Posted by: mesabimisadventures | June 8, 2009

“Unemployment is capitalism’s way of getting you to plant a garden.” – Orson Scott Card

From “The Simpsons” episode The PTA Disbands

Lisa: I can’t take this anymore! Please, mom! Grade me! Grade me!
(Marge writes an A on a paper and gives it to Lisa)
Lisa: Thanks, Mom.

That’s me. 

I’m Lisa Simpson, except with red hair and jeans.  Until the last few years, the focus of my life has been my career.  I love learning and am your classic geek.  While other girls were playing dress-up with their Barbies, I was lining my stuffed animals up and playing teacher to them.

I would ask my parents to buy me workbooks for summer vacations.  If I started wondering about something, I would actually go look it up in the Encyclopedia.  I was that horribly obnoxious, super competitive kid who was hell-bent on destroying her classmates’ chances of praise from the teacher.

<Hangs head in shame>

I’m not kidding.

School was my release.  To say I grew up in a tension-filled home is a gross understatement.  Nothing made me happier than seeing the school bus heading down the North Road in the morning, grabbing my backpack and getting the hell outta’ Dodge.  At school, I was praised.  I was given positive attention.  I excelled.

And it felt wonderful.

Like any substance that releases dopamine, I was addicted to receiving awards, earning A’s, battling my way to the top.

Fortunately, I’ve let go of some of my expectations along the way (I’d like to thank the C that I received in Calculus II my Freshman year of college for that).

But the question “what do you do for a living?” is still one that gets my blood rushing in a happy way.

Until now.

Today is my first day of layoff.  First day of 35. 

Today, even if I could, I can’t. 

I can’t go sit at my desk.  I can’t contribute.  I can’t write a report or work on a project or earn a “atta girl.”

I’ve been told to stay home.

I know that I bring value to the world in other ways.  But.

What if my head’s on a chopping block and I don’t know it? 

This is the first job I’ve had where I felt like I had absolutely zero control over my future there and it’s terrifying.  Someone in some corner office in another state will determine my fate. 

I’ve heard stories about the way LTV shut its doors.  I’ve been there and seen the pop cans still half full sitting on desks that are still covered in papers and clipboards with the cartoons scotch-taped to the walls and the feeling that the world just ended in a “wisp.” 

Although all of the mines up here are optimistic, I always keep those scenes in my mind and I think about all of the people who were simply told one day to not bother coming back the next.  I think about all that they created.  The pride in their work.  Their identity connected to their role at that facility.  Most of those people had been there longer than I have been alive. 

And one day it was all over.

“This is the way the world ends.  Not with a bang but a whimper.” – T.S. Eliot



  1. A corollary to your quote: a recession is the rich company bosses’ way to get people to say, “Well, at least I have a job.” …even if it the pay is horse-shit and there are no benefits. A recession is a good way to get people to not unionize. I’m really sick of hearing people say, “Well, at least he has a job.” My kids are barely making ends meet and each job pays worse than the previous one. And one of those jobs was a private company with a billionaire owner.

    • Sadly I’ve been hearing that a lot lately 😦 Heck, I’ve said it myself many times either about my job or friends’ jobs. I think it also turns people against each other at work because everyone’s focused on protecting their own butts. Thanks again for reading!

  2. Julie — many excellent observations. I LOVE the detail about the pop cans. Boy, you sure nailed the thing about people at work turning against each other. Hard times hit where I work and it reverted to Lord of the Flies FAST.

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