I was faxing a schedule to one of our clients, one of my typical end-of-day duties. She was getting postage for an envelope. She turned to me and mentioned a woman who got laid off two weeks ago.
"Do you miss [x]?" she asked. A little, I answered. Although now we're in the same boat.
She didn't get it at first. Then I mouthed the words ...
It was always a question of when, not if. I knew that other girl was about to be let go a week before it happened. The company, quite simply, has been devastated by the current economic climate. I think we're on pace for a 50 percent decline in revenue from last year. And our GM, being an accountant and not a "radio guy," has immediately decided to cut spending everywhere possible. Expense accounts. Media reports. People.
My sales manager emphasized that this was a cost-cutting maneuver, nothing to do with my abilities, and that he would help me find a new gig as much as he could. He already went to bat for another rep who got fired for much different reasons earlier this year, so I'm inclined to believe him.
She literally stepped back and touched her chest when I told her, then stepped forward for a quick hug. I filled in the rest of the story, the reasons, my immediate plans. She stood and frowned. "That sucks," she said. Because really, what else can you say?
And that's why we stood for a couple of minutes, silently. How could I tell her, after nearly two years, "Your smile makes me feel 20 years younger. If you said the word I'd drop it all -- the alcohol, the cynicism, the dark clothes ... well, maybe not all the alcohol. But just for the chance to watch you sleep, to make you laugh, to just earn that smile day after day, you've no idea ..."
You really can't. Not without scaring her.
At least I'll get to finish the week. My boss said the move was made today so that I'd have the option to get a "day off." But my time as a temp taught me that finishing the work week was essential. It meant a full week's pay. It meant finishing on something close to your own terms, even if your "employer" decided not to bring you back, and you got that call from the agency: "I'm sorry, but ..." Plus, well, I've got too much shit stored at my desk to bring back without a bag.
My biggest disappointment was the lack of severance pay. I got the paycheck I would have gotten Monday, plus three vacation days' worth of salary. Which is better than nothing, I know, but my boss reportedly told the (Mexican-born) GM about severance practices: generally two additional weeks' worth of payment. I'll ask about that tomorrow.
The next few weeks will be the most crucial. On top of this last check, today I received my paycheck for working at a local pollsite. And I think I've got about $250 more I can earn from selling parts from my old car and other knick-knacks. Thankfully, not CDs or books. At least, not yet.
During my exit interview, I also got some tips from my boss on fields to pursue: freelance translation; marketing research; advertising companies. That's on top of good ol' unemployment (which is not a sure thing; the state Dole and I have had our battles), taxes (I think I might score a bigger refund than usual this year), any prospective stimulus package and, of course, the temp train. Interestingly, I think the temp industry might weather this storm better than most, since more and more offices might be looking for workers as opposed to employees. You can pay 'em for a few weeks at a time, not worry about benefits, and everybody wins. Not having a car makes some of these options more difficult to pursue, of course. But, one of our reps has offered to drive me to the local auto auction and help me find a good deal. Wheels instantly open more doors.
So, best-case scenario, I have to
We chatted for another few minutes, and I just couldn't stop looking at her. Not ogling, I hope, but ... I just wanted to remember her like this. (I'd have preferred to remember her in her purple low-cut top and boots, but that's neither here nor there.) As it was, I was lucky just to get the chance to tell her; she's taking tomorrow off. I got to say goodbye. I inhaled, then exhaled, deeply, then looked at her with sadness I could feel.
"Could I get another hug?"
She leaned over and I pulled her a little closer. "You're going to be okay," she whispered. What could you say? I breathed in and out again ...
"I am going to miss you," I said. Is that the proper summation? I don't know. But I got to hold her.
And I got her e-mail address.