Whenever Hepcat calls in the middle of a workday, Smartmom gets nervous. That’s because it usually means bad news.
Like last summer, when he called at noon to say that he’d been laid off from his job as a Solutions Architect at the Edgy Start-Up. Smartmom felt like she’d been kicked in the stomach.
Dizzy. Anxious. It was like her head — and her life — were spinning out of control. How would they survive? How would they pay Teen Spirit’s college tuition? What, in Buddha’s name, were they going to do without health insurance and his salary?
A couple of months later, the Edgy Start-up re-hired Hepcat. Smartmom was thrilled. She felt safe and secure. Sort of.
She was also slightly suspicious. Why had they’d laid him off in the first place if they were just going to rehire him two months later?
While she rejoiced that she and her family were back on the escalator of upward mobility, she worried that they might soon find themselves in the bargain basement.
Smartmom figured, if it can happen once, it can happen again. Even when Hepcat received an excellent annual evaluation from his manager last month, Smartmom felt those familiar pulsations of anxiety.
She just couldn’t trust a company that would lay off her husband on whim because its was having a bad quarter and needed to lighten its salary load for a while.
Smartmom knew it was a sign of the times. As Richard Sennett says in his 2006 book, “The Culture of the New Capitalism,” corporations have become unstable and diffuse. Everyone faces the possibility of obsolescence. Gone are the days of the corporate job for life.
Employees must constantly adapt and prove themselves to be indispensable. And if you’re not “useful enough,” the company changes the locks and your password.
While you can’t depend on the security of a job, you can depend on the almighty bottom line.
With the dread from last summer’s layoff still hovering over her, Smartmom got a call last Monday. From Hepcat. In the middle of the day. Smartmom saw “husband” on the screen of her cellphone and her heart took a nosedive.
“Did you just get laid off?” she asked because somehow she knew.
“Yup,” he said.
How can they do this to us? Again. Lay me off once, shame on you. Lay me off twice, DOUBLE shame on you!
Smartmom felt the anger rise in her like the mercury on a cartoon thermometer. She wanted to call that Edgy Start-up and give the well-paid CEO a piece of her mind. Doesn’t he know the yo-yo Smartmom’s family is riding?
But first she channeled Tammy Wynette, standing by her man. She told Hepcat she loved him and that even if the Edgy Start-up gave him the heave ho, she would be his. Forever. No matter what. Through richer or poorer. The whole bit (but did they really need to do the “poorer” part?)
When Hepcat got home, he told Teen Spirit and the Oh So Feisty One what was going on.
“Not again,” Teen Spirit exclaimed. “Can’t they make up their minds?” He moved tentatively toward his dad and put his arms around his shoulders — it was a Teen Spirit/Hepcat moment for the record books.
If it’s not completely obvious, Smartmom and Hepcat are cock-eyed optimists. Within hours, Hepcat was touching up his resume, and Smartmom was posting about his layoff on her blog. They didn’t even argue about who should load up the dishwasher that night.
A week or so later, the family is adjusting to the vagaries of the new capitalism. They’re starting to accept the instability of their lives. Smartmom has even upped her dose of Zoloft.
No one can say that they don’t have the right to be angry at the inhumanity of it all. Nor can anyone deny that Hepcat, a brilliant “Solutions Architect” with skills, brains and know-how up the wazoo, needs a job. He has worn many IT hats, including, systems analyst, computer software developer, software architect, and programmer.
Hepcat has always been a think-outside-the-box/big-picture/expect-the-unexpected/analytical kind of guy, due, no doubt, to growing up on a farm where all problems must be solved, usually with bailing wire.
And let’s not forget what a great photographer he is. Hepcat has experience in editorial and advertising photography, an MFA from CalArts, and extensive knowledge of photo retouching and Photoshop. (Wow. Hire that man!)
Experienced, resourceful, and generally great to have around, farmboy Hepcat can fix computers, sports cars and John Deere tractors, weld orchard equipment, harvest walnuts, and herd cows. He makes a delicious risotto and a mean roast leg of lamb.
And if that’s not enough, Teen Spirit is going to college in just under three years and how are they going to pay for it?
References available on request.
Louise Crawford also writes the Web site, “Only the blog knows Brooklyn.”