Monday, September 07, 2009

What the Hell Happened: Joe's Revenge

Continued from yesterday

So who, against all odds, managed to avoid the chopping block?

Joe! Freaking Joe! Suddenly, I didn't feel all warm and fuzzy. Why did I get laid off and this guy's still there?

When we switched from Quark to InDesign a few years back, I was admittedly the last one to embrace it. But once I learned it, I found I really liked it and just kept learning new tricks and shortcuts. Whenever we had a little downtime, I'd explore some of the features and find something new. And if there was something I couldn't figure out, I'd keep trying different things, or look up the problem online until I found a solution. That's what I do. It's like when I couldn't remember the name of that cartoon with the talking fireworks. I FOUND IT! It took forever, but by God, I found it.

On the other hand, you have Joe. Who you may recall from his early work in Highlights for Children as Goofus. Goofus only learned enough to barely get by. Why bother retaining knowledge when you can just yell a question down the hall?




I don't know if the bosses knew any of this or took it into consideration, and even though I'm eternally happy that I don't have to listen to "Remember that show Mr. Nice?" or "Are You my special friend?" anymore, he's there and I'm not, which in a way means he won, which makes my mouth taste like horse crap.

The truth is, the idea that someone might get axed was on all our minds for months, and the first choice, Mr. bathroom hog, was pretty easy, but if there was going to be two layoffs, and I don't think anyone ever though there would be, but to me, the second choice is Joe without question. And apparently Joe's obvious second choice was me. We never expressed this opinions to each other, of course; they were filtered through John T, but when I heard that I just though, "Well that guy's gonna be in for a real shock." And then of course the day came and somehow, against all reason, I'm the one that was laid off. Joe won. Sonofabitch.

I can't prove this, but the reason, I think, that I was let go rather than Joe is as follows:

A couple of months before all this, Joe was getting ready to welcome his wife back home after she'd been stationed in Afghanistan for six months. He had a framed picture of the two of them that he hung in the front hallway, and probably some other asinine gifts, and his 18-year-old son from his previous marriage was there with him, standing in the hall. She walked in, Joe moved in to give her a hug, but she side-stepped him, brushed him off and said, "I don't love you anymore. I met someone else. I want a divorce."

Now, Joe annoyed the hell out of me over the years, and I can't even begin to imagine LIVING with him, but damn, that's cold. That's really cold. She didn't even take him to the side and do it quietly; his son was standing right there. And despite her contempt for Joe, the kid had known her for like ten years. He grew up knowing her. She was supposed to go to his graduation a few days later, and he asked if she was still going, and she just said, "No."

Apparently, she met someone in her unit over there and they hooked up or something. I don't know what the Air Force policies are for that, but whatever. The important thing is she should have told him months ago. Because when you have someone you care about over there in harm's way, you worry about their safety the time. At least if she broke his heart earlier he wouldn't have to spend every night worrying that she might be ripped apart by an IED or something. He wouldn't care, and he'd be able to sleep a lot better. It's common courtesy, really.

And of course he should have seen this coming. While she was overseas, she and everyone else there had to ration their time to make calls and send emails back home, and she told Joe that she spend so little time talking to him because she gave up most of her allotted minutes to a homesick young airman. Right.

Look, I understand the thought of spending your whole life with Joe is like staring into the mouth of Hell, but she was just brutal to the poor guy the way she went about doing this. No tact at all. I mean, for all him many, many faults, that guy really loved her and the way it ended pretty much crushed him.

Anyway, all of a sudden, Joe is in the middle of this big, messy divorce. Again. And maybe the bosses were thinking they can't very well throw him out on the street now on top of all he's going through. I don't know what they were thinking, I know that they don't particularly like Joe, especially after the wake incident. And I know because of his tendency to rape the truth, he got yelled at a lot, sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly. But, for whatever reason, they kept Joe. Remember that.

Because I left on good terms, I still had my keys; one for the front door of the building and one for the elevator. I was allowed to come in any time to work on my stuff. It was a generous offer, but I didn't take advantage of it, because it just seemed like it would be terribly awkward. And I wasn't about to risk hearing that insipid country station ever again. But I did have the keys if I needed them.

One day, John T. called ad asked if I could turn them in. The reason being that the other guy who was let go had asked the boss if he could keep his laptop, and she said no, it belongs to the company, and I guess he was a little mad about that. She got a little freaked out when she found out that he had come in over the weekend to clear out his stuff without supervision, so she asked us to return the keys. We could still come in if we wanted, but there'd have to be someone around. No problem.

So...a week later, John T. called again. This time he asked if the police had called me. I said, "No." He said, "Well, they might."

The night before, someone broke into the office and stole five laptops. Now, I'm not suggesting that it's at all connected to the other guy being angry about not being able to keep his laptop. It is awfully coincidental, especially when you consider that only laptops were stolen; nothing else. No cords, no external keyboards, not even a mouse. (See what I did there?) And there was a CPU in the office that didn't work, but you wouldn't know that unless you turned it on. That curiously wasn't taken, either. You could argue that only laptops were taken because they are small and easy to carry. After all, it's hard to look inconspicuous wheeling a giant color printer down the street.

The truth is, ANYONE could have stolen the laptops,'re gonna love this...footprint evidence shows the burglar came through Joe's OPEN, UNLOCKED WINDOW. The studio is on the seventh floor, and on three sides it's a straight drop down to the pavement, but outside of Joe's window is the roof of the parking garage next door. There's not even a gap between the buildings; it's literally right outside his window. There's always cars parked out there. So anyone who was up there could look right through Joe's wide open shades, through his unlocked and open windows, right onto his desk where his laptop is still on, staring back at them. Tempting them. Daring anyone and everyone to just walk right in and take it and whatever else the feel like. Earlier this year, the boss freaked out over an exceptionally high energy bill. Worried that it might have been my from my heater, (because that place was always so frickin' cold) I started to bring in blankets, changed all the lightbulbs in my office to CFLs, and turned off the power strip for the laptop every night. But since it wasn't Joe's electric bill, he apparently felt it was perfectly acceptable to continue leaving his computer and his radio-his radio! on all night, every night. I guess that doesn't really have anything to do with the laptops being stolen, but that still steams my brocolli. Anyway, they kept Joe, he left his damn fool window open, and the place got robbed. That's all I'm saying.

In a way, I'm lucky to have been let go, because when I left, I copied all of my personal files from the laptop onto my external hard drive. But if I had still been there, I wouldn't have had a reason to copy my files and when the place was robbed, I would have lost EVERYTHING; drawings, photos, stories...all kinds of stuff. So if there's a "glass half full" way of looking at this, that would be it.

By the way, the police never did call me, and I'm a little offened by that. I mean, I didn't do it, and I wouldn't have had a way of getting into Boston, and I have an alibi with witnesses, but the cops could have at least entertained the idea. Way to be thourough, guys.

well, T. said all their stuff was insured, so they were able to get all new computers and up-to-date software. So that's good. And I guess they'll be putting bars on the winows, so that's good too, although a good first step might be closing and locking the windows before going home. Maybe even drawing the shades too, if you want. Go crazy.

So, that's what happened. Since I had ben at my job since 2001, I had some money in a profit-sharing account. It took a while to actually get a hold of it, but when I did, I took some of it out to buy a brand new laptop and a ton of programs, and I put the rest in an IRA. So I've been looking for another "office" type job, but so many applications call for prerequisite web-design knowledge, and I'm primarily a print guy. But since I now own them, I'm slowly learning Flash and Dreamweaver, and while I know a little already, I'm nowhere near the point where I can say "Yeah I can whip up a website with CSS and dynamic, uh, whatsits for you no problem." Actually I can say that, but I can't say something that would make any sense.

What I'm hoping for, and I know it's going to be hard, but I'm hoping to go out on my own and do some freelancing. I've got over ten years experience, I own Adobe CS4 Master Collection so I have every program Adobe makes at my disposal. I write, I draw, I take pictures. Not professionally, but I guess if you paid me that would make it professional, right? I don't know if there's a certificate or something you're supposed to ave. I can do brochures, postcards, brand-identity stuff like logos and stationery, business cards...if you've got a band, I play bass. No, I don't actually know how to do that, but I could design t-shirts or posters or those flier things for you. Can't do whole lot of Flash, so lay off that for a while, but I'm learning, and maybe I'll post my progress for you guys, you know, when I make some progress.

So...this degenerated into a commercial pretty quickly. Or desperate plea for help, whatever works. If you guys every do need anything, or know anyone who needs some kind of design work done, email me at

I wish that was the end of this summer craptacular, but it was only the beginning, Check back tomorrow to find out what happened next. And you don't have to worry about it not being there because I already wrote it. I'm just trimming this beast into bite-sized pieces so you don't choke on all the depression.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

What the Hell Happened: Tell me about the rabbits, George was your summer? Mine was crap. I tried to write this several times over the past few months, before deciding that the best way to express my thoughts would be in my first ever video blog. But once I started recording, I drew a blank, so I had to write it all down anyway. And then there's the issue of where to look. I tried looking directly at the camera, but the constant stare came out looking insane and a little creepy. So I tried it again, looking slightly off camera, but without any eye contact, it looked like I was trying to hide something. So I ultimately decided to just go back to writing the whole damn massive thing out in sections like I was going to do in the first place, except now I have this needless explanatory paragraph to start out with.

Anyway, it all started on Free Donut Day. If you ordered a coffee at Dunkin Donuts, they'd give a donut for free. Who the hell doesn't like free donuts? So I went there first thing in the morning, got my coffee and my free donut, and thought "This is a pretty good day!"

And damn it, for a few hours, it was. My boss was in early that morning. To give you a little background, the company is run by two siblings; the sister is the art director and the brother takes care of the sales and business end, as well as lending his name to the company. A few years ago, when the lease was almost up on our current office, they spent months looking for a new place. Our old office on Appleton Street was too big, and this one was just a little too small. And only had one bathroom, which was frequently monopolized by this guy, sometimes for an hour at a time. They weren't able to find a new office before the lease was up, so in the end we all stayed put. Except the boss, who decided the best way to give us more room (and, more importantly, himself his own bathroom) was to get a small office a few blocks away and work off-site from there. He still came in almost every day, but for the most part was either on the road or in his new office, and in his absence, his sister moved into his old office, Amy moved into the sister's old office, and after she "left," I moved into that office.

But back to free donut day. The boss was in the office that day, and although it was a bit unusual for him to be in so early, I just figured there was a new project to go over. He called me into his sister's office, and I started to get an uneasy feeling, but still I assumed we were going over a new project. So I went into her office and sat down, and the two of them sat opposite me. He started, "As you know, things have been really slow around here lately." She looked like she was about to cry. Aw, crap.

"We have to let you go." I forget which one actually said it. They're not twin or anything, I just don't remember. You'd think I would, but, I just don't. And I have to tell you, I did NOT see that coming. I knew the economy overall was down, and my timesheets had less and less billable time, and I knew that there might be some layoffs here, but...I don't know, I guess I thought since I was the only one that knew even a little about web design, that it was sort of guaranteed job security. Nope.

I don't know if I was still in shock, but all I said was "Okay." He explained that client billing was off 40%, and that it had nothing to do with job performance, and they really like me, and they wished that they didn't have to do this. In all of their years in business, they'd never had to lay anyone off before. They both said that I could come in anytime and use the computers and printers to work on my portfolio and resume, and they would help any way they could.

And they said, "Just so you know, you're not the only one."

Throughout the whole thing, I just kept saying "Okay". And really, at the time, I was. For awhile, I started to feel like I was going to work a that place forever, spending my whole life there and never advancing. This was my chance for a new beginning. It was exciting, really. But Michele didn't find it as exciting as I did. And with good reason. We were already barely getting by as it was, and with our rental agreement up at the end of August, we were thinking of getting a house. So then I started getting nervous about what we were going to do next, but I still saw getting laid off as an opportunity.


Then I started thinking. There were only four employees there. Four. And they downsized by half to two. Guess who's sill there? Go on...

Find out in the next thrilling installment of the end-of Summer Craptacular "What the Hell Happened"