Editor’s Note: The following humor piece by Lisa Higgins is part of our collection of “classics”–technical writing articles that stand the test of time no matter how many technologies come and go. Originally published in 2001, it has a rather spooky déjà vu quality about it. See if you don’t agree….
Layoffs: The Unemployment Fairy is Paying Me Back for Years and Years of Karma
Okay, so remember that whole living on the edge thing I was talking about in my last column? Well, I’m going with that. I went and got laid off, thereby facilitating yet another full-blown midlife crisis. And the fates are with me on this one. See, as the signs of an impending layoff became increasingly difficult to ignore, I was in the middle of refinancing my house. So, clever hen that I am, I tacked a little extra money onto my loan for, oh, say, home improvement or something. You know, like, improving the house.
Since then, I’ve been getting magical checks in the mail from the unemployment fairy, too! Stuff like escrow I’d forgotten about on my old mortgage, weird little freelance jobs I’d forgotten I’d billed, stuff like that. Call it bad bookkeeping if you will, but I prefer to call it Fate.
See, I liked that job. I was pretty jazzed. It was challenging and fun, and I was pretty darned bummed that the company wasn’t doing well. I was working with people I know and like, and I was doing something I’d been wanting to do full-time for a long time. I’d been sort of feeling around the edges of technical writing for many years, sort of trying to dig myself out and into something else. And in the past year or two, I switched full-time from technical writing to marketing writing to business analysis and information architecture and development, and then I got laid off and the market withered right up. (Try searching job databases for “Information Architect.” Ha ha.) Which leaves me in the common conundrum of not knowing what I want to do when I grow up.
So I’ve been sitting around for a while, doing a teeny leetle bit of freelance work, and schlepping around the house. I’ve been making quilts, building furniture, painting rooms, just knocking around, and I’ve been training my dog, Sluggo, to do therapy work. He’s a very gentle, very charismatic dog who loves everyone and everything, except for sprinklers and flying insects, and he cheers people up. We ran into a very surly looking teenaged boy in a Pantera shirt** this afternoon, sitting on the curb, smoking a cigarette and scowling. He said “Hi” to Sluggo and I told Sluggo he could go say “Hi” to him, too, so Sluggo went up and gave him Hollywood kisses, licking the air next to his face, and the boy giggled and cuddled him and talked to him in a high-pitched cutesy little voice for a good five minutes. So I’m thinking it would just be downright wrong not to bring this dog around to lonely people in hospitals and nursing homes and stuff to cheer them up, too.
And it occurred to me that maybe I don’t really want a job where I have to travel and work all the time. I can’t be hanging out with my dog and my own surly teenager and making curtains and tables if I have to fly out to client sites every month, or if I come home after ten hours at work only to hole up in my office to finish the project I neglected during the day. Sure, the work is fun, but you know, I just got a huge bag of 27″ samples of barkcloth from a thrift store, so I have enough to make a king-size quilt top plus two throw pillows. And some weird industrial-sized roll of sheer curtain fabric so I can finally cover up the floor-to-ceiling window that allows door-to-door proselytizers and salesmen to look right into my living room and wave “Hi.” And I guess I’m just having another midlife crisis right now, spurred by the recent downturn in the economy. (I figure if I have, say, two minor midlife crises a year, I’m probably avoiding one serious apocalyptic midlife crisis that would leave the world as we know it a smoking ruin.)
And yeah, technical writing doesn’t sound so bad after all. Yes, it can get really boring, but somehow, carpentry and quilting are more important to me right now than updating some recalcitrant client’s Web site or ensuring that some startup telco company isn’t using outdated buzzwords in its collateral.
See, it’s been a really long time–like twenty years, almost–since I’ve taken enough time off work to actually do anything other than sit around and recover. The last time I actually took a week-long vacation, I took it specifically to restrain myself from ripping out a coworker’s carotid artery with my teeth. And, of course, said coworker called me at home several times during that “vacation.”
So, I guess I’m sort of starting to believe that the unemployment fairy is paying me back for years and years of karma. Yeah, I need to start looking around for maybe some contract work to do for a while, but did you know that, when you refinance your house after a certain percentage of it is paid off, you can forgo the private mortgage insurance, and get a refund of your relatively hefty escrow on our account? Neither did I! Woo Hoo!