Thursday, December 16, 2010

I'm what?!?

(Monday, October 25 I was offered the position of youth director at St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Liberty, MO, a position that I had been pursuing and considering since early August. I spent five days agonizing over the decision, consulting friends, and coming to terms with my intense fear of commitment and permanency. Saturday, October 30 I accepted the position, with plans to begin at the start of the new year. Tuesday, November 2, I experienced an unexpected turn of events.)


What?!? Me?!?

Never before has an f-word so unnaturally stumbled out of my mouth.

I've been...fired??

You might say that I lost my job. My assignment was terminated. It wasn't a good fit and the company is moving in a different direction. But no matter how you try to sugar-coat or rephrase it, one moment I was driving home from the Stilwell laboratory where I was securely employed as a document specialist and the next I was eating a strawberry-vanilla paleta in the passenger seat of a fellow ESL volunteer's Hyundai, realizing that I would in fact have time to finish the Oxford Murders before taking the movie back to Redbox the next day.

Allow me to offer a look into that fateful evening in Novermber. I had just finished my weekly session of speaking slowly and using small words (aka teaching ESL) when I noticed two missed calls from Matt, the Medix Staffing headhunter. I hadn't returned his call from the previous week (something about wanting to know how the job was going), and decided I might as well respond, seeing as the man does send me my paychecks.
"Medix, this is Matthew" he answered.
"Hi Matt, this is Amanda."
"Amanda. (full stop) How are you?"
"I'm just fine," I responded, wondering why we go through these civilities every time he answers the phone.
"Are you someplace you can talk?"
"Um, sure," I decided.
"I was wondering how things have been at Company X*, how do you feel about your position and experience there?" (In retrospect I'm not sure why he asked this. Maybe he hoped it would be a helpful lead in. As it turns out, it only made the follow up worse).
"Um, great. Everything is just fine. I like the people. I'm satisfied with my work. I think it's going well," I returned, unaware of how false my perceptions had been.
"Well, Company X called this evening and they would like today to be your last day there."
"What? Why?"
"They didn't really give me a clear answer. They think you may be overqualified for the position, that this just isn't a good fit for where they want to go in the future."
Not a good fit?  I thought to myself. I'm small and I'm flexible, what do they mean "not a good fit"? And how could they want to go elsewhere? Is the company looking to lower the quality and speed of its production? Come on, Matt. You can make up better lies than that. Am I not even worth a good lie?
"That really surprises me" I responded. "I seemed to think things were going fairly well."
"Yeah," Matt added, as if to agree with me, "When I talked to Tammi** (my manager) she said that everything was going great. I'm not sure what happened."

I was rather taken aback, and more ashamed than angry, but my self-preservation kicked in pretty quickly. Whatever the reason, my job was finished, and no amount of explaining was going to get it back.
"So, they don't want me to come in tomorrow?" I posed, more concerned with the hours of work I would be losing than the loss of the position itself.
"No. Can you come drop off your key card and pick up your things and your final check from Medix on Friday?"
"Um...I think so," I stammered without really thinking. My thoughts were more focused on the three Tupperware containers still in the workroom fridge (all filled with food), the photos attached to my cubicle and how the hell I was going to return the lab jacket that I'd "borrowed" (and not used) for Halloween.
"You mean I can't come in and collect my things?" I inquired, with some urgency in my voice.
"No. Nick (another guy from Medix) is going to go in and meet with some people at Company X tomorrow to discuss the situation. We should be able to tell you more after that meeting. We'll have your things for you on Friday."
"Um. Ok."
How was I supposed to respond to that? No, Mr. Medix, that is unacceptable. I don't want you or your henchman's dirty fingers all over the Snapfish photos of my trip to England or touching my tea bags and fingering my Illuminating Leadership travel mug. I would like to collect my things myself. I think I may even have ended the conversation by saying "Thank you" or something else situationally ridiculous.

I out away my phone. I finished my paleta and my conversation with the ESL volunteer who was still sitting next to me in the car. Then I drove home and broke out some chocolate and the DVD that was due the next day. I got on facebook and, to add insult to injury, told my ex-boyfriend what had just happened. He probably didn't care.

Fired? I thought. Me? Fired? It just didn't make sense. I tried to come up with reasons why someone would possibly want to fire me. They had been interviewing to add a third person to our department. Maybe they found someone without a college degree, someone less qualified who didn't demand as much pay. Maybe they found someone more experienced, who could navigate in and out of Adobe Acrobat without wanting to swear at the monitor. Maybe someone overheard my interview with the pastor at St. Steven, or worse, the conversation in the company parking lot in which I divulged my plans to leave Company X to my friend in Wisconsin. Perhaps someone walked past my cubicle during my lunch break and disapproved of my watching How I Met Your Mother on the company computer, or maybe they happened across this blog and realized that I was less than enchanted with the idea of sacrificing droves of Beagle dogs for the betterment of pesticides. I tried to tell myself that the reason wasn't important, that I had secured another, better-paying and more meaningful job. But that did little to soothe my wounds.

I turned my attention to more important matters - namely my belongings and the Company X labcoat in the back seat of my car. What was I going to do about that? I decided to wait until 5 pm, when most of the employees left for the evening, to drive to Company X, use the key card that still gave me access through the property gates, and clean out my belongings (or at least the fridge) for myself. Matt and Nick (who called the next day to make sure I didn't do something crazy, like go to work) had made it clear that I was to pick up my belongings at Medix. I made my plans anyway. What were they going to do? Fire me?

At 6:00 pm I approached the gatehouse and swiped my card. My key card was still activated. The large striped bar lifted. I slipped through, drove to Building 3 and parked in a nearly empty lot. I got through the front doors, passed the deserted reception desk and made my way toward Document Management, my adrenaline rushing like an 7th grade boy about to ask an 8th grade girl to dance. Tupperware. I was here to get Tupperware (and possibly to salvage some of the job applications in the lower left hand drawer of my desk, but I didn't have much hope for those). I turned right.

"Um, excuse me," said a voice.
"Can I help you?" he inquired with a tone that made the statement more of a demand than an offer of assistance.
"I just...came to get my things." I said with more confidence than I felt, wondering why the company president wasn't home playing with his German Shepherd or watching BBC.
"Oh. Amanda. I didn't recognize you."
Of course he didn't. The man failed to look me in the face save the day he interviewed me six weeks earlier. What was I to him, but a peon to throw back into the great big pool of unemployment?
"Is there anything we can do for you?"
Well, Mr. President, you could freaking give me my job back, or at least give me two weeks notice or perhaps a reason for the termination of a job for which I am more than qualified.
"No, I don't think so," I managed.
One of the tech guys was sent to "assist" me as I made my way back to my cubicle. (Just in case, you know, I had plans of wreaking havoc on the Document Management office). I opened the office door. Nick, it appeared, had gotten there before me. My space was desolate. The photos were gone, along with the teabags and Illuminating Leadership travel mug. The drawers were empty. The tech guy helped me pull a few "personal" files from the computer (most of which were recipes or resumes), and said he would meet me the front of the building. On the way back I stopped in the break room to retrieve my Tupperware containers and swiftly pulled the labcoat from my tote bag, leaving it on the floor in a heap.
The president collected my key card/ID badge and instructed the tech guy to escort me out of the building and off the property (which required the use of a key card/ID badge, which I no longer possessed). I exited the building, drove to the gate and said my goodbyes to the tech guy, who was sincerely sorry to see me go. He handed me his card and told me to call him if I ever needed anything. I gave him the note I'd meant to leave on Tammi's** desk, explaining that I don't know what happened, but that I had enjoyed working with her and wished her the best (whatever that means). We parted ways.

As I drove away from Company X I noticed a missed call on my cell phone. I called back. It was Nick from Medix. "We just received a call from Company X," he said. "They wanted to know why you came back this evening."
"I wanted to collect my things, and thought I would wait until everyone was gone to do so," I explained.
"I thought we made it clear that you would be picking your things up at Medix later this week and were not to return to Company X," he said.
"I had things in the fridge and the locker room," I reasoned. "I thought it would be easier to get them myself." I knew I had been defiant. Medix had made it quite clear that I was never to return to Company X, that I was not to set foot on the property, but, well, I didn't care (and I wanted my Tupperware).

The next day (which was Thursday, not Friday as we had previously agreed), I stopped by Medix and collected my tea bags, photos and travel mug. There was no further news on why I had been fired. I called two weeks later and received the same responses I had been given initially.

Medix sent me copies of my last two pay stubs and I never heard from them again. Until last week, when they came to Californos for their staff Christmas party. I didn't wait on their table, but I did work that night, and thoroughly enjoyed mocking them with the rest of my staff. I'm a little sorry I missed the opportunity to make my own adjustments to their entrees. But I suppose that getting fired once this year is quite enough.

*I doubt I really need to keep their name confidential, but it makes the whole thing sound just a little more intriguing and a little less embarrassing.
** I may have made that name up. It seemed like as good a name as any for a woman who runs the two- (now one-) person Document Management Department of a preclinical laboratory.

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