Welcome to the Rest of Your Work Life

Last week a dozen people at my office lost their jobs because business changes had made their positions unnecessary. Among those cut loose were most of the folks I hung out with at work events as well as one of my closest friends.

I thought I’d write about my own experiences with sudden re-introduction to the job market, but I realized that this might be an example of making the pain of others all about me. I’ll save that for another day.

Instead, in an effort to be useful, here are some suggestions for dealing with life sans work.

  1. It’s not you. Obviously it’s happening to you, but a layoff is not a judgement on you or your performance. This isn’t important merely for your morale; it’s vital for interviews. Why did you leave your last position? The business dissolved it. Sticking to this neutral truth indicates not only that you weren’t at fault but that you possess the maturity to speak about it objectively.
  2. Stop and smell the Pop-Tarts. It’s important to take the job search seriously. Set aside time to devote to locating opportunities and adjusting your cover letters to suit them. But it’s vital to attend to your spirits. You’re under stress, so you need to cool off. Do something you enjoy every day, whether that’s reading, playing games, or hanging out. Don’t be afraid to have fun; you’re still allowed!
  3. Keep a schedule. If you’ve been using an alarm clock, keep setting it. You still have work to do! Exercise? Keep it up. Maintain as much routine as you can. It’ll help lessen the disruption of your (hopefully) temporary new situation.
  4. Get a kitten. I’m pretty clearly running out of advice, but I have a spare kitten yet. I’m just saying. He’s cute, and sometimes he poops in the litter box.

I hope everyone finds a new position quickly. They’re all talented folk, so I’m sure they’ll be fine.

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Apparently My Face Would Like to Be Seen

I may have mentioned my fear of phones. It played a bizarre role in my winding career path and continues to leave me paralyzed in the face of ordering food. (I just know they’ll ask what kind of crust I want, and I just… don’t… know!)

Wendi and I have had flip phones for years, a practical necessity for people with a long commute through sparsely populated areas. Recently we’ve been having trouble getting reception in our own home, and having long since run through the contracted service duration we started looking into switching providers.

It was Wendi who suggested getting iPhones. I never asked her why. I had never really considered one. I have an iPad, and that pretty much serves my mobile needs. I didn’t feel any particular need for a smart phone of any kind. Dumb phones are terrifying enough, frankly. But I didn’t see any pressing reason to argue against it.

So last weekend we got our new iPhones.

For several days I got to know it, and I have to say I became downright enthusiastic about the device. As an object, it’s much less scary than a phone — probably because I wasn’t using it to call anyone. I downloaded some games and quickly became addicted to one where you bake bread to control cats. I sent a number of texts to Wendi. I followed my social networking feeds. I carried it with me everywhere.

Then I used it as a phone.

There’s this thing called FaceTime, which is basically a phone call with video. I knew that it existed, but I never intended to use it. One of the few blessings of phones is that you can talk without having to put on pants. So when I was talking to my brother it was purely a voice call.

I was wearing pants anyway.

While I was blathering about something or other, the line went dead. I’m afraid it always takes me a few minutes to realize that there’s nobody on the other end anymore. A bit annoyed that our new provider was proving to be just as unreliable, I pulled the phone in front of me so I could glare uselessly at it.

The product manager of my current project was looking back at me.

I mentioned that I had pants on, but up top I only had on an A-shirt. I hadn’t shaved in two days, and my bedhead was full in its untamed glory.

The manager asked warily if I needed anything.

“Nope,” I said, already hanging up.

It seems that FaceTime is perfectly designed to reinforce my fear of phones.

In the days since this incident I’ve been rebuilding a trust relationship with my iPhone, mostly by using the non-phone features. I still take it everywhere, which I never could bring myself to do with my previous cel phones. The dread of my face dialing up a video chat with a random contact is going to take a while to get over, but I’m hopeful that I can learn how to prevent that.

It might take a lot longer for that manager to recover from seeing me in my feral weekend state.

Atomic Contributions to Dead Films

I’ve joined the crew of contributors at the League of Dead Films! The League posts movie reviews, movie of the day suggestions, and other items concerning film and film history. I’m happy to contribute to their growing collection of information, as I’ve long been a fan of the site.

My first contribution is a recommendation for today’s viewing pleasure (?) — Shock Waves, a movie featuring the remains of a Nazi zombie force. Why on Earth should you watch it today? (Or at all?)

Hie yourself to The League of Dead Films and find out!

Autumn Haiku

I had planned to write a profound essay about autumn, kittens, and the cycle of life. Then I got the flu and my home internet went kerplooey.

So please accept this haiku in place of actual cleverness.

Leaves shedding green hues
Kittens chewing their mother
Make the hurting stop

I Went to Camp Optimist But It Didn’t Take

I was recently lauded for my optimism, and I am wondering if I’ve fallen into the Bizarro universe.

Of course, I know I haven’t. Bizarro congress would be functional. The bank would pay me every month to keep living in my house. Sewage would come from the taps and we’d drink out of toilets.

Okay, now I’ve grossed myself out.

But really, optimistic? Me?!

Call me a cynic or a pessimist, and I’d see your point. What I really am is anxious and a bit paranoid. I can’t help but leap straight to the most likely disastrous outcomes, and if I weren’t on pills for it I’d lie awake all night obsessing on them. If I could breath I might even get a good night’s sleep one day.

(Note to self: schedule that sleep study. For real this time!)

What I’ve usually come across as, in polite terms, is an angry Chicken Little — or a raving Cassandra, if you prefer mythological references. Everyone would be trucking along — maybe grumbling but doing their work — and there I’d be screaming about impending doom. It’s a tendency that’s won me plenty of invitations to discuss my charms with management.

So, yeah. Now that I have something of a leadership position I’ve been trying hard to keep my natural state of panic from leaking out all over the team. I smile, and I work in calm phrases like “if I have one concern” and “I do wonder”, and all the while my stomach clenches into knots.

Optimistic? Nope. Just internalizing the dread, thanks.

I’m Not Exactly Clear About How Deer Use Guns

There’s a fire station just a few blocks away from us, but out here in Rural Town the only police are state troopers and the county sheriff. I’ve always been curious about response time. If, say, a couple of deer started shooting up Main Street how long would it take for help to arrive?

I use that example because the local deer have plenty of motivation for revenge. I think more are killed each year by vehicles on our village and township roads than are shot in the woods of the entire state. When they decide to fight back, they’ll be coming after drivers not hunters.

Early last week, Wendi’s station wagon took out a young buck. It was technically a victory, but the wagon is likely to be written off as totalled. It’s certainly not drivable at the moment; parts of the outer body are missing and the electrical system’s gone hysterical. Still, at only one deer collision in the decade we’ve been out here, I’d say we’ve come out ahead.

That does mean that we’re down to just my Saturn Ion for a bit. This complicates my plan to get its alignment fixed, but the bigger problem is that sometimes we need to be in different places. Saturday, for instance, I had planned a day of movies with friends (12:00 – ~9:00) while she had an evening game (5:00 – 1:00). Not an insurmountable problem, but one that required some thought. Wendi exchanged a kitten visit for a ride to the game, and I dropped by after the movies and hung out until the game wrapped up. Problem solved.

We were on a country road when a police van pulled us over. It turned out that one of my headlights was out. My proof of insurance was out of date (which I would think is more common than not), but after checking me against the Naughty Persons Registry the officer let us go with a caution to drive safely. Exhausted from the long day, yet suddenly alert, we continued on our way home.

We were in the center of town, just a few blocks from home, when we were pulled over by a police car. He ran the license plate and came over to Ion. All of our papers were out and ready.

“You’ve already been pulled over?” he asked.

We laughed wearily and allowed that we had.

He jotted down a few notes and wished us a good morning.

I’m no longer concerned about police response time in our area. When the deer finally do come for us, I’ll just bust a headlight and start driving. The police will arrive within moments.