Jun 22, 2009

Layoffs Abound

My husband was laid off from his job recently. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate rose to 9.4% in the month of May.

I’m not one to turn the attention to myself, but I was laid off once, and it was a very shocking experience. I was completely blindsided by it. I remember how it happened. My good friend/boss called me into his office and, me being naïve, I figured he was just chatting with me or showing me that day’s cartoon from his Dilbert calendar. But as I walked in, I saw that his face was serious and his expression pained. I wondered if it was a health issue. I asked him if he was ok. “I’ve got bad news,” he responded. “Corporate has been tightening our belts, and some positions have been eliminated in our company.”

“Oh my goodness!” I empathized. “I can’t believe they’ve cut your job!” I was dense. I started to offer my sympathy when it clicked in my brain that it was me, not him. Once his words registered, everything began to happen in slow motion. “Whaat? I’m laaaid oooooffffffff? Wheeennnnn?” I was incredulous. The room started to spin. How could this be? I’m Jackie, I thought. Nothing bad happens to me.

Random images and recollections flashed in my brain. . . the lunar landing, “One giant step for mankind,” . . . the theme song from Gilligan’s Island (the version where they sing “and the rest,” not “the Professor and MaryAnn” version), . . . the part of Star Wars when Darth Vadar tells Skywalker, “Luke, I am your father.” It was too much to bear all at once!

Within seconds, disbelief quickly gave way to reality and the fight-or-flight instinct took over. My martial arts background made the former my immediate reaction. Within two seconds, my boss had two black eyes, a dislocated shoulder, and a groin injury. I then surprised myself by unleashing a stream of unexpected obscenities that I heard on South Park on TV the night before.

What happened even after that was a blur. I know there was crying, biting, and I remember seeing a goat flying through the air in the office. When the incident was over, the goat was hiding behind a chair, and my battered boss tried to muster a sympathetic, understanding smile. He told me he’d take me to lunch in a few days. I apologized for the assault and attempted to make amends by petting the frightened goat. I threw a half-eaten Baby Ruth bar on the chair for him as a peace offering.

Though my head cleared later, I couldn’t figure out why the goat was present at the layoff, but when I called my old work number by mistake a few days later, I was taken aback to hear bleating on the other side of the phone. I should’ve known my boss was already grooming my replacement! And to think I shared a Baby Ruth with that goat!

My husband’s layoff was not a giant surprise, and no goat was present. Joe’s reaction to his layoff was different from mine -- very methodical and level-headed. He was upset at first, but like a machine, he generated resumes, made phone calls, and contacted the unemployment office. He has a routine he follows every day to look into new leads, make calls to old contacts, etc. It’s a wait-and-see game for us.

I don’t have a good stomach for such games, but Joe has his fail-safe backup plan of becoming a male stripper or male model if nothing happens in another month or so. He’s amazing!

The children are chipping in by waking at the crack of dawn and panhandling in front of the neighbors’ garages each morning. When the neighbors leave for work, the children let themselves in their houses and bring us food and clothing. They never steal valuables, however. That kind of behavior is beneath us.

I too have a back-up plan, unbeknownst to the family. I have taken all the money we have in savings and in the kids' college funds and bought TV network time at 8:30 p.m. on the 4th of July. I’m going to have a telethon to raise money for our family. It’s ingenious! I've contracted the most popular celebrities who appeared on The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. These celebrities have great draw and somehow they all cleared their busy schedules and agreed to put on a variety show/telethon to raise money for our cause.

According to my calculations, in that single half hour (which will preempt the fireworks), we’ll raise enough money to live off of, to send the kids to college, and even to take a trip to Europe! I’m so excited. I am hoping my husband won’t discover that I’ve depleted our bank accounts and savings before the 4th of July. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

When I think of myself and all my wonderful attributes, I’d say creativity is one of my greatest strengths. I must also give credit to Abe Lincoln, whose words at his inauguration have inspired me. He said, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” and that’s just what I intend to do. Remember to tune in on the Fourth of July and send money.