Wednesday, September 11, 2013

words every father longs to hear

I lost my job in mid-July. They processed it as a layoff, but that was just them being nice, because as far as I can tell, my boss just didn't like me. This happened at my previous job as well, which makes me think a bit about how I might manage my managers more gently; unfortunately, there are no obvious lessons. I could be a different person. Except I can't.

This is the fourth time I've lost my job, and while it always sucks, it does get easier. You start to see it coming: if you have a meeting with your boss and HR shows up, you're screwed.

In this particular case, I'd already gotten a remarkably dumb ultimatum:
"I'm really burned out and I need to take a break and work on something else."
"Nope, you can stay where you are, or quit."
So I was already interviewing, and at most two weeks away from giving notice when they let me go. In fact, I got two verbal job offers on the same day. (It was a lot to process. I got home that night and literally couldn't form sentences.) Had they talked to me honestly, we could have had a smoother transition and the company could have saved a month's salary. Not that I'm not grateful for the money, but all told I would rather have had time to say goodbye.

Managers are, so often, so stupid.


Yesterday morning I told J I have a new job that's closer to home, except for the days I go up to the city.
"Do you still work at [old job]?"
"No, now I work at [new job]. I left. Well, I was removed."
Anna chimes in. "He was fired."
"Well, kind of. Technically I was laid off, or terminated."
"What's the difference?"
"You get fired for cause, you can't collect unemployment--"
"Oh, right."
The child is a little agitated at this point. He has a hard time remembering arbitrary facts about people, and he's comfortably known where I work for years now.
"Why do you keep changing jobs? Why do you keep getting fired?"
"Huh? I don't keep getting fired."
"Yeah you do. Amalgamated Video, and Mathematica Inferna, and Unlimited Hazards..."
"I wasn't fired from Unlimited Hazards, I left."
We all had a decent talk about how this is just a thing that happens, that we change and our employers change, and sometimes even a smart, hard-working, generally nice guy like me just gets shit-canned sometimes. And my job-changing is at a pretty normal rate for the industry.

"Why do you keep changing jobs? Why do you keep getting fired?"

family resemblance

And just like that, summer's done. After last year's insane activity (3 family plane trips and 2-3 campouts) we kept it more or less low-key this year. I had a brief overnight to Boston for a job interview, and then we went to visit my family on Cape Cod. At that point I'd been at my new job for about a week, and it turns out it's really easy to detach and not work when you don't actually know how to accomplish anything.

J loves the Cape, and my parents, and my nieces. He loves the water: last year we had to stop him walking out over his head, because he couldn't swim, even though he thought he could. He just kept walking, breathing be damned. But this year he can actually swim, and quite well, so he had a ball and we just checked on him now and again to make sure he wasn't headed for Maine.

I love my two older nieces, and they've given me a few good parenting moments over the years (especially the younger one). They have grown up to be truly marvelous young proto-women. They whine a lot, but their hearts aren't really in it--they lack a deep commitment to whining. They do it out of habit, because at their house, that's how they get what they want. When they come up against me, I set more rigid limits, and they tend to adapt quickly in really heartening ways.

One time, when the younger one was maybe 7 or so, she was trying to get all doe-eyed and manipulative on me. I looked at her.
"You seem to think I've never met a little girl before. You are wrong."
She giggled and meandered off.

This time, they were substantially older, and the whining was most often under control, except for one evening when it went on and on and I was done. I looked at the younger one and smiled.
"Okay, that's enough whining. Shut your cakehole."
(I should say that I had never said that to anyone except as a joke. Because who says that? Except as a joke.)

The whining continued. I have another, carefully developed way of speaking, where my face is smiling, but my voice really, really isn't.
"I said that's enough. You. Cakehole. Shut."
The whining stopped.

I can't help but remember an episode from my own childhood, when we visited my father's brother in western New York State. My little brother and I were fighting, as usual, and finally he was done putting up with it, and he sat each of us down at each end of a very long couch.
"Stay there, and keep quiet."
"How long do we have to sit here?!"
"Until donkeys fly."
The injustice!