Next week they’re laying off at least 55 people at my workplace, maybe as many as 97. The news was announced a couple weeks ago and since then morale has been as high as the stock market. There are rumors and speculation over who will get axed, but mostly there is gallows humor and the unanswered question, “If I get fired, do I still get to go to the Christmas party?”
I’ve heard that at least one person in my department of nine people will probably be let go, maybe more. If it’s me, I hope I don’t cry, or that I can at least hold my tears until I reach the parking garage and can blow mucus into the napkins I store in my car to clean up messes like these. If it’s one of my coworkers, it will be strange and awkward and sad and I won’t know what to say or what to feel. Everyone here does their job well. There is just not enough money to pay everyone.
I read the news on my computer monitor and I know I am not alone. Citigroup is laying people off. The car industry is in trouble. Unemployment is at an unexpected high. I think of Rod who used to be a janitor, but is now a homeless tour guide. I know it will get worse before it gets better and that a new president cannot wave a magic wand and give us all unicorns to ride to work. At least not by February.
The last time there was a major stock market crash it was Black Monday, 1987 a week after my parents put their house on the market. I was just a kid then and it was not my responsibility to pay rent every month and buy food for me and two kitties. This is the first time I’ve lived through a recession where I am the one responsible for my own survival. I don’t think I have accepted how bad it will be yet. I am still living the same life I’ve always led, though I have put off buying a new TV until my old one breaks. When the massacre occurs at work a week from Wednesday and I see one of my friends, or perhaps myself, packing up personal belongings, I think it will start to sink in.
I know I will survive. I have plenty of family, most of whom I am on speaking terms with. We will support each other and prevent one another from living in the gutter and giving tours of Indianapolis. During the Great Depression my great-grandmother sold cinnamon rolls to make money and we still have the recipe. We will get by. But the future is uncertain. Perhaps the future has always been uncertain, but it’s only now that it has taken off its mask to let us stare it in the face.