If I was a drinking man, this might have been me in 2016:
Sitting on this barstool, talking like a damn fool
Got the twelve o’clock news blues
And I’ve given up hope for the afternoon soaps
And a bottle of cold brew
Is it any wonder I’m not crazy? Is it any wonder I’m sane at all?
-“Too Much Time on My Hands”, Styx
It is a pretty low stunt, really. Rarely, is it good news when the Vice Presidents of Human Resources and Manufacturing make an unannounced entrance into a management staff meeting. So, in January 2015, when two Bose Executive VP’s who should have been 1000 miles away strolled into the meeting room, it definitely was not good news for the 300 people left at the Bose Columbia manufacturing plant and distribution center.
I believe the collective words from me and the rest of our plant’s staff management team gathered at an offsite planning meeting are not fit to print here. “Aw, shucks” might combine a few of the words, though, while almost conveying our sentiment.
Moments later, the team and I learned of the corporate plan to shut down our facility by November 2015, laying off us and the rest of the Columbia employees while our jobs crossed the border. On the bright side, at least the company provided generous severance packages.
As a reader of my blog, perhaps you know Shawshank Redemption is my favorite movie. You probably also know the main story line of Shawshank is Andy Dufresne’s 20 year long incarceration and his escape. On November 5th, the last day of Bose Columbia, I changed my Facebook profile picture to the image of a triumphant Andy raising his hands in the rain. Andy had just tunneled out of Shawshank prison, crawling through 500 yards of sewer to escape.
That day last November, I felt much like Andy. Sure, our shutdown took less than a year and there was no sewage involved (well, maybe figuratively), but it was an awful year, watching the place die like that and friends’ lives thrown into turmoil. I was finally free of that ordeal, though, and ready to move on to the next chapter in my career.
I had what I thought was a solid line on a good job working from home that would start in December or early January. So, I didn’t worry about finding employment and enjoyed a break while I wrote the first draft of my first fiction novel. Life was pretty good.
Nothing ever goes as planned, its a hell of a notion
– “Nothing Ever Goes As Planned”, Styx
Well, for reasons still unclear to me, the sure thing didn’t work out. Turns out, this was quite an omen. For seven more months, I applied for jobs, occasionally actually having an interview, but never cracking the code.
Turns out, maybe Red is the character in Shawshank I should have emulated. You may recall, Red, played by Morgan Freeman, is Andy’s best friend at Shawshank prison. In the movie, Red comes up for parole several times.
In the first two hearings, he tells the parole board what he thinks they want to hear when they ask him the question “Do you feel you’ve been rehabilitated?” He answers yes, and tries to make it sound like he’s learned his lesson. Each of these times, the Parole Board rejects Red’s parole.
As I interviewed for new jobs, I started to feel like Red. Even when I felt like I’d answered interview questions OK, I kept receiving a rejection notices – at least from some. Many of the places I applied to and even interviewed with never bothered to give me an official answer.
Finally, in his third parole hearing, Red decides he’s had it with the process and basically tells the board he’s sorry for the past but doesn’t care what they do with about his parole. Strangely enough, they grant parole.
As July rolled around and I was extremely frustrated and aggravated with the whole job hunt process, I began to ponder Red’s tactic. Maybe I’d just waltz into the next interview and tell them, “Look, don’t ask me any of those stupid same old same old interview questions. Sure, I could use your job, but I don’t really think you’re going to hire me anyway, so be quick about it and at least have the courtesy to let me know one way or the other.”
Since real life is not the movies, and I wasn’t up for parole (even if it felt like it, having mostly panel interviews), I decided not to take Red’s interview tactic. Fortunately, my method finally worked and I landed a job. I start August 1.
Once released, Red finds himself in a halfway house, with a job in a grocery store, trying to adjust to life outside of prison. It is not easy. Eventually, he travels to a spot in the countryside where Andy told him years before to visit if he was ever released – a spot with brick wall under an oak tree and a rock that just doesn’t quite belong.
Under the rock, Red finds a letter Andy left for him, encouraging Red to join Andy in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Part of the letter reads:
“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Red thinks about it and then decides to skip bail and cross the border to join his friend.
I imagine, like Red, I may have trouble adjusting to my new environment after 10 years at Bose and then such an extended “sabbatical”. I suppose I’ll be OK (receiving paychecks again will probably help), but don’t think as I run the Lexington County countryside, I won’t keep my eye out for a rock wall underneath an oak tree with stone that just doesn’t fit in.
I can always hope.