life, you fantastic bastard, i love you.
saturday afternoon, I was married to my beautiful lover.
tuesday morning, i was laid off my job.
this has been the best week of my life.
monday evening, we drove in from the coast and Lee dropped me off at work. I work third shift at IBM as an operations duty manager. Essentially, I am a corporate fire jumper. Big companies pay IBM big green dollars to put out their IT forest fires. When a WAN router to between Shenzen and Kuala Lampur loses its brains and sends traffic to Helena, Montana instead, or Bulgarian hackers compromise a cruise line reservation system and steal ten thousand black amex numbers, i coordinate the 'recovery management', which is to say I direct the technical teams where to go and what to do. engineers by themselves are smart as whips but in a herd they are a mess. i'm the driver of the short bus. i also wipe, moisturize, and talc the executives and managers so they feel warm and cuddly and confident that their stock options are tucked in and dreaming of sugar plums and boca raton golf outings. i've been a duty manager for about eight years now. i work when the normal and decent among us are sleeping. the companies that hire IBM to manage their systems pay a hefty fee; hundreds of millions of dollars over years and years. large penalties are written in the service contract for extended outages, especially during peak business seasons. a simple database outage impacting gift certifcate purchases on the morning after thanksgiving for a large retail conglomerate can cost into the millions per hour. my operations staff is spread out - Bangalore, India Hortolândia, Brazil, Toronto, Canada, Brno, Czech Republic, Sydney, Oz. Its a 24 hour world now.
But I never wanted my life's work to be making the world safe for credit card transactions.
I came into work Monday and learned that two experienced contractors had just been let go. Literally, just then. They came into work, were told they were being terminated, and that this was their last night on shift. I had known these gents for years and they were professional, experienced vets. their termination didnt make sense from a work performance persepctive. it was all so alberto gonzales. one of them, lets call him Jim, always seemed too quiet, too intense. pressure cooker quiet. i made sure he was going to be ok and offered him a reference or whatever he might need. 'youre not gonna shoot up the place, Jim, are ya?
'dunno yet.' he replied tersely staring straight ahead.
'just put me on your reload list if you do then. we've always been down.'
'no worries, ty, we're cool. i'll give you a two minute heads up if i decide.'
such is life in the forward bases of corporate america.
tuesday morning, my manager, a good guy and one of the best managers i've had the pleasure of working with, asked all the night shift IBM regulars to stick around for a short meeting. the sidewards glances from everyone ricocheted off every wall.
here's a hint to spot when bad news is in the breech and the triggered is cocked. managers cross their arms like stone-face bouncers. if you see that, attach your codpiece.
our management team was stuffed along the back wall of the department conference room like frat brothers on initiation night, waiting for the last regular to waddle in. Once everyone was seated, they explained that corporate headquarters was streamlining its processes, optimizing the workforce structure, clarifying its business vision, focusing on...heh, slash and burning payroll. the old timers were ashen and wide-eyed that their retirement benefits were about to be stuffed in some director's back pocket, the younger ones were suddenly nervous that they would not be able to make their next payments on their new Escalades with the big pimp rims and that a move back in with mummy was impending. i twirled my cane and daydreamed about being the bravo in front of the firing squad disgustedly refusing the blindfold and ripping his shirt open for the fusillade.
my manager called me into his office first.
'ty. i'm really sorry about all this...youve been with the company a long time and your performance has always been appreciated, but your name is on the list.'
i live by the observation that everything before the word 'but' is lubricant.
he handed me a few sheafs of legaleze and compensation materials. i nodded at them politely and put them on the desk. i wanted to jump up and jig, but with my broken foot still on the mend, i thought better. he explained the terms of the termination and effused that everything would be ok, that i would find something with my skills, not to worry, not to fret... i felt rude grinning but i couldnt pull it back in. finally he asked, 'youre not really upset about all this are you?'
'yeah. no. this is great news. To say I appreciate this is an understatement.'
he relaxed a bit and we caught up on other matters a for moment or two and then i left.
my wife had driven to work to pick me up (bum foot and clutch driving is not pleasant unless there are copious amount of vicodin involved but then that makes driving a whole different matter.) she asked me how work went. my standard reply is 'fucking stupid, like yesterday and tomorrow', but today i broke into a state-wide grin and said 'fantastic. i just got laid off.' she raised an eyebrow (i love, love that wicked arch) and said without missing a beat 'we are going to be just fine. no worries, baby, we'll get through this together.' i honestly believe that she hated my job more than i do.
corporate america is a congenial plantation. i hated it. i hated joining its ranks. i hated myself for being relatively good at my job. i hated paying almost $500 a month in gas and driving four hours a day to work at a job that had obliterated my circadian rhythm and brought me to the brink of diabetes. i hated that i became an asshole shuffling papers and cracking the whip on those smart engineers. i hated that part of the spectrum of me that was a company man. bitch and bastard. (sorry Old Shoe Woman, forgive me). i hated that i always had enough to be comfortable in my servitude, but that i could never leave it. it was a deadening life. a faustian ripoff.
freedom and security are ever at odds.
now i have freedom - and i love it. with my wife, i can rebuild my life. with all the compensation and savings, we've got about a year and half before the shit and the fan intersect.
i am going to write and build our photo studio. i am going to sleep every night with my woman and wake her with nudging kisses. i am going to take a million photographs and write a million words. i am going to finally heed that sage wisdom to do that which you love. success is never assured. im fine with that. ive learned that success is not how much you have, success is how much you live.
postscript. today we were driving into town and she looked over at me for a good while, trying to figure out my grin. was i thinking of some cocky one liner or sarcastic observation? the arch went up and she said 'what are you grinning about over there, mister smarty?' i thought about it for a second, hitting the rewind button on my last few thoughts as she likes to call it, and i couldnt recall anything in particular that had crossed my mind. just driving on a rainy day down a country road listening to a mix my girl had made for our wedding. i think i was just happy. go figure. who knew it was so easy.