Monday, January 25, 2016


I have done yet another very good deed! I’m thinking here of how extremely gracious I was when my corporate employer, in mid-January, saw fit for the second time in four years to unemploy me, or, you could say, promote me to unemployed person.

The first displacement came as a surprise. I knew it was coming sooner or later, because a merger between my company and another had caused the tool I worked on to be phased out, but on the day it happened, I thought I was just having my regular one-on-one meeting with my boss. I only realized what was happening when he said that an HR person was also on the line with us.

This time I knew a displacement could be possible, because of the joining together of two large areas within the company, but didn’t think it was probable, given the number of people in the two groups combined: nearly 5000.

In contrast with the last layoff, this one was very well telegraphed by my boss asking the day beforehand that I be in the office for our meeting. In addition, she had reserved a conference room for me to sit in for our meeting, so I was one hundred percent positive what was going to happen and had 24 hours to get my attitude properly adjusted.

When the meeting began, my boss said that her boss would be joining us. “Let me guess,” I said. “I’m getting a promotion and a huge raise?” “Let’s wait for Helga to join,” she said wanly. Helga said she’d get right to it: due to a new company-wide initiative (and no doubt also due to the 5000 people being mashed together), our area has been asked to trim expenses by five percent, and so she was having to lay off one person with my job title, namely me.

(Later I saw in the paperwork that the choice had been between me and the other person in my group who works in San Francisco. We have people in other cities, but office space costs the most here, so it was a sound business idea to lay one of us off. I don’t think Helga likes either one of us, but she must hate me slightly more. Or, my father suggested later, my salary might be higher than my colleague’s.)

I didn’t get a very good night’s sleep the night before, but I resolved to be amiable, and succeeded handsomely. I asked a question or two, and said, “You know, this is probably harder for you guys than for me—don’t feel bad.” Helga thanked me for that. I also said if they had feedback at any point on how I could do better in a future position, I would welcome hearing it.

Later there was a meeting for Helga and the 13 people under her to let everyone know my position had been eliminated. I said in that meeting that I’m thinking about the transition, as I’m sure my boss is, and that if there is anything I can show people how to do before my last day, I’d love to do that. My manager thanked me for my professional attitude.

I was given the rest of the day off and returned home, where I found Tom’s mailbox door ajar. In the lobby, I found several pieces of my mail, and then I read an email from the building manager saying she’d found almost all of the mailboxes hanging open.

And then I remembered something that had been in my mailbox: a full set of my keys. A key to the front door of the building, my mail key, and both keys to my apartment. I recently changed cat sitters and had gotten around to asking my former cat sitter for my keys back. She asked if she could mail them, and I said that would be fine, and in a few days, a padded envelope appeared in my mailbox. I was going out when I saw it, and, not wanting to carry it around town, planned to bring it in upon my return.

Before I got around to it, it was stolen. I’ve lived here for 17 years and this is the one and only time anyone has ever mailed me a set of my own keys, and also the only time our mail has been broken into. What are the odds? F. reminded me that a couple of weeks ago, he had seen the police visiting a building down the block where the same thing had happened. We had to have the locksmith come out immediately and change the front door lock, everyone’s mail lock, and my own two locks. Since this wouldn’t have been necessary if I’d plucked that envelope out of the box as soon as I saw it, I paid for my own two locks and made a $25 contribution besides. Besides that being the right thing to do, keeping the goodwill of my landlords is paramount.

I had a phone date with Margaux that day and told her in detail all about the mail and the mailboxes and the locksmith and what I’d learned from this experience. One thing I learned was that the next time someone asks me, “OK if I mail your keys?”, the answer is, “No! I’ll come and get them.” And then I remembered I’d also been laid off earlier that day. Quite a day, at the end of which, F. and I had Pakistani food at Pakwan.
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