severance, the first week

Monday, February 11, 2013 the beginning of my first week outside of the ranks of the employed and it is fantastic. Now I realize this will not last forever and that new employment is on the distant horizon but if I conserve and drive the speed limit that horizon will stay distant, longer.

On Saturday, February 9th the day after my last day of work a fog bank consumed me like a hangover from an all night party with only enough mental strength for a workout at the local gym and to file for unemployment. Going through each routine (stretching, weight lifting, running in place) I was at ease, excited about the future, giddy, silly, and invincible as if life without a job is the norm and look to this opportunity with anticipation to expand on writing.  Two hours later I return home and try to wrap my head around doing taxes, clean house, walk the dog but, there was only enough oomph to start the unemployment process then turn on the television but not to watch some lame scripted, reality or dull talk show no, but that of the coolest game on earth, yea man hockey! My only disappointment came when the live feeds did not include the between periods commentary of Canada’s colorful icon, Don Cherry! Whether energized from the fast pace action of hockey or what sleep that night was a restless, flip-flopping mess.

Sunday, the 10th of February day two into my non-work life I settled in front of the PC a cup of strong coffee at hand and with tax information up on the screen did not leave until the envelope combing personal taxes and those for the St. John’s Crystal Cathedral, a tobacco accessories store in St John’s, Oregon I started two years ago was stamped, sealed, and addressed.  With only getting up to eat, drink, walk our pug dog Smokey Joe, and watch the Mighty Detroit Redwings down the Stanley Cup Champs, LA Kings 3-2 in hockey, the process took an exhausting five hours to complete but I wanted this done to count on, hopefully, my refund as part of the bankroll I will be living off until going back to work.

So, after partner Alfred left for work today I hunkered and sent out a few job applications for unemployment, worked a little on my writings, then just let the day quietly carry on. On Tuesday, I predict recovery from the fog and then back to the future.

more words to come

extended time off, eh?

and now for something completely different…

On January 25, 2013, depressed, I went back to work after vacationing on the Oregon Coast for seven days and going through emails I got the one from my supervisor that changed everything. I work for a major cable company in one of their contact centers taking calls from customers, at first, about technical difficulties, and then transferred to retention to save subscribers from disconnecting services, and finally, eight and one half years later, fielding billing calls. Billing, I find it amazing how many don’t read bills but have a concern about what they are paying.

Before I left on vacation the company announced changes particularly in pay structure with more news to follow which arose while I enjoyed the company of good friends and the roaring of the mighty Pacific Ocean. The one on one meeting scheduled was to go over these changes in-depth and to explain three offers: an adjusted compensation package (an hourly rate with greatly reduced commission,) a severance package, or relocate to another call center which was immediately disqualified possible as I did not meet “high performer” guidelines which the company defines as: “…those who are on track to attaining 100% or more of target commission calculated based on annualized value of actual earnings from January through end of October.” Huh? So the choices are now an hourly rate or the severance which wrestled for my attention. Suddenly, the grey clouds parted and a light shone from above, angels began singing my outlook brightened! Severance pay, really I would never have thought that would come up, I declared to my supervisor. “Are you leaving us Jim?” she responded. Stumbling for an answer as I was still coming to terms of severance pay and not ready for a reaction I interjected, I am always looking.

After the 15-minute meeting I went back to my desk and wheels within wheels began turning; an opportunity to break away from this dead-end job presented itself and if it pays off a clear road is waiting. Not wanting to jump without looking and create a financial hardship for partner Al I spent the next seven days crunching numbers, calculating bills and assets combined and concluded that if severance accepted I can hold out for a few months, maybe longer with unemployment and part-time work. On February 1, 2013 my mind clear I sat down with human resource , gave the “Yes” for the severance package, and informed my last day will be February 8, 2013. One day later, on the evening of February 2nd while walking our dog, Smokey Joe, the clear, cold night air, combined with a starry sky created an electrifying sort of motivation that I made the right decision.

more words later

The Hometown


The other night sitting at the PC listening to Iris DeMet’s song Our Town from the Infamous Angel album (which  closed out the final episode of the popular television show Northern Exposure) and when “…now I sat on the porch and watched the lightning bugs fly but I can’t see too good I’ve tears in my eyes, I’m leaving tomorrow but I don’t want to go I love you my town you’ll always live in my soul…” played the old hometown, Saint Clair Shores, Michigan popped in mind.  I was last in Saint Clair Shores, on Lake St Clair, in May 1998 staying 12 months completing a circle opened in 1980 when a planned two month stay in Eugene, Oregon to visit my Brother David stretched into 17 years.  Perhaps because of the sudden departure, St Clair Shores and Michigan where never far from mind during this time on the west coast but as long time partner Alfred and I began going in opposite directions the urge to move back home blossomed and so in the winter of 1995 I drew up plans but set no date.  A couple of coincidences occurred at this time one a quote I know not where I found it or whom it is by but the text referred to one can home not to pick up where one left off but rather to “sanctify memory” and the other “When you are lost, the most sensible strategy is to go back to the point of departure…” from the essay, New West, True West in the book Under Western Skies by Donald Worster.  Both quotes gave me chills of a good nature as if finding them at this particular time was a push forward so, in May 1997 with a packed to the ceiling Volvo DL car I navigated eastward and headed home.  Initially, I planned to stay in Michigan but with Alfred and me resolving our differences I agreed, in one year’s time, I would move and meet him in Portland, Oregon as time was needed to reconnect with the family and home I so abruptly left, Dad, Sister Linda, Brother Tad, nieces Cindy and Heather, brother in-law Doug, and Michigan.  Unbeknownst when I arrived in 1997 that my stay would prove a boon to Dad’s moral which suffered a major blow when he started having seizures of the unknown kind, doctors thought these linked to smoking and drinking and possibly the unexpectant passing of Mom from a heart attack just as the two were planning to retire.  Timing Mr. Jim, Timing.

The sabbatical was great!  Some may connect with many friends for old-time sake but I only chose one to represent all my friends in St. Clair Shores as I had changed so much in 17 years and felt trying to catch with everyone not worth the effort.  I phoned good friend Ed whom I’ve known since the 1970’s and arranged to meet him at his son’s birthday party, his current and former spouses where there and for the two hours there it felt like old times; I walked home that night with one chapter in my life closed and I sensed the opening of a new one”…this old town ain’t the same now nobody knows his name, times have changed, still he rides…” Journey, Still He Rides.  During the few times away from family I rode my bicycle to two local beaches one Metro Beach and rode along the wooden boardwalk, past shuffleboard courts, an inside pavilion, and nature trails, all frequented so much in days of yore and the occasional elementary school field trip.  The other, Memorial Park being much smaller is more for the Sunday stroll, family picnic, or occasional dunk in the waters both on Lake St. Clair which from time to time close due to E. coli contaminated waters.  While home both were closed to swimmers for just this, sad.

I took up a job with Linda and Doug in their upholstery shop in New Baltimore, Michigan north of town doing the grunt work and some minor upholstery which I loved!  This was fantastic doing something I’d never done before nor knew how but managed.  I revisited the St. Clair Shores Public Library (libraries are my church) where I spent many hours of youth  researching this countries space program, in The Michigan Room reading up on this Great Lake State and of the Copper Country on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Alfred flew in for the 4th of July holiday, his first and only trip to the state;  there was so much I wanted to show him but being that he was in town for just a few days we settled on a partly with a mutual friend who had flown in during this time as well. The friend, Donna, resides in Phoenix, Arizona where her family moved from St Clair Shores in the early 70’s when her father’s construction business moved.

In the fall, the upholstery business dropped so to keep the cash coming in I took a job at a local bookstore and loved that just as much but, before my first day Dad and I drove 12 hours north to his hometown of Atlantic Mine, Michigan which was the icing on this cake of recollection as the village, surrounded by pristine woodland and sparsely populated, is in the heart of the Copper Country which was this country’s first mineral boom starting in 1844 my “Shangri-La.”  Last but not lease I made contact with Brother Tad and his wife Carol.  I experienced the joy of a humid Midwest summer, the spectacular fall, bone chilling winter with some snow thrown in, and the rebirth that is spring with which my journey ended and I repacked the Volvo DL, again to the ceiling with belongings, and back to the west coast where Alfred moved to in 1996.

Today, the want to visit St. Clair Shores and Michigan is not as intense; I do use the internet to check in from time to time keeping the hometown and state at my fingertips and perhaps this is way the urgency is not there however, the journey I took in 1997/98 was that of rediscovery, rebirth and of securing a place that will, “…always live in my soul…”

copyright 2013, jim pykonen