Posts Tagged ‘ surplused ’

The damn island

The good news is: I survived the plane crash. The bad news is: I am all alone on this island. Of course I am thinking of Tom Hanks in “Cast Away.” But, why? Every year about this time, as everyone I know is getting excited about Christmas, I take the time to review the calendar year that is coming to a close and think about the year that lies just over the horizon.

It has been a good run. I found employment as a field representative, which was absolutely perfect for me, for a time. I loved the globetrotting. I loved actually being helpful to customers. And, there was ample pay to grease the wheels of the constant relocations (about every 30 months, on average). On the one hand, it was a sad day when I was assigned to the company’s central call center because that was the end of a life that I dearly loved. On the other hand, I was overseas when my father died, and I felt I needed to be near my mother. So, for the past five years, I have been spending a lot of time with her – this, a very good thing.

But, for purely political reasons, and not the financial reasons which might be easier to accept, the call center is moving, and I am not moving with it. I do hate this call center job. With a passion. Mostly for all the politics that I am subject to (after nearly 17 years in the field, I was blissfully distant from the petty machinations of the people who were more concerned about their own careers than doing the right thing). It has, however, been a paycheck, which has allowed a life-style that I have grown accustomed to.

Consequently, 29 years with the company are coming to an ignominious end at the first of the year. The good news is that I have not lost my paycheck just before the Holidays.

Back to the movie. At one point, Tom tried to hang himself; I’m certainly not there (I would never give the company the satisfaction of knowing it had destroyed me). At the end of the movie, Tom has lost the girl that kept him alive for the four years he was on the island. But, he’s standing at a crossroads, somewhere in the middle of Texas, with possibilities that extend beyond the horizon. On the island, his future converged and it looked like a hopeless dead end. Having survived his ordeal, he is looking at a future that diverges – unlimited possibilities.

The bad news is: I can’t see beyond the damn island.

True, no one in my work group has yet gotten a lay-off notice; and management keeps up a constant litany of “we will do everything we can to make sure everyone has a job.” If I had any respect at all for management, that would be reassuring. Unfortunately, if I have learned anything in my very long tenure, I have learned not to trust management. They think they walk on water, and don’t realize they’re not wearing any clothes.

I do have enough time with the company to retire; but wasn’t planning on taking that step this soon, so financially I can’t swing it. How much is enough? With a daughter who has returned (can we say “boomerang”?) and is expecting in January, and a wife who is expecting in July; whatever it was I had planned will be about four mouths short.

So, at this festive time of year, I am immediately confronted with the choice between pulling out the stops for Christmas, or hunkering down. My wife and I have tickets to the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s long-standing tradition of “The Nutcracker.” I made this a holiday tradition when I moved to Seattle back in 1985. Why this will be the last performance, I don’t know; but it is another ending. That will be our Christmas present to each other. Our daughter gets baby clothes.

There are some who look at a personal tragedy and say it’s the best thing that ever happened to them. Hard to imagine Tom’s character saying the island experience fell into that category. And, being forced out of a job I hate is not exactly a tragedy; but, what am I to do now? Dunno. I have absolutely no clue in the world.

After the debacle of trying to hang himself, Tom’s character made a life for himself on the island, and he was open to new ideas. He monitored the seasons, and specifically the winds. He was able to envision a sail in part of porta-potty. (Quite a stretch; something to keep in mind.) It has been said that “good luck” is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. For non-believers, “good luck” is all there is.

Christmas is, more than anything, a beginning. A new, radical, unheard of beginning. For some, completely unexpected. Maybe this Christmas for me will not be more eggnog and fruitcake, but something worth getting out of bed for? Gotta keep that possibility in mind.

But first, I’ve got to get off this damn island.

Toilet paper

I have been hearing the roar of the train for some time, at least a year. All indicators were that Boeing was moving its Customer Services out of the Tukwila office buildings that it had occupied since 1990 (my initial interview with the vice-president of field service happened that year – I can remember that meeting in vivid detail): taking “Customer Services” off the sign on the street corner, painting the interior, new carpet thru-out, refurbishing some of the rest rooms – all those things you do to ‘spruce up’ the joint prior to selling it.

The horn has been audible since the first of the year: other groups (Boeing’s Research and Technology having a “voluntary layoff buyout”), the supposed movement of customer services’ work to SoCal (mgt has been crowing about it, but it hasn’t really happened yet), oft told stories of the remodeling of a building in Seal Beach for an obvious Operations Center.

The light is now visible, with the multiple stories in the local news industry of jobs leaving Puget Sound under the guise of “geographic diversification.” The story in the Boeing News Now that the current Operations Center is definitely moving to Southern California, the latest nail in the coffin. My mgt has characteristically not had the moral courage to say anything to my face, let alone put any of this in writing. “Trial by public opinion” certainly fits; but that’s clearly the way they want it. A second level manager talking about his house hunting on a so-called business trip two weeks ago.

It is time to step off the tracks; this new phase of Boeing – a continuation of the movement started when corporate headquarters moved to Chicago, of all places – will continue w/o me. Forced out after 29 years.

I am nothing if not forewarned. Still, this slap in the face with a cold fish is not met with total joy. My own timetable before volunteering to be put out to pasture had me in the game for another five years, at least – maybe ten. I have been part of customer services, or customer support, since 1986 – I am believer. Not only have I felt that I have contributed, I have the personal thanks of customers who appreciate what I have done for them. A real feel good kind of thing. No adulation of thousands, no recognition from management, no dinners or gold watches; just the personal thanks from people I have reached out and touched. So, I will take that with me; the company does not own it, and the company clearly doesn’t care, anyway.

It is wonderfully ironic that the Old Boeing recruited me out of Purdue University and paid all my expenses to relocate my family and me to Puget Sound back in 1985. Now, the New Boeing is saying that if I want to remain employed after 29 years, I have to quit the job I have here, apply for a job in California and pay my own way to get there – for a smaller paycheck than what I have earned here. I love it that I had more value to the company then, than I do now.

But, as Groucho Marx said, “I would never join a club that would have me as a member,” I am quite sure I don’t want to get on that train, I am convinced I don’t want to be a part of the New Boeing. I am trying to look at this premature separation in a positive light.

No longer will I have to “take the ethics challenge” from a company that is famous for its lack of ethics. No longer will I have to apologize for being an employee of a company that takes $9 billion in tax incentives from the state, and then moves thousands of jobs out of state. No longer will I have to try to explain the debacle of the 787, and why Boeing persists with the same business model (calling it now, “geographical diversification”). No longer will I have to suck up to managers whose only purpose in life is sucking up to their managers – one can only wonder if any of the high muckity-mucks have any clothes on at all.

When I joined Boeing in 1985, I could not imagine a more wonderful event in my professional life. Then, Boeing called itself a “family.” Over the years, it stopped calling itself a family and started using “team.” Now, I know what it feels like to be a commodity: toilet paper.

Time to get busy living.