You load sixteen tons, what do you get…

…Another day older and deeper in debt.

A few years ago, Mat Honan wrote a piece for Gizmodo called Generation X is Sick of Your Bullshit.  Outwardly, we Gen Xers read the article and responded with a nod and “mmhmm.”  Inwardly, most of us were jumping up and down, screaming “Can I get an Amen, brotha man?”  We are sick of your bullshit.  But we have always been sick of your bullshit.  And who is the “you?”  Everyone else who isn’t us.  We are legion.  We are misanthrope.  You are welcome to kiss our asses, get the fuck out or die in a fire.  Your choice.  I don’t care.  Really.  I just don’t care.  Just do it, do it now and preferably without much noise because I have fucking work to do and my stress level is way too fucking high because, thanks to you corporate, soulless baby boomers – pensions are no longer an option.  You may suck my non-existent dick for that.  I love not having financial security.  Really.  Sincerely.  I love not being able to sleep at night knowing that my entire future rides on the backs of people in a largely unregulated industry where malfeasance goes unpunished.  I love that this crushing pressure has reduced me to a rambling idiot who should be locked away in a padded cell for the protection of all mankind.  Thanks for the solid, bitches.

For some time now, we have been hearing about “change” at my current sandbox.  No one knew how this change would manifest itself.  We had our own conspiracy theories but there was no valid inkling as to what lies ahead for us.  Our organization is a shape shifter so most of us ignore the whole “change” warning and continue banging away at our keyboards until we’re told to come to a meeting and meet our new boss.  Then we go back to banging away at our keyboards.  One of my former bosses said during one of these re-orgs that he had been with the company X amount of years and had seven different managers.  I interpreted that message as “Don’t fret about job security.  This is simply our corporate culture.” and I resumed banging away at my keyboard like 100 monkeys on typewriters.

The “change” messages picked up steam shortly after the New Year and there was a different tone to them.  A sense of urgency, maybe?  I couldn’t put my apathetic finger on it but, instinctively, I didn’t like what I was hearing.  I certainly didn’t like what I was feeling in my gut.  Then I started losing some sleep.

Last weekend, I was at lunch with my father.  My father, being of the Silent Generation, understands what it’s like to be overlooked or fucked over on a consistent basis.  He also has keen insight into what I do since he was a supply chain wonk for many years, as well (my following in my father’s swag sneaker footprints was entirely coincidental).  My father appreciates the misery of going to a production meeting, having zero inventory of a necessary part and knowing the line is going to stop because you’re the purchasing manager and you’re responsible for everything – even if you cannot control everything.  He also taught me my most treasured retort in my entire career:  “What do you want me to do?  Eat iron and shit parts?”  Trust me on this one – when you’re the only female manager in the entire ops division and you say that in a production meeting – you turn some fucking heads.

So, Daddy asks “Are you worried about what’s coming?”  I thought for a minute and said “Yes and no?  I’m sort of Zen about the whole thing.  After all, I’m a Gen Xer.  Yes.  I’m terrified I could be made redundant or be laid off for no reason because I’m the primary bread winner and that would mean the family ends up homeless.  Yet, I’m not worried because I have dealt with this level of bullshit my entire career.”  And Gen Xers have.

Back in the glorious, money grabbing 90s, if you worked in RTP and you didn’t like your job or your comp & ben packet, you could walk across the street, announce your presence and say “I would like to work here, make $xx,xxx or $xxx,xxx and have y-amount of paid time off” and you would likely get a job.  Maybe you would luck into some stock options.  You would also have a cafeteria plan for health insurance.  My first job in RTP had a dry cleaning service that came to our floor to pick up and drop off our laundry.  Life was good.  Then the dotcom bubble burst and life was unpleasant.  First the cafeteria plans went away.  Then the value of shares went in the toilet.  Then the email came:  Go to Glittery Pines Conference Room on Wednesday at 3 pm for a mandatory meeting.  Note:  mandatory meetings on Wednesdays means someone is losing his/her job.  Most payrolls close on Wednesdays (or did? I try to avoid the trolls in accounting as they make my life hell with credit holds).

I sat in Glittery Pines Conference Room across from the VP of our department and listened to him go through this rigmarole about how we need to streamline our offerings to better service our internal customers.  Everyone’s eyes widened.  None of us knew what the fuck he was talking about because, again, this was the glorious, money grabbing 90s.  The VP tells us that some people will be losing their jobs.  I remember talking back to him but I don’t remember what I said.  I was in my 20s.  Being in your 20s and being marginally good (ok…in this instance, toot my own horn – really fucking good at what you do) is a potentially lethal combination because…hubris.  I was lucky.  Not only was I not made redundant – I didn’t lose my job for being a blistering asshole in front of a group of people.  My take away from that experience was – time to GTFO and find another job.  I’m not going to deal with this level of insecurity on a daily basis.  So, months later, I was the purchasing manager at a different company.  Stupid, stupid, stupid octopus.

Y2K arrives.  We’re all still spending money like the bubble hadn’t burst.  I’m at the new job.  It’s been a few months and while it wasn’t overly challenging, I was having a rip-roaring good time playing practical jokes on my coworkers.  In between turning offices upside down, developing a procure-to-pay process for the organization and saving some serious cabbage, I noticed another peculiar vibe developing.  Board members started coming in for more frequent meetings.  No one leaned on me to be extra aggressive with cost cutting but I wasn’t making any capital acquisitions, either.  People started huddling and whispering.  I cornered my boss and said “Are we in trouble?  Do I need to send out my CV?”  He said he couldn’t tell me anything.  It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize that if an organization’s funding is drying up, the first one out the door is going to be the person who spends the money.  Fortunately, on my way out, one of the board members asked for my resume which is how I ended up on the administrative side of healthcare.

In the course of 12 months, I had been exposed to “right-sizing” and “fuck you!  The doors are locked.”  Fourteen years later, not much has changed, unfortunately.  If anything, the climate has become much, much worse for the worker bee.  Gone are the 50 hour work weeks.  Here are the 55 to 60 hour work weeks and if you happen to have a job, you’re happy to be working those ridiculous hours.  If you’re lucky, you may be able to wrangle a merit increase of 3%.  If you’re really lucky, your organization offers an incentive plan that will provide some sort of reasonable bonus (call me ungrateful but anything under four digits to the left of the decimal point…meh).  You may have a reasonable allocation of paid time off but the likelihood that your workload will allow you to use all of it is not very promising.  Last year, I was so burned out from the previous year, I scheduled shoulder surgery to get some much needed rest.  And I have it good.  Really good.

How good do I have it?  Well, let’s take a look – my job is my dream job.  Years ago, when I was working as a civil servant for a large academic medical center, one of my colleagues knocked on my door and was received by resting-bitch-face-Kang.  I was doing an analysis of a particular vendor’s book of business at our hospital and she said something along the lines of “How do you do that and not go crazy?”  What???  Back then, it was hard for me to determine which provided me with more pleasure:  redlining proposals and pretending I was some sort of legal mastermind or sitting down with thousands of lines of data and trying to figure out where the markup was buried.  Both were favored by me because they afforded me the luxury of not having to interact with people directly.  I could ensconce myself in my office, among all the plants that I grew (including the Venus Flytrap which was there as a message to all vendors – piss me off and I will feed you, bit by bit, to my little pet), stream Swedish radio and just do my fucking work without having to smile, make small talk, deal with office politics or be remotely pleasant if I didn’t feel like being remotely pleasant that day.  I do remember responding to my coworker “No – this is my dream job.  It’s procurement without the bullshit.”

And somehow – a cross between years of really hard work and good timing landed me where I am today:  working from home, playing with spreadsheets, learning all sorts of really neat clinical stuff and not having to worry about who mistakes painful shyness for snobbery.  And yes, I really mean it.  I LOVE my job.  I believe in what it is that I do.  Between the academic medical center and shape shifting corporation, I tried life in a different business and it was awful.  I didn’t feel as if I was making any contribution to the world at all.  In healthcare, in my own little way, I get to make things better.  And – given my Marxist tendencies, extreme disdain for Free Market Capitalism in healthcare, I get to poke little holes in the system each day with every silly little scenario I devise.  One cost saving measure at a time, I’m sticking it to profiteering corporations.  And maybe, just maybe, there’s one less family out on the street because they didn’t lose their home to offset an astronomical medical bill.  Or maybe, just maybe, there’s someone whose life is slightly better because all of these community based, not-for-profit and non-profit hospitals are finally able to sit at the table with the big business bullies and hold their own during negotiations?  Or, maybe I’m delusional (likely a little bit of each)?

Which brings me back to the whole Gen X is sick of your bullshit, I’m Zen about the whole re-org bit yet I’m hyperventilating and sobbing at the same time.  Yesterday was an exercise in epic trolling.  Two meetings.  Both mandatory.  Both involving participation from human resources (people I consider to be just as low as garden variety bill collectors, repo men or Ferguson police officers).  When the words: mandatory and human resources appear in the same meeting invitation, nothing good can come of it.  Nothing.  Before I know it, I’m in tears and texting my mommy “I’m sc-sc-scarrrrrrred” which I genuinely was because, again, I love my job, I know I have it good and I know without this job my family is fucked.  In this instance, Shape Shifters, LLC did what it typically does and pleasantly surprises most of us.  Just like it did the last time this happened when I was given the opportunity to demote myself so I could stay in town and raise my child (something I had wanted) without losing any pay.

Unfortunately, not everyone works for a Shape Shifters, LLC.  Unfortunately, not everyone who wants to work is working.  And no, conservatards, they’re not sitting at home doing nothing with an Escalade parked outside while they collect welfare from your precious tax dollars.  I’m sorry if that offends your delicate sensibilities.  Your mere existence offends mine.

We’re at a weird time and place when people are no longer a valued asset to most organizations.  We’re human capital.  While we have long been viewed as parts of the machinery, it’s now perfectly acceptable to treat us as such instead of as people.  Those of us who have jobs are fairly afraid to speak out about anything that seems unfair because the alternative is pretty harsh (no job at all).  The employed have gone from doing the job of 1.5 people to that of 2 or 3 and the merit increases shrink year over year.  Don’t even get me started on comp & ben packets, either.  What I saw and experienced with Canuckian Telecom was beyond the pale and really showed me that humanity, as a whole, is very disappointing – as in…just lob a giant meteor at the Earth and get it over with disappointing.

By the end of the day, yesterday, I couldn’t speak.  The toll from the emotional roller coaster ride was just too much for me.  I wanted to speak.  There were people I wanted to talk to.  I had things I wanted to do.  I was just too damn worn out from worrying myself (physically) sick.  So, maybe Gen X cares a little bit about something after all?  And maybe there will come a day when Gen X isn’t hovering over a garbage can with a case of the dry heaves in their office, waiting for that fucking mandatory meeting.  And maybe there will come a day when a human being returns to being recognized as such.  In the interim, the fuck if I know what to do other than hope that I have the same job this time next year and that my 401k statement isn’t a photocopied picture of someone’s middle finger.

2 thoughts on “You load sixteen tons, what do you get…

English, motherfucker, do you speak it? J/K - it's ok if you don't.

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