A worst day.

Posted: May 19, 2009 in Drama, Friends, work, WTF

1iconpenI’ve had several “worst” days of my life. They are ranked, in order:

The day my Grandmother died.
The day Calvin said he wasn’t going to stay with me.
The day my gallbladder practically exploded in my chest.

To these, I add all the crap that happened yesterday, henceforth referred to as The Day I Could Have Lost My Job.

I’m sitting here now, on the other side of things, and I can’t even tell you how I got through the day without throwing up or fainting. Last weekend is kind of a blur – I think I started drinking on Friday at 5:00 and didn’t really stop until I passed out on Saturday night (hellew, tequila shots and screwdrivers (vodka and OJ) and BEEEEER). We rented movies (“Taken” was really good, the latest installment of “Underworld” was not), we saw “Star Trek” in the theater on Saturday (AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME), I cleaned and read a “comfort” book on Sunday, and we basically just… waited. I spent Sunday night in bed alternating between wakeful anxiety and fitful sleep fraught with nightmares. I dreamed I was in a conference room with my boss, and he was telling me to choose between the red envelope and the blue envelope (haven’t seen The Matrix in years, but that apparently stuck with me). I chose one (can’t remember if it was red or blue, now), and he sort of morphed into this giant ogre type creature who bellowed, “GET OUT GET OUT NOW GET OUT GET OUT” as I ran screaming from the conference room.

So. Yeah. I woke up before the alarm on Monday morning and didn’t want to go into work more than I’ve ever not wanted to go into work in my entire life.

Walking up to the building from the parking lot at AcronymCo, I met up with another woman in our group, “P”, and we walked up to our desks together. We talked about her new baby (she was just back from maternity leave last week) and the events of the day. I got to my cubicle by 8:00, and before I’d even logged in, Jen was at my desk. That in itself isn’t unusual, because her day starts at 7:00 and she waits for me to get in at 8:00 so we can go down to the cafeteria together and get tea and water, and maybe some breakfast. It’s a routine – one I cherish – that we’ve had since we became friends, shortly after she was hired on at AcronymCo three years ago. That friendship was an easy and fast one to establish – once we both realized we were avid readers of many of the same authors, and that we were both bloggers, we discovered we were kindred spirits.

So. Jen said to me, “Have you seen the organizational announcement in e-mail yet?” I said I hadn’t, and logged in to check it out. We read it together, speculated on what some of the details meant for our group, and went wandering down to the cafeteria. We commented (and speculated some more) on the fact that no one had seen our boss yet that morning, though his belongings were at his desk, sans laptop.

Back up to our group’s isle, the whole lot of us went from cubicle to cubicle, checking on each other to learn when each person’s meeting with our boss was scheduled. “M” was going first at 9:00, Jen was at 10:00, “P” was at 11:00, “B” was at 1:30, “JM” was at 2:00, I was at 2:30, “JL” was at 3:00, and “K” was at 3:30. The remaining person in our group is currently on bereavement leave (her brother passed away last week). So, all nine of us were accounted for.

At about five ’til 9:00, “M” stopped by my cube (where Jen and “B” and “K” were also hanging out – quite a crowd for a 9×5 cubicle), and said, “Well, wish me luck!” “B” ordered him to return DIRECTLY AND IMMEDIATELY after his conversation with our boss, and let us know what he knew.

9:30 rolled around. Then 9:45. “B” checked “M’s” cubicle for signs of life (and the front pocket of his backpack to see if his keys were still there – she went a little nuts, she admitted later). Then she got into our calendar system and saw that he had a 9:30 meeting scheduled in the cafe. So she marched down there, stood in front of his table where he was meeting with the Equipment Manager (who we’re all friends with) and said, “Well??? You were SUPPOSED to stop by and say hi.” “M” laughed and said everything was fine with him, but that he didn’t have much information to share.

“B” duly came back up to our isle and informed us that “M” was in the clear. Then it was nearly 10:00, and Jen’s turn to meet with our manager. It was an acknowledged fact that nobody in the whole damned organization was going to get any kind of work done that day, so I honestly just sat at my desk and stared blankly at the screen. Every now and then I’d lift my hands to my face and watch them – I felt like I was shaking, but my hands were steady. My insides were anything but. “B” would stop at my door, kind of blink at me, then go back to her cube. I’d go down to “K’s” cube, kind of blink at her, then wander back to my desk. None of us wanted to be alone, just sitting there. Even if we had nothing to say, we still congregated.

At about 10:20 I heard Jen’s voice coming from her cubicle. I knew right then, if she went to her desk before she stopped to see me, things were bad. I noticed her voice was strident, and as I approached her desk and caught her glance, there were tears in her eyes. She was on the phone, talking to someone in a different group who’d gotten laid off that morning too. I raised my eyebrows at her, and she just kind of shook her head at me. I stood there, aghast. “B” came bouncing up, saying, “Well?” She took one look at my face and stopped bouncing. Jen got off the phone, and “K”, “B” and I just stared at her. She explained a little of what our manager said to her. I’ll let her fill in the details in her own blog, if she chooses to do so.

We all hugged, and cried, and hugged some more. Jen left for the day, and “B” and “K” and I trudged, zombie-like, back to our respective desks. That’s when the stress REALLY amp’ed up. See, none of us were expecting that our group would be impacted by the layoffs – not really. There were only nine of us doing a job that required twelve at least, and sixteen if we wanted comfortable workloads. Our manager has been keeping our headcount lean for the last year, in anticipation of this re-org, and he’s always been “cautiously optimistic” that since we were short on people in the first place, “they” wouldn’t take any more from us.

Suffice to say, he was surprised as any of us that he had to lay anybody off.

Anyway. Jen went home, and not fifteen minutes after she left, the old admin from our group e-mailed me to ask if it was true. Mind you, she retired from AcronymCo OVER A YEAR AGO, and yet she knew right away. I boggled at that, let me tell you, until I figured out that Jen had updated her Facebook status before she left, and our old admin is on her friends list (or whatever Facebook has – I refuse to get involved with it).

So. It’s now 11:00, and “P’s” turn for the meeting with our manager. By this time we’ve all worked ourselves up into quite a state. I hadn’t eaten breakfast, and didn’t want lunch – I was afraid I’d throw it back up again. All the folks in my group felt the same way. We pecked listlessly at our keyboards, popped our heads up over the walls whenever we heard footsteps, and waited.

And waited.

AND waited.

12:00. 12:15. 12:30. We kept checking “P’s” cubicle. She never came back. We were hoping she’d just taken her lunch right after her meeting… but her things were gone, and then we found out she’d cancelled all of her afternoon meetings and went home. She’d been laid off, too.

By this time my manager made an appearance at his desk (right across the isle from mine). We all scattered from the huddle we’d been in. He poked his head in my cube and asked, “Hey, is Jen okay?” He looked like HELL. His eyes were red and welled up. I shook my head at him, my tears starting again too. He just kind of gasped and rushed away. I called after him, and he waved at me to follow him. We walked away from the cubicles, and he apologized for being unprofessional. I supported him as best I could – acknowledging that if OUR day was bad, his must have been ten times worse. I asked if he was okay, and he said, “We’ll talk later.”

Uh. Well, yes we will. At 2:30, actually.

We walked back to our isle, and I decided to go down to the cafeteria to grab a piece of toast to try to ease my churning stomach. My manager called to me as I passed by his desk, and we walked together as far as the cafe (he was headed back to the Dreaded Conference Room Of Doom). On the way I kind of casually asked him a work-related question.

Me – “Hey, by the way, I got an e-mail from XYZ that we need a backup approver assigned for our system.”
Boss – “Can’t “JM” do it?”
Me – “No, he’s in DM. I need someone from IDM.”
Boss – “Oh, well. Do you need just one? Or can you have more than one?”
Me – “We can have as many as we want to assign.”
Boss – “In that case, sign up “B” and “K”, since you have administrative access and can’t be an approver.”

I’d like to think that he was trying to give me information that those people he mentioned were “safe”. He knew how panicked we all were, and of course he couldn’t “officially” say anything until he’d met with each one of us individually. With a long, LONG afternoon stretched before us, I think he was trying to be subtle about sending the message that the worst was over.

So of course, I high-tailed it back up to our isle and let “K” and “B” know what he said. I mean, he wouldn’t have assigned them long-term roles if they weren’t going to be around, right? That’s what we read into it, anyway. The panic and anxiety eased, a little.

Oh, it was still there, though. You have but to read my Twitter feed from those hours. I was a basket case all day.

“B” left for her 1:00 meeting, and “K” and I basically kept each other company for the duration. “B” was back by 1:30 and said she was “safe”, and she thought the worst was over – our boss seemed to be calmer. “JM” went for his 2:00, and then at 2:20 I began the long, long walk from my desk to the conference room (I sit on the second floor of the number five building, the conference room was on the fourth floor of the number six building).

The phrase “Dead Man Walking” kept running through my mind.

I concentrated on breathing, but I’ve gotta say my fingers and toes were tingling, and I had pains in the left side of my chest. I gave myself a stern talking-to: “Laura, you’re a reasonably healthy thirty-four year old woman. You are NOT going to have a heart attack at work.”

I didn’t.

I got to the conference room and peeked in the door – “JM” had already gone, though I didn’t pass him in the hallway (I gulped at that thought – turns out he was “safe” too). My boss beckoned me in, and before I’d even sat down he said, “It’s okay. You’re safe.”

At which I collapsed in a chair, thumped my head down on the table, and said, “Oh my GOD, boss, this has been the most FUCKED UP DAY.”


He kind of laughed a little and said, “Yeah, tell me about it.”

We spent the next half hour talking about the new org structure and what that would mean for our group, and how badly we all felt about Jen and “P” getting laid off. There was a bunch of detail that I can’t really go into without getting Dooced, but suffice to say he was shocked at what he had to do, and he fought hard to keep our little team intact, but in the end the Higher Ups had their way.

I left the room – boss still had “JL” and “K” to talk to – but I knew based on what we’d talked about that they were safe, too. Our little group of nine, now decreased to seven, and how the hell we’re going to get all of the work done now is well beyond me. I stopped by “K’s” desk, where “B” was waiting, and said all was well and the worst was over. Then I apologized to “K” that I wasn’t going to stay until after she got back from her meeting. She said, “Hell, no! Go! Get out of here! I’m leaving as soon as my meeting’s over, too.” I called Calvin (he’d called three times while I was away from my desk) and let him know the good news. He said, “Get the hell out of there so we can go have a beer.”

So I did. And we did. It still took us a long time to come down from the stress we’d been feeling all day – hell, all week. All MONTH. I myself am not fully recovered, a day later. I’m working from home today, but I went at lunchtime and picked up “K”, “B”, and Jen at work (“P” had plans – and yes they’re both still working – AcronymCo gives laid-off employees time to find another job internal to the company). We went to CPK for lunch. I think Jen’s going to be okay – as well as can be expected. She and her husband made some excellent decisions earlier this year that put them in a less vulnerable spot should one of them lose their job.

My boss just IM’ed me. He said, “Hey, you’ve been quiet today. Everything okay, all things considered?”

He’s a good guy. None of us – not even Jen and “P” – blame him for what’s happened. Jen tells me he’s still a mess about it, today. So. I’ll go into work tomorrow, and we’ll try to assess everything post-fallout. Other groups that we work with are still being affected, so we won’t know the extent of things until probably early next week.

You guys have been great, with all of your e-mails and comments and phone calls and text messages and Tweets. I cherish you all and want you to know that all of your kindness really REALLY helped Calvin and I get through the past week. Hopefully the drama – at least about work – is over for a good long time. I’ll get caught up with all of your blogs and e-mails during the week. Thanks for being there, and thanks for listening.

  1. Taoist Biker says:

    “…this has been the most FUCKED UP DAY.”

    Amen to that, sister. 😦

    Good luck to you and all your coworkers readjusting. After my previous workplace massacred about 1/3 of its workforce back in ’00-02, morale was never quite the same. Hope that’s not the case for you guys.

    • Laura says:

      Yes, my boss is pretty concerned about morale, right now. That and the fact that nobody seems to have done a lick of work for over a week.

  2. Karen says:

    Yeah 🙂
    I worried about you all day, even tried to check out the site on my blackberry during a meeting. Now have your now-self go back and tell your then-self of last week that everything is ok.

  3. iamheatherjo says:

    “AcronymCo gives laid-off employees time to find another job internal to the company”

    While it still really sucks, that is a LOT more than most companies do.

    “Hi, it’s been nice working with you but today is your last day. Here’s your severance and we’ll get your personal belongings to you somehow. Any questions? Sign here.”

  4. […] By iamheatherjo Laura’s post about her worst days got me thinking of what I would consider the worst days of my […]

  5. This is one of the bad thiings about being the boss. Not only do I feel for your whole office that had been on pins and needles, but “boss” has to feel badly about the whole thing. especailly after having to keep things “tight” there for so long.

    • Laura says:

      Yeah, he really REALLY did his best, and I think the most bad feeling came from the fact that he fought so hard and yet the decision wasn’t up to him.

  6. rai says:

    Yay? And suck?

  7. sharon says:

    I was stressed just reading your post. I can’t imagine what it was like to go through that.
    Sounds like one major suck worthy day! I’m glad you are on the other side of it. I really try to be one of those annoying perky look on the bright side of life people, but I know there is nothing worse than feeling anxious. I hope tomorrow is a happier day 🙂

    • Laura says:

      It’s getting better, but we’re still hearing about fallout from other groups and other folks we’ve worked with outside of our little department. Everyone just wants to get to the other side of Friday.

  8. Kim says:

    I can imagine how stressful this was and it kills me that scenes like this are playing out all over the country, and will continue to do so for some time. We just had a meeting in which people nervously asked about our contract being removed and the powers that be here are also “cautiously optimistic.” That kind of bullshit makes me want to throw up in my mouth.
    I’m so glad you’re okay and I’m so sorry about Jen and your other co-worker.

    • Laura says:

      I know. The immediate thought after hearing you get to keep your job is, “Yeah, but for how long?” Stupid economy. Needs to turn its shit around YESTERDAY.

  9. Jean says:

    Hey, I was wondering if Acronym is still offering sabbaticals? My company did away with them this year, in conjunction with an across the board pay cut.

    But I still have a job, so trying to keep the bitching to a minimum.

  10. Amanda says:

    I’m so glad you were spared, Laura. I can’t imagine what that must have been like, waiting most of the day like that. I keep hoping that the economy will start turning around soon, but then stories like this make me realize that we may not have started the home stretch just yet.

  11. […] I met with my friend Jen for lunch at CPK. You remember the whole layoff debacle, and how she and another lady from our group got let go? Yeah, well, AcronymCo decided to give them […]

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