Tuesday, November 11, 2008

close to home

ex-employee: you know, i'm just old enough to be flattered by the term, 'early retirement.'
employer: that's wonderful...what a lovely line. now, if there's anything i can do for you...
ex-employee: well, i certainly hope you'll die soon.

mrs. spaceneedl works for a global technology company.

they make all kinds of products, from well-known consumery stuff to completely obscure, opaque medical stuff.

the missus is the smart one in the family; she works on the medical stuff. and because she's the smart one in the family, she also brings home the big money.

i'm an evolved male, so i have no problem with that.

the problem, in this scenario, is that her company is laying people off.

they're killing projects and kicking people to the curb. the layoffs are arbitrary and unrelated to length of service or past performance. if you were one of the unfortunates to be working on a defunded project, you were also on the list for involuntary cessation.

here's the kicker: mrs. spaceneedl's project was one of the ones that was cancelled. miraculously she still has a job.

apparently she was on the list of future former employees, but her boss saved her. she almost literally had one foot in the unemployment line. now she faces the anguished task of telling 15 people they're out of a job.

on the one hand, we feel very fortunate. on the other, we feel very unstable. we're a two-income family, and are not set up to sustain a one-income scenario. particularly at a time when the phrase "the steepest economic decline in decades" has entered the vernacular, the stock market is crashing, and the jobless rate has hit 6.5%.

this time last year we went to the little needls' school auction and spent a bunch of money. we rationalized it because it was for a good cause. this year we're not going. still a good cause. just not a good time to spend money we're not sure we'll be able to replace.

big picture-wise, this is how a tenuous situation turns ugly. consumers stop spending, producers stop manufacturing, borrowers stop borrowing, banks stop lending. suddenly a recession turns depressing.

perhaps this level of angst is unnecessary. maybe we're overreacting, and maybe we'll look back and laugh whilst sipping expensive champagne.

that'd be nice.

for now, we're just thankful to have a fridge that one day might chill some celebratory bubbly.

in the meantime, we'll wait. and watch. and hope.

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