Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Moving Mountains

I just returned from Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn. Returning from Bristol is the easy part. Getting there is another matter.

Bristol is in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. You won’t find much parking near the track. Even if there was more, you wouldn’t want to park there. You’d be trapped for days, snowed in behind more than 100,000 NASCAR fans.

As a result, the only way to get to the track is to walk … and walk … and walk some more. The countryside is rugged. The best thing I can compare it to is being a horse in a steeplechase. My friend Kenny and I walked across fields, over mountains, through barbed wire fences and over gates. There was a creek, too, but we didn’t have to jump it … at least not this time.

The whole way the track is on the horizon, but never gets any closer, no matter how far you walk. Tickets to the event should be printed with the following admonishment: Warning, track is further than it appears.

Perhaps appropriately, considering you’re trekking to a half-mile bullring, it’s a circuitous route. I sometimes thought I should drop a trail of breadcrumbs (or Fritos), just in case I got lost and couldn’t find my way back.

Of course, if you enjoy short track racing like I do, then Bristol is the place to be … even if you have to move mountains to get there.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Good Friends in Tough Times

In my last blog post, I wrote about the lows of being laid off, but it hasn’t been all despair. In fact, I’ve been buoyed by the outpouring of support I have received since being laid off by Humana just two weeks ago. The support has come from all quarters, including people I would have expected and some I would not have.

I sincerely appreciate each and every gesture. It’s not easy for people to come forward in such a difficult time. As a matter of fact, many people don’t reach out. They don’t know what to say. Or, even worse, they know they should say something, but fear doing it. It’s as if they think the layoff virus will spread like monkey pox.

That’s why being laid off is so isolating. Life seems like it’s divided between the “haves” (those who have a job) and the “have nots” (those who don’t).Thankfully, most of my coworkers didn’t get caught up in that. They just reacted. And with great compassion, I might add.

For the rest of you, here’s my list of things people need to hear from you after they’ve lost their jobs.
  • You're sorry for what happened to them.
  • You think they’re a good worker and you’re happy to recommend them.
  • You will be looking out for opportunities for them.

That’s it … except one last thing.

  • You recently won the lottery and would like to commission them to write your memoirs at an exorbitant salary, starting in the morning.

Since I haven’t heard that last one yet, I’ll focus my energies on finding my next gig, knowing that I have a lot of terrific people supporting me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Two Bombs in One Day

Ever had a day so bad that even a homeless guy insulted you? That’s the kind of day I had a couple of weeks ago. It was the mother of all bad days.

I went to work knowing cuts were expected. The pending layoffs were the worst kept secret in the history of corporate America. I did not know, however, that I would be part of it. That, as it happens, was a much better kept secret.

It became clearer about the time that my senior vice president called me for a meeting. The meeting was originally scheduled on my floor. That was a mistake, he said over the telephone. Instead, it would be held in human resources. No mistaking that. A few minutes later, an HR person I had never met was talking to me about severance pay and employee assistance programs.

After a few more minutes passed, I was on the street headed toward my car with a folder stuffed with documents and a head full of fog. I barely noticed as a homeless person approached me. He asked if I could spare some money to get him something to eat. “I’m sorry,” I muttered, wanting to be anywhere but there.

“F you,” he replied.

It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.