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What it feels like to be young, hard-working--and escorted to the door

'Your job must really suck' 

What it feels like to be young, hard-working--and escorted to the door

Until Monday, I worked in the Information Technology division at The Herald-Sun. I was the Macintosh Support Specialist. The Mac Guy. I was primary tech support for 40 or 50 people. I didn't always like where I worked or who I worked for, but I loved what I did and the people I worked with--photographers and graphic artists primarily. Most of them became my friends. The best part of my job was being able to help people--giving creative people more opportunities to focus on being creative, making someone's day go smoother.

I worked at The Herald-Sun for six years. I was fresh out of A.S.U. with a degree in American Cultural Studies and English. I'd worked in computer labs and the school newspaper and leveraged that experience. Lowered pay demands and evidence of a creative mind and initiative had a lot to do with it, I think.

You had to be pretty creative there. We never had a big budget. We always felt understaffed and undertrained. I called it "guerrilla I.T. --tech in the trenches." Usually, an old piece of equipment would have to die, threatening deadline or advertiser dissatisfaction before we got anything new. Always on deadline, we got it done because that was the only option.

In six years, I have become a damn fine Mac Guy. I've been told often enough that I believe it. I even do Windows (though I complain more). I learned it all on my own--from a book or a Web site or just clicking on buttons until I made it behave. Photographers and artists called me all hours of the day or night and I helped them, both in and out of work.

After the buyout was announced a month ago, Paxton brought in a team, interviewing everyone down the line. I ended up being last in my division. My interview lasted three-and-a-half minutes because the interviewer had to get to the airport.

As soon as I got back from lunch on Monday, I was ushered into a conference room with two guys in suits I'd never seen before.

"As you might have noticed, we're doing some restructing today and your position is no longer needed," one said.

"Don't take it personally, it's just, you know, business," the other said. "Are you OK?" What a stupid question.

Then I was escorted to my car. I asked my escort his name.

"Your job must really suck," I said.

"Yeah, it's a tough day," he replied. My hands were shaking so he helped carry the stuff I was allowed to take.

And so it goes. Ups and downs. Everyday feels like Sunday. Still a little shocked. I can only begrudge Paxton so much for making cuts. Like the suit said, it's just, you know, business. A cruel and short-sighted way to do business. People get laid off every day.

I'm healthy and single, with low expenses. It could be worse. My manager spent 32 years at The Herald-Sun and has a daughter who just started college. But I understand. It's business, it's not personal. Not like this really affects people or anything. But we were thrown out and that's what really hurt. We helped make that a business they wanted to own. Decency and courtesy wouldn't have cost them anything.

Having seen the Rollins' house, though--working in a department that had to troubleshoot his dial-up access (broadband was just too expensive), knowing how much money we made for that family--it's hard to believe that it wasn't enough. I hope the money is worth the dignity of 80 people and the trust of a community.

I doubt it will be a nice place to work anyway, now. The drinks people want to buy me when I walk into a bar and sit on the grass during this beautiful weather has been some consolation. Thanks again, for your compassion. It means a lot knowing that there are folks in this community that care.

  • What it feels like to be young, hard-working--and escorted to the door

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