Diary of a Shutdown
I got in the office early to pack up. All my belongings
are moving to a bigger office because of the promotion.
No one is in yet. I take down the pictures from the wall,
my books from the case, my coffee cup collection and it
hits me hard. Soon I'll be taking these things away from
here for good and the place won't exist anymore. I really
don't want to leave. I have put too much of myself into
this. Would I have done it if I knew? Will I ever risk
this level of commitment again?
It's not even 7:00 yet and I have
cried twice already. I don't know what my next job will
be, but this will be a hard act to follow.
In so many meetings, I can hear the underlying
conversation of every conversation. The uneasy dance goes
Manager: "Will you do this task please?
Employee: "Yeah, sure, whatever."
Manager: "I hope you're not mad at me about this or
anything else because I really need this done."
Employee: "I'll say yes right now because I don't have
the energy to argue."
Manager; "Yes, I know, but I really need this done so
please don't lie to me. What leverage do I have?"
Employee: "Well, I might need your recommendation, if I
think you're going anywhere that I might want to
Manager: "You got it, but this is irritating to me
because I used to just tell you what to do and not
Employee: "I don't want to burn this bridge, but for all
I know you'll be gone tomorrow, and even if I don't have
this task done, what can you do except to ask me
Manager: "Yes, I know all this. And I also know that
since I never took the time to connect with you on a
personal level I don't have a leg to stand on. I'm a
little pissed by this, too, because if I had known I
would have been nicer to you."
Employee: "I don't care about this company anymore and I
never did care about you."
Manager:" But I'm not going to waste any time on that now
because for all I know you'll be gone tomorrow."
Employee: "Fine, now we're back where we started."
Manager: "Except for one thing. I can play fast and loose
with the policy and give you notice right now if I want
Employee: "I know, and we're ready. Too much of that fast
and loose stuff and we'll all walk out of here."
Both: "Let's not talk about it anymore. Let's pretend
like we're getting work done."
The company that I'm interviewing with called me back! I
know they're not the only fish, but I'm real glad they
Jeremy from facilities has the unenviable job of
'Furniture Broker'. He takes the incoming 'orders' from
the raiding sites and fills them with the leftovers as
people are leaving. Unfortunately, the raiding sites are
getting impatient with this process and are now requiring
furniture before people actually leave. So Jeremy ends up
swapping old broken furniture with the good stuff that is
currently in use. He tries to mitigate the fallout by
telling us ahead of time. "Elizabeth, I'm just letting
you know. Another site needs these chairs so I'm sending
them out next week. But don't worry, I'm replacing them.
Of course the others aren't very nice and they won't
match, but at least you'll have the same
I feel sorry for Jeremy because he has
apparently had this conversation too many times already.
I don't even ask how the other site could need the
chairs, because they just announced reductions. I guess I
should feel lucky or maybe grateful that I'm even getting
replacement chairs for our conference room. I suddenly
flash forward to the closing and wonder if I'll be doing
business out of an empty office, sitting on the floor,
answering calls from the pay phone
I am dreading talking to the HR rep from the company I am
interviewing with, Sandra, but the conversation is fun
because as I talk about all the places I've worked and
projects I've been involved with, I see how great it's
She asks me after an hour; "So, you
sound so happy and excited. Why would you want to
"My employer announced that we're
shutting this place down and transferring the work to
"Oh, nooo!" sympathetically.
Adam Jones is irritated when I tell him that we need to
call in Dan, who 'retired', to replace Clint Rogers, our
only painter, who is leaving Friday. "I just don't like
this, these guys think they can hold us hostage and they
ask for all kinds of money. I don't like this. He better
not…" and he trails off, shaking his head. This
seems like wasted worry to me until Adam calls me back,
almost triumphantly "See? I told you. He's trying to put
the screws to us. He wants 30$/hr and 27.50$ is my rock
bottom." Adam seems weirdly happy in a vengeful sort of
way but I don't have time to think about it now because
Clint leaves in four days.
I am sitting in my office, looking at
my pictures that I haven't hung up yet and thinking. Ned
Taylor pokes his head in, something he's done only one
other time, and that was twelve years ago on my birthday.
"Got a minute?"
Thinking - Oh no, what's wrong now;
"Sure, for you, take all the time you want."
Leaning forward, lowering his voice conspiratorially,
"Hey, you need a painter?"
"You know I do-" I start to tell him the story, but he
nods to show that he has already heard all about
"I know a guy, Elizabeth, he's good as
can be and right as rain, too. Won't nothin go wrong with
Ray running the show back there. I told him about you and
he'll do the job for 20. I got his number if you want
"I'll take it."
And I do, and I call, and two days later I have a new
painter. Wow. What is going on here?
And to top it all off, he is faster
than the last two guys who had 10-plus years of
Bonjourno, the local Italian
restaurant, has become a favorite for the farewell
events, if we can be allowed a favorite. The food is
typically served decorated with little red paper flags on
wooden toothpicks. The engineering department has been
saving these from each lunch and sticking them into the
partition along the border hallway to the department. It
looks like a little battlefield or a miniature graveyard,
all those bloody flags frozen in a waving
I answer questions on the phone for an interview, with
the firm I might be interested in. I had all my material
prepared but I refuse to practice for interviews anymore.
I have a list of '50 Most Often Asked Questions' but when
I look at them I can't stay focused because I'm reading
the answers that I wrote the last time and it all looks
like it was written by another person.
I ask about the environment and they
use phrases like 'self-starters' and 'sink or swim',
which I know are code words for 'dog eat dog'. I'm tired
of being on the menu.
There are so few of us on site that the toilet lids are
still up and the water is still blue at 1:00 in the
afternoon. Someone will figure this out soon and cancel
the janitorial service and then we'll be at the other
I arrive on schedule for my interview at 12:30 and wait
until 2:00 for the first interview. Things go downhill
from there. The consultants are detached, clinical, burnt
out and clearly have not read my resume or even given
thought to any generic interview questions. No one asks
about my family, my interests, my wants, dreams, desires.
Not even my calling. I am disappointed and I resolve
never to hire them much less work for them.
One of the consultants described
'Hotelling' to me. They no longer have any assigned
office space. When they know that they will be in, they
call a central number and make a reservation. Then, when
they arrive on the designated day, they look in a general
area of cubicles until they find the one with their
nameplate on it. Through the reservation system, their
file cabinet has been rolled over to the cube and there
is also a phone waiting. I realize that 'Hotelling' is
more than office space, it is also the way that they run
these interviews and the way they work with the clients.
Call ahead. Fly in. Shut down a plant. Fly out. No
attachments. It seems safe to me but it also seems
Jill calls and I can't believe it - our new painter
failed his drug test. I ask about the possibility of a
retake and HR gets huffy: "We don't do that for our own
people, why should we do it for him?"
Gee, I don't know, maybe because WE
LAID-OFF EVERYONE ELSE, YOU MORON!