The joys of unemployment


Wednesday, 11-Feb-2015


I was laid off for the first time today.

If I said I didn’t see it coming, I’d be lying.  If I said that I was caught off-guard… I’d be telling the truth.

See, I’d been seeing signs that my company was doing not-so-amazingly for a while… little things like specific people being overworked, while others were going without projects.  Quotes going out… and not a lot of orders coming in.

But when I was called in for a “quick chat” with my boss, I wasn’t expecting anything aside from questions about a new system skid that I’d been working on that morning.  Instead, I saw the entire HR department file in behind me… and knew that this wasn’t going to be about a new system skid that I’d been working on that morning.

They said that the company was doing poorly, and that someone needed to be let go.  And that, as the meeting foreshadowed, I was that someone.  “Nothing against you”, they said, “But cuts had to be made somewhere.  You’re a great guy, but your position just isn’t in the budget anymore”.

And then, they explained my severance, how everything would work, and that was it.  I honestly didn’t hear much of it – I had the paperwork in hand, but I didn’t have anything to write notes down with anyways.  Everything I needed, everything about the 2+ years I’d been there, was effectively housed in an envelope containing a severance letter, some healthcare information, and a check for my unused vacation days.

I was told that my (now former) boss would oversee me cleaning up my cube, and then I’d be walked to my car.  I’d have a short time to say my goodbyes, but that I wouldn’t finish out the week, the day, or even the hour.  My projects would be passed off to another department, and my position would disappear.

The goodbyes were quick, as was packing up my desk.

Turned out that I didn’t have many personal affects there… a few textbooks, a notebook, and my coffee cup among a few other random bits.  Nothing to write home about, honestly.

The goodbyes took longer, and I honestly didn’t rush them much… I mean, I was free for the rest of the day.  The only person who’s time I was wasting was my former employer, who of course followed me throughout the process.  Everyone except the executives and one of the the guys in IT (who had blocked my server access as soon as the meeting started) were surprised, and that helped me a bit.  Some of the engineers even laughed at the thought that they’d be taking over my projects… I had actually taken the helm on some of their projects in the previous weeks to ease their loads!  The idea that they’d be taking those back, along with my other roles, didn’t excite them very much.

But it was a quick afternoon… I was in an almost zen-like trance the whole time, my brain shielding my mind from what had actually happened.


Of course, everything would hit me much harder over the next few days.  I’d understand that I was out in the field again, and that unemployment insurance would be just enough to scrape by… or so it seemed at the time (the future will tell, on that one).  All i could think about was the unfinished projects, my sudden financial vulnerability, and the fact that I was very glad that I hadn’t  booked my flights for Spring Break just yet.


A… THIRD? Seriously? How much snow are we going to get here?


08-Feb-15 & 09-Feb-15


This time, I was in Medway for the storm.  My mom flew out of Logan early on the 8th, early enough to dodge the storm that started hitting sometime around 4:00.  This was a problem, because my Stepdad had cracked his rib earlier in the year, and couldn’t shovel out the walkways… usually not a problem with my mom around.  But without her…

So, I drove out Sunday evening, to stay a few days and help keep the yard at least moderately clear and walkable.

Thankfully, that was a very easy task, due to the fact that the new Mayor of Boston accidentally installed a new  snow-magnet, which seemed to be pulling all the snow away from the usual snow-belt, and into the city.  Seriously – 12-14 inches in Boston/Cambridge, and 4-6 in Medway.  Usually it’s exactly the opposite… but sure!  Why not?  Bostonian’s are tough.

So I pulled into Medway late on Sunday, thanks to poor planning on my part, and heavy snow on the road’s part… a bit too late to join Steve for dinner, but early enough that I could quickly beast out some shoveling before sitting down to the rest of the spaghetti and meatballs that Steve had made for us.  Then some videos were watched, and sleep was had… since why would my office be closed tomorrow?  It was only a blizzard…


And in the morning – yep.  The office was open! Ploweda, even, from what my boss said when I gave him a call ’round 7:00.  I’d actually already shoveled out by then, so it was a quick drive into work… Unfortunately.

See, I say “unfortunately” because my boss has an SUV.  So his idea of “plowed” means “the snow plows haven’t touched it yet, and there’s 4″ of snow in the lot”.  Snowtires prevailed, thankfully, and my poor Mustang found itself parked in the lot, and I found myself sitting at a desk getting stuff done.

Then, I found myself being told that everyone else had been sent home, and that I shouldn’t be in the office anymore.  I guess I missed the memo, since everyone else had already left by the time I heard at around one in the afternoon, and the place was being locked up.

So I cleared the car, and drove back to Medway… where I found yet another unplowed piece of pavement.  This one though, I sort of expected… so a quick 45min later, my folks driveway was mostly shoveled, and the walks to and from the garage were cleared.  Roar.  I am Ben, see me annihilate snow.  And to celebrate the annihilation?  Beans, carrots, and watching Machete Kills on Hulu, and waiting for the rest of the storm to pass…


The next day was barely even shoveling, with just a dusting left overnight.  Of course, when I got back to Cambridge that evening there were horrid neighbors (Excuse me?  You can’t park here while you shovel your own spot.  I have GUESTS coming in four hours.  No, I know you’ll only be 20min.  But you don’t understand.  I have guests.  GUESTS.) and massive berms of snow… but those were dealt with quickly enough, thanks to my roommate being back home to help me clear it out.

And, of course, I continued my tradition of running around the semi-deserted streets, body-slamming myself through snowbanks and sliding on all kinds of ice.  It was a bit tougher this time, since there wasn’t a driving ban in place, but it was still possible.  And regardless of how silly it was, it was still very enjoyable!  One could argue that it was even enough to make me enjoy the winter again…

Another snow day in January.. wait, no! February!




Here in Boston, we’re ready for it.

Wait, what are we ready for?  Shut up.  It doesn’t matter.  We’re wicked ready.  For anything at all.  Bring it on.



And then, we had a huge storm, that somehow magically skipped everyone else to bury us in fluffy white snow.  Cool.  Screw you, New York.  You thought you’d have it bad… we just went on with our lives when we got our snow and your snow combined.

And then, a week later, it happened again.

This is the story of it happening again.


Actually, that’s a pretty boring story.  It snowed.  From the sky, as one would expect.  It piled up, as one would expect.  I shoveled it, and the other folks who park near me let their cars get buried under another foot or so of snow.  I got cranky, then I got over it.

Basically, we kept moving on, as Bostonians do.  Driving was harsh, and I had to take a vacation day from work, but ya know.  It is what it is. And shoveling wasn’t even that bad, since there’d only been one storm, and the snow hadn’t really piled up too bad yet.

I would later come to regret having mentioned that.  But for now, it was all good.  I dealt with it, put on my heavy snow gear, and ran around the city in the snowy twilight.  It really is beautiful, when the snow sifts through the streetlights…