“Do you have any news?”
Marc shook his head as he flipped open his take-out container. “Not really. I keep hearing conflicting reports.”
“Yeah, me too,” I sighed. “I mean, it could be as early as mid-March, late as June. That’s what I’ve heard.”
“What a fuckshow,” he said and then dug into his tiramisu.
One of our office mates joined us in the conference room. “So when do you think the next round of layoffs is coming?”
Marc and I gave each other the side-eye. “Who knows?” I said airily. Marc became engrossed in his dessert and I became entranced with the snowfall outside our Park Avenue window. The room became heavily silent.
Our coworker left, knowing she wasn’t going to infiltrate this meeting.
I think my coworkers would agree – this was one of the most painful parts of the experience. The paranoia, the loss of trust in each other, we who had been such good friends, working side by side every day, for many years. Who knew what? What were people hiding to protect themselves? Who was reporting what to upper management? For some reason, logical or not, there was a belief that if upper management knew we were discussing the fate of the company, publicly or privately, we’d be swiftly reprimanded, possibly fired for it. I stuck with the small group I trusted, and other than that, I tried to lay low.
It was a really surreal and tense time. We were supposed to be working business as usual but it was impossible to do so. No one knew what was going on, how to move forward, how to answer probing emails from clients or react to the constant press inquiries. So people were desperately just trying to show their “loyalty” and faces in the office but there was nothing to do. So they’d roll in around 10:30am, take a long lunch, and then leave at 3pm.
We had already endured one brutal round of layoffs – our friends taken in department by department and let go. It wasn’t individuals who were being fired – it was big chunks of the company – an arm here, a foot there, part of the face, a leg. Soon all that was left was a barely functioning torso. It was heartbreaking to see them all go into a conference room with earnest, timid smiles and come out with stoic expressions or wrenching tears. Those of us that were left, all we could do was hug those who were let go, say goodbye, and wander back to our desks and wonder where the guillotine would fall next.
Our Texas office was enduring the same horror and the whole West Coast Office had been shut down abruptly. It was all happening so fast I didn’t even have a chance to properly say goodbye to my cross-country friends. We all frantically connected on LinkedIn and hoped that tenuous ligature would be enough to maintain our relationships.
Despite all this upheaval, my day to day work life was pretty much the same. My new role, I can now say, was managing social media communication for the company – maintaining the Facebook page, Twitter feed, along with Lacy and my Newest Boss Oliver. I also wrote the company Tumblr blog where I took complex ideas about our product and the industry and transformed them into friendly and comprehensible posts. Although the press was quickly getting a handle on what was going on, it was our team’s job to show the world on social media that we were doing GREAT. Which, needless to say, involved a lot of creative spins. So we were actually kind of busy.
Because we didn’t know the exact timing of our end, we had a lot of unofficial Going Away happy hours during this time. We’d leave the office early and hit the local pubs, ordering a multitude of beers and drinking the time away together. We’d laugh heartily and loudly. Emily would tell long drawn out stories and we’d all become confused and say, “What? Where is the throughline? Where is this going??” and she’d say, “What, meandering stories? That’s my thing.” Then she’d take a sip of beer like that was normal. And we’d crack-up, because that is so, so her thing. McKenzie would wander away from the group and inevitably be necked into conversing with creepy older men and Seth would say to us all, “We can’t protect her now. She’s gone. Once you leave the group – you’re on your own hashtagbabygazelle.”
More often then was appropriate, I’d shout out, “This is the tiiiiiime to remember, cause it will not last forever!” And everyone would raise their glasses and join in but since no one really knew the words to that song, it would disintegrate into all of us just yelling, “These are the daaaaays to hold onto, because we won’t hmmm humm…Times are going to change, I’ve given you the best of me…doodoolaalaa!”
And then we’d usually get kicked out of the bar.
It was all pretty hysterical. But there was always the underlying fear biting at our heels: werelosingourjobswerelosingourjobswhatthefuckwhatdowedonow.
Eventually the timing was sorted out: We’d keep our jobs until the beginning of May. And that was that.
Everyone turbocharged their job search.
I did not. Instead I called My Boyfriend.
I told him I was feeling stressed out and overwhelmed with the prospect of looking for a job now, when I was just going to have to instigate a California job search in a few months. That I was concerned that having a short stint role in NYC (if I could even get one) would actually hurt my resume rather than help it. That I was wondering about the practicality of it all.
And he said, “Well, your job is up in May, your lease is up in May. It looks like all signs are pointing to you coming here in May.”
“Are you sure?” I said. “I don’t want to put pressure on you.”
“Look, if it was up to me, you’d move tomorrow. Let’s do it.”
And so it was decided with much less fanfare and much more sadness than the last time, to push our move up to the end of May.
Which meant that after 10 years in NYC, I was leaving in just three months.
Not too long after that, McKenzie and I, along with our coworker, Parker, went to see our ex-coworker’s band. It was a frigidly cold and icy night and I muttered to McKenzie when I met her downtown, “I am only doing this because I told Andy I would come. Anything else and I would be home.”
“No kidding,” she replied.
The venue was this super cute old theater with red velvet chairs and little tables scattered around. The stage was framed with carved gold woodwork and it was cozy and comfortable and warm.
Andy’s songs were so good, so funny and so honest. His writing was quite intimate and I almost felt embarrassed because I didn’t feel I knew him well enough to be allowed to peer so deeply into his life.
Kind of like how some people feel about reading this blog.
Anyway, when he mentioned to the crowd that he had just lost his job, I felt a lump forming in my throat. Because I realized then – I would likely likely never see him, and so many of my other co-workers after we shut down, again. We’d all go our separate ways. Because, as I mentioned earlier, that’s just the way it happens. I glanced over at McKenzie and she also had tears in her eyes. I put my arm around her and gave her a tight hug.
Later at the after-party, I drank too much red wine and promptly lost my phone. I then spent the entire cab ride uptown crying into McKenzie’s shoulder because, although I knew leaving in May was the sensible decision, I was so sad and afraid of how quickly it was all going down, how little time I had left.
One Friday evening in the middle of March, we received a company-wide email that the NYC office had been closed, effective immediately. We could go in on Monday and retrieve our things but other than that, we were required to work from home from then on.
We didn’t even get to say goodbye to each other.
On April 1st, we shut down all social media channels. So although I was technically working until May, my job was effectively done. Lacy and I met that afternoon for lunch to celebrate.
Afterwards, I went home and sat on my couch, looking at nothing. It hit me then that it really was over. No more Fun Committee, no more Wellness Group, no more guiding remote control shark balloons down the office halls. No more Happy Hours, or Office Lunches, or Retreats, no more Social Media Marketing Team Meetings. No more hanging out every day with some of the funniest, smartest, coolest people I’ve ever met. No more any of that.
It really was over. And you know what?
Please check out my friend Andy Ranley’s music!