Panic In The Streets Of Birmingham By Mike White. What a strange day I had. I had been having trouble sleeping for a few days so one night I got myself good and liquored up courtesy of a friend of mine leaving behind a few of his Amstel Lights—only 98 calories a bottle! I slept well—so well in fact that when the alarm rang I decided that I’d be late for work...

What a strange day I had. I had been having trouble sleeping for a few days so one night I got myself good and liquored up courtesy of a friend of mine leaving behind a few of his Amstel Lights—only 98 calories a bottle!

I slept well—so well in fact that when the alarm rang I decided that I’d be late for work. When I awoke again at 9:30, I called into work for the second time—I wasn’t sure that the first message that I left at 7:30 had gone through since I couldn’t connect with my boss’ voicemailbox.

Usually, my boss is a pretty laid-back guy. When I told him I was calling in sick he kind of freaked—just the opposite reaction I thought I’d get from the guy who once offered to drive me home when I got food poisoning from bad fried rice (it was nasty). He reminded me that we had a staff meeting and said that I really should go to it.

Our staff meetings are usually lame—"Here’s what’s going on and it’s nothing new and so and so’s having a baby and so and so is leaving and so and so is new to the company, yadda, yadda, yadda." Nothing that I would mind missing. However, Mike (my boss) was being such a weirdo stressing how important it was that I be there that I agreed.

What a bummer—the one day I decide to skip work after four months of not calling in sick I have to stop in for a stupid meeting.

When I arrived in Birmingham (I did not want to make that stupid drive) I was greeted at the front door of my job by Mike himself—looking flushed and acting as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs. "Just go right up to the third floor. Don’t stop on two, just go right up to three and go right into Greg’s (the big boss) office." Hell, he practically escorted me to the elevator—I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had pressed the button for the third floor if I didn’t move fast enough.

Do you remember the Monty Python sketch about the milkman who’s seduced by the beautiful hausfrau who leads him up to her "bedroom"? She lets him enter and then closes and locks the door behind him, leaving him looking at a room of mournful milkmen of various ages that she has captured in the past. That’s what it was like when I went into Greg’s office, except no one was dressed as a milkman. Twenty-some faces turned to me, with a look of hope on their face and a nearly instant turned to disappointment. They were looking for answers and I held nothing but questions—the same questions that we all shared; "What the hell are we doing here?"

We sat, talked, waited, talked, joked around, and waited. After an interminable period, someone’s cellphone rang. He received instructions that we were to take the back stairway and go right to Bad Frog Tavern. Forget that half of the group didn’t have their coats—they couldn’t retrieve them, as the second floor was verboten. It seemed that our day was turning into a bad episode of Road Rules. Woah, sorry to be so redundant—I don’t think there’s ever been a good episode of that inane show.

Regardless, we walked down to Bad Frog, joking around about what might await us when we get there. Pink slips? A surprise party? Go-Go dancers (a la Fred Flintstone’s Water buffalo Lodge Meetings)?

At one point on the walk, I realized that regardless of the day’s outcome I was glad that I had trekked up to be part of the "festivities." It was so surreal that I wouldn’t have believed anyone’s account of it the next day.

As we walked in, we were instructed to go to the "Bad Room"—not a good sign, I felt. When I saw the fresh sterno burning, I had the idea that they were going to soften the blow with food—fatten us up for the slaughter. The furtiveness of this meeting and going off-site felt ominous.

Food and drinks were brought out—most people pecked at the "Frog Balls" and "Gator Bites", their appetites deadened by the general malaise.

Long story short—yeah, right—everyone at Bad Frog was informed, after Greg, Mike, and a few other essential players showed up, that we had made the cut. That is—we still had our jobs if we wanted them. Everyone else? Those faces that were missing up in Greg’s office—and, trust me, there were a lot of them—gone. While we were munching on some fried food and beer, our compatriots were getting the axe. Sure, some of them were "dead wood" and the work’s been kind of slow (Detroit’s so-called "Big Three"—Ford, Daimler Chrysler and General Motors—are infamous for being late on payments and with this whole global financial crisis things don’t look like they’re going to pick up anytime soon) but they eliminated over half the staff.

The good news? I still have a job; in addition, I’m eligible for a moving bonus as our office is relocating! The plan has been that we were going to Farmington Hills so we could have more room but with our "trimmed down" staff, the upper management found us new digs right smack in downtown Ann Arbor! Our new address with be One-Oh-One N. Main—right at the corner of Main and Huron. Should cut down on the commute plus, hey, I’ll be back in my old stomping grounds of A2!

I think I went into a mild state of shock that afternoon when it finally hit me that I could have just as easily been kicked to the curb (if it wasn’t for my mad HTML skyllz). It hit me even harder when it dawned on me that all of this went down a year to the day of my leaving General Physics when, subsequently, I was screwed out of a new job by those fucks at Mac Temps (see CdC #8).

Needless to say, things have been out of whack at the office since then. Lots of empty desks, blank stares, and feelings of betrayal. In the last few months, the halved staff has just about halved again. The long-delayed move to Ann Arbor along with the continued lack of work and hush-hush management policies have fostered an "I’m going to quit before they fire me too" mentality. Most of the remaining folks have sharpened their skills at games like StarCraft™ and Unreal™. A few other employees have been plugging away at various projects trickling down from our New York office. Personally, I’ve become a burnt out, shell of a man while sloughing through our parent company’s new site—one of the worst designs I’ve ever seen. One can often hear me complaining about the knuckleheads I deal with in the NYC office.

Yet, I’m still employed. I like my remaining coworkers. I dig my job when I really get down and dirty with it. Moreover, I feel appreciated doing it. All of that is more than I can say about any of the jobs I’ve had thus far.

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