Freedom, Sweet Freedom (Sort of)

I was fired yesterday.

Here’s how it went down: I arrived at work at 7:15, as usual. I start(ed) at 7:30 officially, but usually arrived early. Usually, one of the developers, I’ll call him H, was there early as well and we usually chatted.

H is one of the notably successful employees at the T. company. He is well-liked and does a good job. He’s young and understands all of the hipness flowing through the Slack channels. He’s a go-to person for lots of things. He embodies the company spirit: helpful, friendly, talented. Truth be told, though I liked him (and how could one not?), I always suspected that he had been assigned to observe and report on me.

After our morning chat (we touched on HQ trivia, Bitcoin, the weather, a colleague who gets by on little sleep, the fact that there are no holidays coming up for awhile, and other things) we sat down at our respective desks, and began working.

At nine or so, other folks started trickling in and there was a lot of grunting of “good morning,” hanging up of coats, and settling in.

I should mention it’s one big room, with no dividers of any kind; just desks side-by-side in rows. Start-up style.

My boss came in. He did or didn’t say anything. Probably, he didn’t. I didn’t notice. I face away from him and I was hard at work. But after awhile, he was walking toward me and he said, with no kindness in his voice, “[my name], can you come with me?” This could have been a brief discussion of one thing or another, but he walked past the small conference rooms where that would have happened and instead led me to the office manager’s office. She was there, standing, looking grim. “Sit down,” he commanded. I sat.

“We’re terminating your employment, effective immediately. It’s due to your performance. You didn’t make enough progress on the C project,” he said. My heart started pounding and my head was stuffed with cotton. I even want to say that a rushing sound filled my ears. Maybe it did. “I understand,” I said. I fumbled through a few questions. Is there any severance pay? No. Did he want me to go through unfinished work with him? “That’s ok,” he declined, pitying. He said I could go get my stuff, and stayed behind as I stumbled off. My main concern at that point was to get the hell out of there as fast as possible, without falling or shrieking or having some type of awkward mishap.

The thing is, I knew. I had actually packed a few empty plastic bags the day before in case I had to pack up my stuff. No one looked up as I opened my desk drawers and stacked my boxes of tea, my cheap-ass 5ive Below mouse with no batteries, my other miscellaneous junk on the desk. I packed everything into the bags, aware that as I trudged out with my tote bag, handbag, and two plastic sacks filled with crap, I would look exactly like a vagrant being kicked off the premises.

The studious quiet of my nearby ex-coworkers indicated that, even if they hadn’t known beforehand, they knew now. I removed the building-access keyfob from my keychain and said in a low voice to L, who sat closest, “I’m leaving this here” as I placed it on the desk. Forgot to remove the desk key from my keychain. Oh well.

And then I drove home.

Part of me thought, “Hallelujah, I never have to make this stinking commute again.” Another part thought, “WTF?? I’m unemployed? How can that be?” This train of thought led to visions failure to pay bills and mortgage, homelessness, hunger, poverty, and shame. I tried hard instead to convince myself that I’d get a job soon (I have no reason not to take contract positions now!) and all would be well. It would all work out!

Looking back, I have to wonder if I got myself fired on purpose. It was Wednesday that I got fired, and on Monday I had held a meeting with the CEO and a few other people in which essentially I deliberately and blatantly said, “I’m incompetent, I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m too stupid and naiive even to try to hide it.” I assume that after that meeting, the CEO made the determination to axe me. I was allowed to work on Tuesday as they got he W4 forms ready, and was fired as soon as things were in place on Wednesday.

I hated the commute, as I have mentioned. I also never felt that I fit in; I felt like a zoo animal that unaccountably had some skills and whom they had hired as an experiment. People there talked to me, because that’s what they do, yet there always seemed to be a tentative, curious air to their demeanor.

Anyone paying attention would have noted the following:

  • Though I only came in late one time, and in fact all the other times came in early, I began arriving later and later as the days went by.
  • My appearance started to deteriorate; I gained weight, my clothes were sloppy, and I looked entirely unprofessional. It’s a casual office. You can wear what you want. But some people look good and I looked like I wasn’t trying.
  • I started eating more and more. I would work at my desk while munching bags of snacks. It’s OK to eat at your desk. Yet eating more and gaining weight often, often means that someone is unhappy. And it means, the work wasn’t enough to keep me content. I needed extra to palliate myself.
  • I stopped having any sparkle. I was resigned. I lost hope that I’d be able to make a difference. That’s not to say that I didn’t do my work; I absolutely did. But they wanted my spirit, and I didn’t give it to them.
  • I didn’t go out to lunch with them. Well, I couldn’t make myself! The restaurants in the area are overpriced and mediocre! Plus I normally only took a half-hour lunch so that I could leave before the rush-hour traffic. I genuinely didn’t feel I could afford to eat out at the places they frequent more than once in awhile. And, the vegan food choices are pretty minimal. But they all go out almost every day. How they afford it, how they stand it, I don’t know.
  • Leaving punctually at the end of each day itself was a major offence. People do not watch the clock or rush out at a given time there. The ironic thing is, frequently I was very engaged in my work and would happily have stayed longer if it hadn’t meant my commute would be doubled. I never worked at home, either, again not because I was opposed to the idea but rather because, after the harrowing drive home, I was exhausted.

I frequently fantasized about not working there, and not having to drive there, and not having to worry about the C project. I couldn’t bring myself to quit, and probably that’s a good thing because you can’t get unemployment if you quit. So I made them fire me.

I only hope it doesn’t keep me from getting a job. I’m determined to do better next time, in terms of not talking myself into taking something that’s not right for me. On the other hand, now I have less freedom to be picky. Oy!

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