Friday, 13 March 2009

Twin towers of recession and global warming

It’s been somewhat of a bizarre week.
I write this with hungover head – a battalion of mojitos marched its way into my exposed brain and wracked joyful fury on my sensitive head overnight, and left me shuddering in its wake.
And now, I look at things in retrospect, namely two things: global warming, of which I have written already in my last post on Dec. 1, 2007 (bring on thy criticisms – I know I haven’t been a regular writer as of late), and the economic recession.
These twin towers of current events are more powerful than the fall of the twin towers on 9-11 will ever be.

 Those twin towers were just a couple of buildings, symbolizing the power and might of America, towering over the rest of the planet and, for many, symbolizing two fingers stuck up against the rest of us. But those are done, and two new twin towers have risen. And these are scarier, more formidable, and are in the process of altering our collective lives for many years to come.

Global warming – need I go on about the numerous snow dumps we’ve gotten in Vancouver in recent months? We’ve had the most bizarre winter – for many, it’s been a fruitful winter, a dynamic winter, a REAL winter. But for many, it’s just a little odd, and uncomfortably odd at that. Many know that Raincouver isn’t Snowcouver on any given day, but this winter, instead of the usual dozens of days of consecutive downpours, we’ve had dozens of days of SNOWFALL. It’s been a real winter, indeed.
And the other thing, economy. For many months now, I’ve observed the shrinking global economy with a wary eye but with numbness – it didn’t seem quite so tangible. It didn’t seem like something that affected me directly. Falling stock prices just don’t have the same sort of impact as the falling twin towers on that day in September 2001.
But, like a ghost in the room, the reality of the recession seemed to creep closer and closer to my life. I could feel its breath on my neck, particularly in the last couple of months when company after company, corporation after corporation, announced layoffs after layoffs – 1,500 jobs here, 600 jobs there, here a job, there a job, all disappearing into thin air.
And then last Thursday, March 5, 2009, the big poombah from Edmonton swooped in with his mighty axe and set to work on our company – the company for which I’ve worked for four years now – and, with surgical precision, 15 people were handed their pink slips.
And I saw it all firsthand. It wasn’t a newspaper announcement, or a dry press release from afar announcing layoffs. This was far more up front, in my face. I saw serious faces going in and out of my boss’s office, with the door slamming shut numerous times. I know that if the door shuts, something serious is going on.
And it was frightening. I saw my managing editor called into the office first off, and after 10 or 15 minutes in there, he came out with a pall on his face, a ghostly pall. All eyes were on him. What happened? we asked. Oh, you’ll see, he responded. Are there cuts? Yup. And he handed me his office keys and told me to be sure that my boss gets them. And then, shaking hands all around the office, and leaves. Right in the middle of the day.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Fifteen times.
It was terrible. Egos were suddenly fallible, confidence was suddenly lowered, team morale was permeable.
The pub that night – many strong, confident voices were reduced to wry, sad smiles, a few drinks, and ahem, I guess I’ll be looking for something new then, and I hope I can put some food on the table for my kid.
Lots of that kind of thing.
I thought of my grandfather.
He lost his father at the tender age of 16. And was told by his uncle that he was now the man of the family.
This shaped him into the man I knew. He was suddenly more serious, had to be more responsible. No fun or drinking games. He had to work and take care of his family.
And then, a job at Sun Life in Montreal. A fine job.
And the Great Depression came.
Whack, hack, slash, layoffs all over the place. He saw it all first-hand too, just like I did.
This shook him to the very bone. Like me, he was left behind on the ship.
He likely felt all the things I felt – shock, surprise, anger. Grateful that he still had his job. Sometimes a bit disappointed because a fresh change would be welcome.
And mostly, guilt.
Guilty that he/I was one of the few men still standing after our comrades had been mowed down. Like the survivors at Normandy.
For years and years after that, he’d wake up, put on his suit and tie, go off to work. On the way there, he walked past numerous ex-colleagues in line at the food bank, at the welfare office, and whatnot. He’d shake hands with them – cursory nods, a glance, hello, how’s it all going, chin up pal, it’ll be fine, let’s hope for better days ahead.
Do I even have to say what came next? The worst world war this world had ever seen.
Me? What’s in my future? Who knows. All I know is that I sit here in front of my computer, knowing I still have a job, with the same kind of challenges, and knowing that I can’t be frivolous in my decisions any more. Not in these times. I have to tread carefully and carry a big stick.
That’s right. Assert myself as I always have, but recognize that the road ahead has many perils. And that, like the Irish say, the road ahead shall rise for me.
I’m optimistic.
I think.


linksmine said...

Wow, man, that was really powerful. Thanks for posting.

Dansinn said...

Keep on Keepin' on. Hopefully there are several silverlinings to come out of it all. I'm off to Vegas next week for $50. That's one I guess.