I am one of them

That’s the title of my “novel” – I am one of them. Thank you everyone for your support and encouragement and your listening when there’s no easy word left to say.

The story takes place in the heart of the Silicon Valley during the deepen recession time of my generation (hopefully there won’t be another one) in the month of April.  Character names  and story are not entirely real.  This is a fiction.  The book is rated R but not limit to adult themes, hard language, intense or persistent violence, drug abuse and/or other elements.

Day 1 – The day after the blood bath

I rolled over to the right side of the bed and used my hands to block the sun glare through my bare naked window. I have never slept ‘til the sun comes out so this is new to me. I’ve moved in my new place for quite awhile but chose not to install blinds on some windows. I very much enjoy the view from my upstairs loft to block it off with blinds and curtains. Tossing and turning for a good fifteen minutes I decided to get up and get my day started. Since I was 14 today is probably the first day I woke up during the week and not having to worry about what to wear or rushing to work and or school.

The day before was a blood bath at A-Tech Corporation. My first ever corporate bankruptcy experience. It was a chaos when all employees tried to pack and leave the company at the same time. People were fighting over moving boxes and collided into each other in the hallway. However we all glad it was over. No more speculations. No more fast heart beating when the stock price goes up or down. No more thinking of who will be let go in the next round of layoff. It is time to leave all together.

I went downstairs and made myself a grand slam breakfast with eggs, taro toasts, sizzling sausages from Costco and fresh squeeze orange juice from my backyard to celebrate the freedom from the corporate world, to celebrate the new opening to new challenges and having all the time to enjoy my new place. After the blood bath, I got on the phone with my friend, Hahung, and he told me that I should take this time to relax and figuring out what I really want to do. Hahung and I met for more than half  a decade now. We played street basketball together every Saturday. Hahung is real entrepreneur so I usually call him up every now and then for business ideas.

Just when I finished my breakfast, my Blackberry, Beo, rang. Incoming call.

“Hello”, I answered didn’t even bother looking at the caller id.

“Hey Duc, it’s Cavolina” from the other line.

Cavolina was my supplier for the last three year when I was at A-Tech Corporation. We became friend after our second project, Falcon, and I brought her back to my last project, Satellite.

“Oh hi Cavolina, how are you?” I replied

“I am sorry about your cats.” I continued.

Last week Cavolina had to put down one of her cats and the other went to hospital on my blood bath day. We are pretty good with keeping each other up to date with our life events. At that very moment, I thought about beloved Cosette, my last dog – the love of my life. I was wondering what she would be doing at this moment. Probably sprawling on her back napping after chowed down a big bowl of food and waiting for another long walk in the evening. Cosette is cute and charming with great personalities around people but she’s a loner. She doesn’t get along with other dogs nor like to be around dogs. She likes to be petted. Our relationship was very short but she was one of the best things happened to me.

“So how are you feeling?” checking up on me

“I am always doing good. I got to sleep in today and I am glad it’s over” I answered in an optimistic way.

Our conversation went on for a good twenty minutes for Cavolina got a conference call at 11am. I went off to do the dishes and cleaned up the table. Just like a first day in school I was completely lost. I didn’t know what to do next. First thing first, I turned on my computer to catch up with the news. I normally get my news dosage while driving to work in the morning with NPR. Then another phone call, this time was Tezou. Tezou was my loan agent when I purchased my home.

“Hi Tezou” I answered

“Hello, hello this is Tezou” Tezou has an interesting way of answering the phone. In addition to her Chinese accent, she always say hello twice and states her name even though I already knew it was her. Tezou made an appointment with me to stop by and check out my new remodel and talk with me about real estate market.

“Ok, I’ll see you at 4.30pm” I confirmed the time with her

“Bye” and I hung up

Just for the sake of keeping the house occupied I went on Craigslist and put an ad for a roommate. Five minutes later I got a response and got myself a showing appointment at 2pm. While waiting for my appointments, I went on EDD site and apply for UI, unemployment insurance. First time in my life but why not I’ve been paying tax for the last ten plus years.

After my last appointment, I rode my mountain bike to see Gonzales. Apart my busy schedule, I am a volunteer child advocate with CASA. I took on Gonzales case not long ago. He’s a teenager so definitely very hard to work with. I normally see Gonzales on Thursday but Tuesday works just fine. We hung out at a park nearby shooting hoops and catching up. I broke him the news that I no longer have a job and my main focus and priority now would be my career, which means I may not keep my weekly visit since my I don’t have a stable schedule anymore. My goals and objects are there, it’s definitely up to him to make the plan works. His short term goal seems to work out. I was able to get him an interview sometimes in May. Whether he’s getting the job or now…it’s between him and his God.

I have gone through at least ten layoffs in my career and every time it happened, I always kind of hope it would be me so I can get the severance package and take off to a lala land for a year or two to be a scuba diving master. Now my wish had been granted, what am I waiting for? Well, there’s a different between bankruptcy and layoff. Big different.

After dinner, I decided to start an A-Tech Alumni group on LinkedIn to stay in touch with my colleagues. I have always a been a leader in these crazy activities. When I first joined A-Tech, I started a foosball tournament. It was big. Lot of people signed up and they took the tournament very seriously. Some of them even practiced before each game. But that was before the economy took a plunge. I started two discussion topics. One is for bankruptcy claim and the other is a list of networking sites for people to check out. I also significantly cleaned up my professional profile before I turn lazy. Even though 50% of my daily activities were cut short, I still manage to keep myself busy.

Day 2 – The networking

It was not even 48 hours after the blood bath. The blood smell is still fresh on my hands but the thoughts of sleeping in and staying home for many days going forward crept up on me. I woke up at my normal working hour, 7am. I dressed like I was going to work. I packed a light snack bag and stuffed it in my duffle bag. I was on my way to meet my old colleague, Jreene at the EDD office for some orientation. Jreene and I were in the same group at A-Tech. Funny guy, just recently moved to the Bay Area with his wife from Boston.

I entered the room and it was full with people, unemployed – I thought to myself.  I am one of them. “Excuse me…” I said, making my way through the crowd and found an empty seat next to Jreen.

“There was a big accident on 101. I thought I will be late.” I started our morning conversation.

“You’re just on time. Not as crowded as I thought.” Jreene replied

“How was your commute from Pleasanton?” expressing my curiosity

“Some stop and go at the 237 but other than that it was good.”

We carried on our little conversation ignored what was going on in the room. The people in the room are somewhat older than us. Their ages ranged between 40 to 50. During the self-introduction and why you are here, some of them were very angry and resentful from their previous employers. That was when I really wanted to get out of the room that filled with anger and negativity.

As soon as the orientation finished, Jreene and I rushed out of the room as fast as we could. The air outside was so much better and warm sunlight made everything more lively.

“Alright Jreene, I am heading out to lunch with a friend now. I’ll see you this Saturday at Antolik’s?”

“Yup, there is no sign of labor from the wife. We should be able to make it. See ya!”

I headed out to a small restaurant in Sunnyvale to have lunch with an old friend, Dzhang, from graduate school. Last time we had saw each other was probably two and a half years ago. His company is within a rock throw distance from the restaurant. While waiting for Dzhang, I started to think about all the contingency plans that I came up and just simply re-asset each one more carefully.

After lunch I settled down at a small coffee shop on the same street to make a few phone calls and send out some documents. The first dial was to my gardener.

“This is Oscar” a heavy Mexican accent answered the phone.

“Oscar, this is Duc at 1234 Heaven Road” I replied

“Hey listen, I can’t afford your service anymore. I’ll do my own lawn from now on.” I broke him the news.

“Oh, did I do something wrong?” I felt a bit of sadness and disappointment in his voice

“Nothing, you did a great job. I just can’t afford you anymore, financially. I’ll definitely call you back. For the mean time, send me the bill.”

Taking away people work is just as hard as having your job taken away. It was hard to find the right words even though Oscar is just a gardener.

I spent the rest of the day at a friend’s house doing absolutely nothing related to job search or even thought about it. At one point we decided to get out of the house so we attended a World Council Affair event in Los Altos. I actually enjoyed it very much. There were 4 journalists from Brazil, US, Afghanistan and India. They were finishing up their study in the US and on their way back to their own countries. It really gave me a new perspective about the world around us.

We carried the topic to our car and had this long discussion on the way back about the news media and newspaper business until we reached the front door.  The neighborhood was dead quiet and most lights were out.  It was time for us to stop our little discussion and enjoyed the silence.

Day 3 – New idea

Within recent year a lot of newspaper companies had reduced their size and the newspapers have also decreased in size/volume. Well that’s because news readers go online to get their latest and greatest news from all over the world without paying a penny. They don’t have to run out to the front yard in their pajama at 5am and digging through an one inch thick cold snow to get the news. We are in the digital age now. The night before at the World Council Affair, one of the journalist set up an online broadcast with his iPhone. So there you go, you don’t need heavy camera equipments or special lighting to spread the news anymore. The bottom line is that, people must realize that they are in the ‘news’ business but not newsPAPER business. And speaking of going green, imagine how much paper we can save per year with newspaperless technology.

Along the same line of thought, I have this idea for quite a long time now but got too wound up at the corporate world to even thinking it out loud with friends. So then I sent out a few emails, made a couple of phone calls and put together a little presentation to show everyone. At the end of the day, it was more exciting and absolutely more fun than searching for the same old job.

Day 4 – Facing reality

Each day grew longer than the day before. Besides typical net browsing, catching up with old colleagues, organizing, I did absolutely nothing significant today. After a long nap I woke up to realize it was time for dinner. I was hungry even though I didn’t break a single sweat. I finally got off my couch, went down stair and looked for food; nothing healthy that I could find in my refrigerator unless I go for the instant ramen. The good thing is I live less than five minutes drive from a big chain Asian supermarket. Today was actually my first day after the blood bath that I went out to spend money and that was when reality hit me. No longer could I spend money freely and carelessly like I have in the past. I thought twice about the type of tomato I should buy to minimize expenses. I sacrificed the smooth and silky good taste of soymilk with 2% fat free cow milk for half the price. I skipped the snack section because it’s luxurious thing to have but not to survive. I watched every single item the lady scanned at the register like a hawk just to make sure everything was brought up correctly. Life can be so different over night. One day I went to work with people reported to me with a comfortable salary. The next day I pinched every penny I spend, scaled back from things I wanted versus what I needed to get me to the next day.

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One thought on “I am one of them

  1. PT says:

    Really like the writing. Interesting fact but also funny and practically sad. It fit me well this moment, except I love everyday I have with my little girl! Thanks for sharing…

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