To workers I’m just another drone
To Ma Bell I’m just another phone
I’m just another statistic on a sheet
To teachers I’m just another child
To the IRS I’m just another file
I’m just another consensus on the street
Gonna cruise out of this city
Head down to the sea
Gonna shout out at the ocean
“Hey, its me!”
And I feel like a number
Feel like a number
Feel like a stranger
A stranger in this land
I feel like a number
I’m not a number
I’m not a number
Dammit I’m a man
Note to the uninitiated: Pete and Bob Seger are not related. Yet in this song at least, they and I seem to see eye to eye.
Because as I sit here at 1am in the morning, unable to sleep, I find that no matter how important I thought I was to how the system worked, I am merely a single digit on some unseen bean counter’s tally sheet. One single bead – very low set – on the giant abacus of our economy whose problems I have been recounting for the last year or so, sounding what alarm I could with my one small voice, knowing all the while that this day might come. I’ve been slid to the unpleasant side of the board: as of February 12th, my contract is expired and will not be renewed.
The air around me now is as indescribable as any I’ve known. On the one hand, I am grateful for three weeks of notice that gives me a bit of time to reconnect my network and get feelers out for a new gig. This is, after all, the life I’ve chosen as an IT professional; instability and opportunity in this profession go hand in hand, since IT people are always needed yet we’re also always the first positions cut when bean counters with foggy memories need to save a dime.
At the same time, I feel like a day to process what’s happening would be a good thing. But instead, I’m going into work to do. . . what, exactly? Surely, starting new projects doesn’t seem like a very good idea. But professional ethics make simply sitting there and job searching seem unseemly, somehow. Meanwhile, I feel in some ways like I’m the canary in the coalmine for my fellow employees, since my contract expiration – along with at least two others I work with – is a convenient way to do we are not sure how much of the housework yet to be done.
This was a good job, too. The trouble with pinning too many of your hopes on a dying star like Kodak is that I’m unlikely to get another job doing the same thing for the same pay. I’ve enjoyed the company of my coworkers, gotten settled into what I thought was a pretty good position. I even have a Britta filter sitting on one of the tables in my office. I now look forward to the possibility of working in a cube farm somewhere, stripped of my little cubicle-office, left to suffer the fate of so many Office Space characters, with dread.
Once, long ago, I dated a woman I worked with. Then it ended – badly – but we still needed to see each other at work. This feels rather a lot like that: some space to stop damaging each other seems like a good idea.
Looking back on my career to this point, I can say I’ve never been unemployed for more than a month, save for the year I went to school to switch from manufacturing to IT. Those are good odds, and frankly if there’s anyone who knows how to hustle to find a job, it’s me. But I get a pretty awful feeling that road construction projects and the Renaissance Square project are going to take a long time to start paying dividends for one in my profession. This could be a long one.
Said the old Zen master, “We shall see.”