Tentatively he seems to lurk,
reluctantly she leaves for work;
sensing his fragility
tensing against futility.
In his mind he’s become a failure;
in this kind there is no future.
She reassures him this will change.
She measures him does he seem strange?
It’s a delicate dance the steps they take;
like silicate crystals poised to break.
He smiles and she feels calm;
she smiles and it’s his balm.
One more day to seek employment,
one more way he is a testament
of what sudden job loss can do to a soul,
of the sudden life cost of losing a goal.
By: Michael Williams / April 18, 2009
– – – – – – – –
I have left the date on this to acknowledge that it is one of my older works. There is a story which goes with this poem which I have not told before. Slightly more than 10 years later, I guess I can share it now.
On January 31, 2009 I was summoned to the personnel office at the company where I worked for 31 ½ years. Awaiting me there were the personnel manager and my overall supervisor in the IT department, down from the corporate office. I knew something was about to happen, and it didn’t figure to be good.
Together they informed me that because of budget cuts my position at the plant had been eliminated and I was being terminated. They were very careful to tell me that I had done nothing wrong nor had I failed to do anything asked of me. They stated that a letter to this effect was in the “termination packet” they were giving me so that I could show it to any prospective employer, to prove that I was not terminated for cause. They carefully avoided the words “fired” and “firing”.
The personnel manager escorted me to my office so that I could log off my computer, get my lunch tote, and lock my office. I was then escorted out of the building. I asked on the way if there was any other job to which I could move and the answer was terse: no. I later learned there were 14 others in the office were terminated that day, so even had they been inclined to make an exception for me they couldn’t have made 15 exceptions.
Through all of it, I kept my composure; don’t ask me how, but breaking down would not have helped anything. While walking to my car, I encountered a lady who also worked in personnel. She was just returning from a “sister” plant about 15 miles away. She greeted me and asked if I was going there. I answered that I had just been terminated. She started crying, told me she was sorry, and hugged me. We told each other that we were going to miss working together, and said our goodbyes. She went inside and I continued to my car.
Once I got in my car, I called the Help Center at the main office to tell them that I had just been terminated and if they had not been informed of it that they should suspend my access immediately. They thanked me for the information, as they had not been told. When I got home I sent an email to my supervisor to tell her of my action. She replied to thank me for taking care of it and for the professional way I handled the interview.
The other thing I did before my wife returned home from work was post on a discussion board that I now had something in common with a ripe pineapple – I had been canned.
I had to make an appointment to collect the rest of my possessions from my office. When I called I was given a date (when it just so happened that the personnel manager would be out of the plant). On that day it was one of my coworkers from the IT department at the corporate office who was there to escort me to my office (and make sure I took only my things). He would have let me take some things that I had been using on a regular basis, but because the company had reimbursed me for buying those items, I played it straight and left them there.
The man told me that he was upset at the way I had been treated and that he wished I could stay on another two weeks to get him up to speed on everything; he was to be the one taking over my duties in addition to his regular job. I told him I was willing if the company allowed it but I doubted that they would (they didn’t). I gave him all the information I could while I was there and told him to contact me with any questions.
Instead, I received an email from him less than a month later. He said he was so disgusted with events that he had found a job with another company and had quit. They then gave my duties to another person there at the plant and it was a short time later that he found another job and quit as well. I later heard from several people that it was common whenever there was a problem with the computer or printer for someone to say “If Williams was still here it would be fixed already.” I bet management just loved that.
When I sat down to write this poem, I had in mind writing something more general; kind of “Everyman loses his job.” That probably was never possible. It was a too-personal experience and it ended up being “me” in that poem.
Now you know the story behind this poem – whether you wanted it or not. 😉