The blindsided

Just days after she won an Oscar, news that Sandra Bullock’s husband was messing around came out. I can’t even imagine being in that situation (if my husband managed such a stunt, I would be devastated, but once I regained the ability to speak, I would have say to him, “Well played, sir. Well played.”) The biggest deal is that everyone considered Sandra Bullock to be the one marrying down to a dirtbag, so the question for the cheating dirtbag was, “Why eat a burger when you have steak at home?” (A: Because sometimes you just really want a burger). Sandra Bullock is one of the few famous people on my husband’s “list” (The list also includes Janet Jackson and Eva Mendes). He loves that Sandy.

After the dust settles the next step seems to involve the offender checking into some kind of rehab and disappearing from the news until they emerge a changed-for-the-better-person.

As a government contractor, rule number 1 seems to be this: contracts end. As in, once the time is up and you have accomplished (or not accomplished) what you have agreed to do, you can no longer justify charging to said contract, which means you are not in a good situation. “On the bench” is what my company calls it, and while that sounds like fun in a college intramural softball team way, it stinks.

The good part was that I didn’t love my project. The customer was sort of a pain. I was the buffer between her and my company. It wasn’t an especially challenging job and the things I thought could make things better were not allowed to happen because the contract had strict guidelines on what we would provide. I had all these brilliant ideas (really, they were), and nowhere to execute them. So, while the situation of not having a job sucks, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I am a tiny bit relieved.

On to the sucky parts—
1) How I found out:
I work at the government site (or should I say, “worked,” but we’re getting to that) part of the time and the rest of the time I was in our company office. A few weeks ago I had the tedious task of filling in a spreadsheet so the blank values we had in our database could be filled with (duh) data. It took ages (“ages”= a little over a week). I would stream episodes of “This American Life” on NPR and I would go to town looking up possible values for the blanks. It was dreadful but at the same time it felt like I was accomplishing something and contributing to the cause. The following week, the customer called me to ask when I planned to come in and turn in my badge. I thought, “why turn in my badge when I will be there next week to continue working?” Well the obvious answer is: Because you won’t be there next week to continue working. Duh. But the wheels in my head hadn’t turned to reach that conclusion yet. I thought it was just a case of the customer being difficult again.

2) I was holding down the fort alone the week the shit hit the fan.
My manager was not available and the other guy on the project was working on something else. My manager returned towards the end of the week. He was also under the impression that our work should be continuing. Had things gone properly, someone would have clued him in first, he would have told me what was going on, and I would have concluded on my own that I needed to turn in my badge.

3) The turn in
This was just…awkward. I had to go in, tell the IT people to close my email account, reset my own voicemail (this was a failure because the directions were wrong and the thing would not let me reset it, but you know what? Not my problem), get people to sign off on my outprocessing check list and finally, turn in my badge. I talked to the customer and put on the brave face saying “these things happen,” instead of going out in a blaze of glory because these are the same people that decided to eliminate my job. I returned to the office with nothing else to do.

4) The alternative
I have been offered the possibility to work in support of another project. The issue is that this would require a one and a half hour drive (in good traffic). Have I mentioned that I don’t carry a spare tire in my car? I don’t have runflats, either. I just envision myself stranded somewhere along the highway because of some kind of car problem. I know part of this fear stems from taking public transit for so many years. If a train broke down or there was a delay, it made the news. You were also stranded with hundreds of other passengers someplace along the highly populated train route. I’m not saying that the train is an ideal way to get to work in all cases, but it has some benefits (and don’t anyone say, but you can listen to audiobooks. My reading comprehension seems to be at its best when the information is going through my eyes).

5) The hustle (not this kind). It was September when I last looked for a job. I felt I had time to mentally prepare for it and I had some contacts in mind. It had been over 2 years since my last job change and I felt energized enough to get myself back out there. This time it feels different. I like my company. I don’t want to leave, but I don’t think I have a choice. I am planning to talk to the HR director but I’m not hopeful anything like “Work 10 hours a week from home for your current rate of pay” is going to turn up for me. I did update my profile on Monster and I signed in to multiple employers’ websites to register and upload my resume (here’s an idea, why don’t these companies get together and use one database application?) I did get a call today from a recruiter. It was going pretty well until salary (and what sounded like a lack of any kind of benefits) came up. When he said “Well you could take this now since you’re not working…” I pretty much stopped listening. It’s not that I’m above taking a pay cut, it’s that those words translate to: “Hey, I would like a commission if you get hired, so go on and take this even if it’s not quite what you want.” I want to say, “Oh, well, you know, I didn’t know I didn’t have a job and I needed one. Since you mentioned it, sure! Let me go on and take it.”

I wish there were a rehab I could go to—hide out for 30-45 days, and emerge at my own press conference as a completely refreshed and no longer jaded employee.

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