Friday, February 5, 2010

"Up in the Air" and George Clooney - Recession Tales from a Road Warrior


I saw "Up in the Air" recently and it brought back many memories. Some memories were of the days when I used to travel a bit for my job.  This was before September 11, so I didn't have to take my shoes off, but I do remember running like an Olympic track athlete to make my connection so I wouldn't miss my flight and be late for a meeting across the country or sometimes across the world.   I haven't been a "road warrior" for quite a while now, but I remember the nightmare of my suitcase spilling over in the middle of an airport, of a wheel coming off as I ran for that gate,  of struggling to stash my bag in the baggage compartment when someone had filled it with their holiday purchases...oh yes, memories.  Like George Clooney's character, once in a while, in my now grounded life, I miss those days.  I miss the chocolate on my hotel pillow, I miss discovering a restaurant in a different city on per diem,  and I miss the camaraderie of my work colleagues at some conference or other.  

But it also brought back memories of being laid off.  I've been laid off once, and almost laid off  a few times after that when my workplace ceased to exist. (I jumped ship before the guillotine came down.)  My first memory of it is as fresh as if it happened yesterday.  We should have seen it coming, since of our three departments we were down to one after layoffs a year before.  But still we believed the head office when they said we were safe.  You see it was my first "real job" out of college, and I had grown after a few years to care for my co-workers as my extended family.   I still remember picking up the phone after the intercom buzz  on a Valentine's Day and hearing my boss say he wanted everyone in his office now.  As those of us left filed in and sat on his large couch and assorted chairs he leaned back in his chair and said "It's over".  We all stared at each other and silently shared our thoughts "what does he mean it's over?".  He continued in a rather "matter of fact" way to say he had just gotten a call from HQ that we were closing down, and that soon we would all get a letter letting us know of our 30 day notice and when it would be our last day. (We were in another recession and Congress had passed a law saying if your place of employment closed its doors, they had to give you 30 days notice).  We all filed out, sad and angry we had been so gullible to believe what we were being told.  I remember one of  the women had just quit her job elsewhere to work there, and had only been there a few months.  They had to know when they hired her.   We were too small to have a Ryan Bingham (perfectly played by George Clooney) do the dirty deed, or maybe in those days employers did their own firing and layoffs.  I remember after a month of  packing away files walking out to my car at the end of that day, alone with my box of belongings.  All I had left after many years of dedication and work was a box that stayed for ages in the trunk of my car.  After that day I have never trusted what anyone says about being safe, but only trusted my own "fight-or-flight" instincts. 

So for all of you that have had those work life experiences, and even more for those that haven't, go see this movie. I really liked "Up in the Air" because in many ways it was an unexpected film.  There is also a lot of good acting in this film, not just from star Clooney, but from all the people playing and mirroring all of us out in the workforce who know an unwanted change in our life is only an email, or Webcast, away.
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