Imagine if you will, a family of three sitting in a Taco Time at the beach, a restaurant picked precisely for its familiarity and guarantee that the food would be liked by all. After a few jokes wondering if they’d crossed some border because the menu was completely different than what they were expecting, the food is delivered to the table. A tater tot is torn in half and allowed to cool for the little one. Mom takes one bit of her own food and the phone rings. It is 11:20 a.m. The dad’s face is somber. The phrase “yes, this is he,” is uttered. The mother nearly faints.
The 11:00 news of Microsoft’s layoffs was coming directly to us. Shaun and the rest of his team, minus two people, were summarily laid off. The 3 ½ hour drive home from the ocean was quiet and queasy, the fantastic and fresh memories sullied by the news being delivered while we were still making those memories.
Let’s step back.
Day three of the vacation started off otherwise auspiciously. We packed and ate breakfast. We told Sonja we had time for one more activity, and asked her if she wanted to go back to the beach or to a park. Her decision was the park, and as I was somewhat surprised, I asked her again. She was sure. The park.
She didn’t have a great time at the park. She loves swinging but has developed a mild fear of sliding after a mean one one jettisoned her off into the dirt, bottom first. While she attempted to play on most of the equipment, she whined the whole time. It was a pity because we had the whole place to ourselves.
After we’d played out what was a very nice park, on what was the nicest and warmest day of the vacation, we stopped by the famous Seaside outlet mall attempting to get in a little more shopping than the previous year. Sadly, there isn’t a whole lot to the Seaside outlet mall or Seaside in general, nor is it easy to shop with an almost three-year-old.
So off to lunch we went. We felt a wee bit stupid driving around the tiny Taco Time twice to suss out whether it was drive-through only. The people eating on a picnic table outside probably thought we were casing the joint. After we found the entrance, we stood looking at the menu, dumbfounded, trying to figure out what to order since it was not the same menu as in Washington. This may have been where the vacation began to go awry. One would think two college graduates would be able to navigate a fast food restaurant with a little more panache. Seconds after we ordered and sat down, another customer came in and said, “woah, your menu is really different.” Obviously it wasn’t us. Oregon has just screwed up Taco Time.
While Shaun was talking on the phone, my brain thwarted a panic attack by telling me, and I quote, “he’ll get another job.” Beginning to think more clearly, I realized that I too would get a job. Though I have been on extended maternity leave for nearly three years, I have worked the occasional temporary project, and had just completed a one-month gig before the vacation. Each time I work, the urge to return to work grows stronger.
After the phone call, I excused myself to the bathroom in somewhat of an emergency situation. As I walked away, Sonja said that she needed to go potty too, but I couldn’t deal with it at that particular moment. When I emerged from the bathroom, I swear the table sitting next to us gave me the evil eye, like what the hell was I thinking putting my needs above my child’s? Well listen, evil-eye givers, not only was I sure she could hold it for a few minutes, but Dad was there too, and believe it or not, Dad’s are perfectly capable of taking their little girls’ to the bathroom.
As I said earlier, the drive home was quiet and queasy. Sonja slept only about an hour, but was otherwise content. I was trying to be thankful that she couldn’t understand what was going on, but like trying to look at the scenery, the effort was fleeting.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the silence of that drive. Makes one wonder if any of the mucky mucks have ever been fired while on vacation, and who on earth thought that was appropriate. It reminds me of a line from season 7 of Mad Men, when Peggy thinks management has deliberately put her in an awkward situation. “I don’t know if this makes you feel better, but I don’t think they thought about it at all,” Joan tells her.
Yeah. That part stings. And not just because we were not personally considered, but because it’s just de rigeur for real people not to be considered. Microsoft is not the first company to mishandle layoffs (oh those poor Nokia people) and it won’t be the last. So if anyone out there is listening, this is my plea: C’mon. You can do better. Did you know the president of Kentucky State University just took a $90.000 pay cut so the employees earning the least could have a $3 per hour wage increase? We need more people like that. You could be a person like that. You, too, could think about other people. Think about it. That’s all I’m asking. Think.