughed although I think the official term is “severed.”  I was obvious since I was hauling a dolly full of stuff out of my office.  I still had not been officially notified.  My cube neighbor did not find out until that morning that he should expect a meeting.  It was tough being there watching him deal with it.  He has children too.  I had the evening before to get used to it.

Both of us packed and even put our stuff in our cars long before we got the call.  He went first and I got to see him attended by a manager as they collected his key, ID, etc. and walked to the door.  I put my stuff in a pile as I heard them check off the items.  There is not much privacy in a cube world.  My “call” came about an hour later.  They did not actually call, but sent someone to get me. 

I knew what was coming and told the Directer that I wanted to make it short, but he had to go through the papers.  One that struck me was a provision that as a public employee I could not represent a client to the Department for at least a year.  They actually said that.  The Director happened to be a lawyer and I told him that if I needed to represent a client to make a living that is what I intended to do.  I was not ending the relationship, they were.  I told him that I would gladly fight him on that one. 

f-troopOnce told, it was my turn to be accompanied back to my office and checklist.  I don’t know if you ever watched the television show F-Troop from way back in the 60s, but I remember an opening sequence where they removed the soldiers patches, took his equipment and broke his sword as they kicked him out of the army.  This was actually a comedy.  That is kind of like what the checklist felt like.  Kind of demeaning.  They asked if I needed to pack anything or help carrying stuff.  I said “nope” as I already had my stuff packed in the car and had copied my computer files a month ago.

My companion was my boss and I could tell that she was uncomfortable.  I had known her for twenty-five years.  She actually walked me to my car.  She was only required to escort me to the door, but she wanted to say goodbye. 

As I look in my crystal ball, I feel that this may be positive.  I worked for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and with the moronic governor and legislature, the future looks dire.  I would expect that the next budget will be worse, but I’ll already be employed (I’m a glass half full guy).  Our agency’s budget was cut 27%, but neither the legislature nor the Gov. did anything to reduce the work load.  In order to balance the budget they eliminated vacant positions and “severed” about 150 of us with the majority of them union members.  The untold story is that because of union rules each job cut (there were around 100 union positions) probably affected 1-3 other employees after seniority bumping.

In my program, there will be one person left to do the job of three and the clerical person who helped got bumped.  She still has a job (with an 8% pay cut), but will not be in the position to help.  The work is still there, just no one to do it.

 My last meander came as I was cleaning out some desk drawers.  I really wrestled with the decision of whether to steal the tape dispenser.  I don’t need one, but I wanted to do something passive aggressive.  I saw a little slip of paper at the bottom of one of my drawers.  I am fond of Chinese food and enjoy the cookie at the end of the meal.  There buried in my drawer was a fortune that had to be eight years old.  I am hoping that it is prophetic.


PS  I did not give in to temptation and steal the tape.

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