Downsize This!

It starts like every other conversation and then out of nowhere comes the same canned phrase that everyone in my position hears…”The company is doing some reorganizing and…” I’m UNnecessary, UNneeded and UNemployed. The coolness of the boardroom table is real, the faces across me projecting regret and concern are real but this can’t be happening, I do a good job and people like me. This is just a misunderstanding,  it’ll all sort out in a day or two.

By the time I reach the safety of my cubicle the reality sets in. I’ve lost my job.

No more work, no more getting up early and eating cold leftovers in a cold cafeteria break-room.

I know a lot of  people who would be happy to get out of the grind.  Not me, not right now. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a part of me in the background breathing a small sigh of relief. There’s so much stress going on at work, it might be nice to sleep for a few days. I could spend some extra time with the kids and do the laundry in the middle of the day but how am I gonna buy soap? For the rest of the day I sit in my cube, thinking, staring at nothing and trying not to think.

No more work, no more little post-it notes with crucial hieroglyphs of important “to dos”.

What do I do now? I’ve been given 3 weeks to put everything in order, clean my desk and finish up all those loose ends. I take down the photos, pictures of people I missed spending time with, inspirational posters and quirky fortunes from Chinese take out lunches. “Believe in your dreams and others will catch the fever”, I decide to keep it and stuff it in to my checkbook. Who knows, maybe it’s right.

No more work, no more long drives in the cold snow.

After a few days I am told to pass on all the information I have collected over the years.  Looking around me I realize it’s impossible. From the top of my cubicle I can survey the empire I’ve created. Notes written in shorthand stuck onto and inside binders. Folders filled with years of paperwork stuffed into drawers so full I can barely close them anymore. So many little details locked in my mind. How do I turn all this into a neat little package and give it away?

No more work, no more emails about who stole what lunch from the refrigerator.

Not many people talk about “it”, like this is a disease you can catch or a sensitive subject like the death of a loved one. “Do you know how much snow we’re gonna get?” or “Wasn’t that some crazy wind over the weekend?” Polite conversation when all I want to do is scream, I want to rant and rave and curse until I’m escorted out of the building. Everywhere I walk conversation dulls to topics of bland interest.  Pitying eyes follow me.

No more work, no more hitting the snooze button 8 times before skipping the long shower and gas in the car.

Why me, why not the guy next to me? For a day or two I start to construct complex theories on why my job is the one to get cut and all the other John’s and Mary Jane’s get to stay. Maybe it’s personal, someone at the top doesn’t like me. Maybe no one understands what I do so they think it’s unnecessary. Maybe I broke one too many of those chain emails. I almost sent one today thinking that might make everything right. Send this dancing cat to 5 people in 15 minutes and…maybe.

No more work, no more holiday sign up sheets and working weekends.

I’m trying to avoid passing my job on to the “other” person. Secretly I want it all to fail, I want to leave it in ruins while people sit and wonder, “What will we do without her?” I want to be missed but I know that I won’t. Like so many unnamed faces before mine, I will be replaced by someone new. In a month no one will remember my name. For a time I sit quietly, stare at the now bare walls of my cubicle and try to remember the others that have left before me. I get to three before it starts to get fuzzy. The working rule is – keep your head down and hope no one notices when the work slows down. Someone will start to wonder “How much am I paying her?”

No more work, no more business lunches over Styrofoam containers.

The last time I put on my coat, the last time I check my email. Walking past rows of cubicles I get one hug and a tearful good bye. I’m too proud to tell everyone how I really feel (scared, confused and sad) so I put on that brave “it’s all OK” face and smile back. It’s so damn anti-climactic. I was hoping for something more; a cake, balloons, a card…maybe a parade. In the end I walk out just like I walked in, my coat and keys in hand. What do I have to prove that I’ve been here? The glass double doors make a soft shush sound closing behind me and I’m standing outside, in the cold. Snow covers the ground and the world looks stark and unfriendly. To keep out the wind I huddle deeper inside my coat.

I don’t think I like it out here.