Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fake It 'Til Ya Make It

“Paul!  Whatcha doin’ home taday?”  He’s puttering around his house as I cut down Hume Avenue.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen him in jeans and a t-shirt.  “Are ya on vacation or somethin’?”

“Oh, hey Luke.”  He makes his way to the edge of the yard.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen him with stubble before.  Just assumed Paul had a baby face.  “What’s goin’ on?”

“Not much.  Just runnin’ some errands.”  I hold up a grocery bag full of random junk.  “Got da day off?”

“Yeah.  Was laid off last week.  So, have lotsa days off now.”  Paul follows this with embarrassed laughter.

“Ugh…  Sorry ta hear that, man.”  He looks at the grass and kicks a stone toward the street.  “Are ya doin’ awright?  Need anythin’?”

“I’m good fer now.  I have a bit of money saved up ta get me through a coupla months.  Whadda ‘bout you?  How’s everythin’ goin’?”

“’Bout da same.  Still no steady work.  Still livin’ at my granpa’s.  Still stuck in-between things.  But, doin’ fine.”  I set the grocery bag down since it seems I’ll be here a while.  “Still seein’ Jonathan?”

“Oh yeah,” he cracks a half-smile.  “Things are goin’ well with us.  Been really supportive ‘nd fun.  Jon’s in Pittsburgh fer work this week though.”

“Good.  I like him.”  The conversation lulls to a stop as Paul seems preoccupied with concern.  “Did they give ya a reason fer bein’ laid off?”

“Some bullshit ‘bout havin’ ta cut costs even though we made record profits ‘nd senior management got huge pay increases ‘nd bonuses!  I increased net revenue fer my programs by nearly 60% in three years ‘nd still got cut.”

“That sucks.  Been there myself though.”  I remove tortilla chips from the bag and offer to share.  “Were ya da only one cut or were there others?”

“A few of us got da ax.”

“Did they give ya a reason fer their choices?”

“Not really.  Gave us da usual line ‘bout how they valued our loyalty ‘nd that our hard work made a huge impact on da organization ‘nd yada, yada, yada.  I hosted dinner fer those of us laid off ‘nd we thought their decisions were strange.”

“’Strange’, how so?”  I could eat bags of tortilla chips forever.

“It may be just sour grapes, but it’s odd who they kept ‘nd who they released.  Fer da most part, those laid off were da most experienced, hardest workin’, self-motivated, ‘nd responsible.  I mean, one of my co-workers was there 17-years, took home lotsa work on nights ‘nd weekends, ‘nd loved what she did.  These were da types of people now strugglin’ ta file fer unemployment ‘nd fill out job applications.”

“I’m sure they have a rational explanation.”

“Yer probably right.  But, I’d like ta know why they kept who they did.”

“Bet that was a hot topic at dinner.  Who’d they keep?”

“Again, might be sour grapes.  But, most of them are useless.  They show up late, leave early, ‘nd take extra long lunches.  Most of ‘em don’t know how ta use da database, which is used fer almost every aspect of our jobs.  ‘Bout all they were good at was callin’ attention ta themselves.  Pretendin’ they’re celebrities walkin’ down da red carpet in fancy outfits with da rest of us as adorin’ fans.  That ‘nd kissin’ ass ‘nd ‘yes men’ ta every stupid idea.  I guess ya gotta do somethin’ when ya have da worst sales ‘nd production numbers.”

“Do ya really think it’s ‘sour grapes’?”

“Really?”  Paul’s too thoughtful and knows himself too well to be envious.  “If we just started ta feel this way ‘bout these people after da layoff, I might say ‘yeah, probably.’  But, I think our feelins are valid.  But, I think da world’s changin’ too.  Organizations no longer appreciate good skills, efficiency, ‘nd competence.  It’s all ‘bout appearances now.  Even a fake appearance of success is better than true good results.”

“If that’s true, I’m really in trouble.  Do ya really believe that?”

“Well, I use ta believe in da whole Puritan work ethic and all.  But, like everythin’ else, that seems ta be obsolete.  I guess I gotta get an Armani suit ta deceive everyone.  Ya know, da whole fake it ‘til ya make it nonsense.”

“Ha!  I guess a fake economy requires phony people ta run it, right?”  How can I be out of chips already?  “Got anythin’ lined up fer a job?”

“Nothin’ much.  A friend of mine said I could help him sell phone accessories part-time ‘til I find somethin’ better.  I’m hoping ta get somethin’ before my mortgage ‘nd student loans are due.  Hate ta put that on da credit card.”

“I’ll keep my eyes peeled fer ya.  Are ya busy now?  Wanna hang out or somethin’?”

“Nah.  Got no money.  Plus, I should finish up some stuff ‘round da house.  But, come over this weekend ‘nd we can watch da game.”  We wrap up our conversation.  Paul zig-zags aimlessly on his lawn.  For my friends and family, losing a job is the first step toward moving away. 

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