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The Receptionist’s Candy Bowl as Economic Indicator June 7, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, architect, career, change, employment, survival, the economy.
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It’s official. You no longer recognize your life.

Things you’ve seen over the past few months you can’t quite place. Often, you don’t have a name for them. And if it weren’t for your spouse, no one would believe that they’re happening to you.

It’s as though you’re living in some kind of simulacrum of someone else’s existence, only for about half the salary. Without matching funds. And the candy bowl is empty.

Your company mobile phones are long gone. You can no longer print in color. Just the sound of the office printer – inexplicably stocked only with resume paper – raises eyebrows.

The company printer is no longer for printing. It is for emailing. You use it to email things to yourself. Otherwise your mail box would be empty. This is now what you do for a living.

Working part time, if they want you to work a full week (and legally they can’t ask you to do that) they assign you to kitchen clean-up duty at 4:30PM on Fridays, a day you haven’t worked in 6 months. Not cleaning the kitchen at 4:30PM on Fridays is grounds for dismissal, so you show up for work on Friday at 4:30PM, clean the kitchen and leave fifteen minutes later.

You’ve cracked the code. This is the new win-win. And the kitchen is clean come Monday morning.

Renting available cubicle real-estate, your former clients now sit amongst you. They use the company bathroom, not the bathroom for company.

Going after work you normally don’t go after, you inevitably run into the same firms, going after work they normally don’t go after. Those that normally went after this work aren’t anywhere to be found.

The receptionist’s candy bowl as economic indicator. Completely empty in March, the bowl is now filled each morning with candy leftover from Halloween. Even so, it empties before noon.

You wonder if eating stale candy means things are improving.

In order to network effectively, you attend afterhours events featuring presentations on quarter sawn lumber, rooftop mounted wind-turbines, and the future of the city. All in the same day.

You no longer know who you are. You find yourself frequently referencing your business card to remind yourself who you are.

You need to order more business cards, but are afraid to ask.

Meanwhile, you find yourself considering whether quarter sawn wind-turbines might save our cities?

Attending webinars in conference rooms. Muted. Phoning-in to RFP Q&As. Disembodied voices.

Owners, recognizing the feeding frenzy, suddenly put out their projects in hopes of attracting the lowest bidder.

Can you be furloughed from a furlough? During your furlough, you’re needed at the office. Then, inexplicably, the client stops calling. You no longer know where you should be.

You find yourself offering weird services for which you know you are not qualified. Building commissioning in foreign countries. 3D laser scanning of entire cities. Quarter-sawing lumber.

People you haven’t spoken to in 20 years suddenly “friend” you online. Eleven seconds later they request an introduction. Wham Bam, Recommend Me Man.

Former colleagues, unemployed, quizzically seem better off than you. You run into one at the gym. They look at you like recession, what recession?

You know you should have taken their job offer.

Former donors to social service organizations are now recipients of their services.

You consider temporarily living away from your spouse, children and dog. You wonder how the dog will handle it.

Not knowing what to do with the accumulated pile of once vital information on living in Dubai.

Former classmates – now semi-famous politicians, actors and actresses – find you on social networking sites. Just at the one time in the past 20 years when you have nothing to brag about, you’re needy, and for all your former success the best you can offer when they suggest meeting for drinks is going Dutch.

You feel like you’re 16 again on Facebook because you are 16 again.

You’re making what you made in 1989 but the world, uncooperatively, costs 2009.

New technologies keep popping up, you wonder – with every passing day hovering ever closer to retirement – whether you’ll need to learn them. Or can take a pass. You wait and see.

The irony that you need to belong to organizations and attend networking events in order to find the kind of job where you make the kind of money to pay for these organizations and networking events.

No longer contributing to your 401K while watching the market climb. Afraid that contributing will trigger something that causes the market to stop climbing.

When your business cards finally run out, is that your last day?

You remind yourself that a watched receptionist’s candy bowl never fills.

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