Sunday, February 27, 2005

You're Fired! (update added)

A note on antibiotics: some will make you sicker than sick. There’s a reason for the saying, “The cure is worse than the illness.” Or something like that. I had to stop the ones I was taking because on Friday I was on my death bed on the verge of throwing up…like all day, like I was in tears and dying from the worst nausea, paying for something I must have done in my past. My goodness, there must be badness there.

Anyway, on said day, I received a letter from the school where I teach, the envelope addressed to me personally in handwriting no less, the letter addressed to “part time faculty.”

The letter was from the head of the business division saying this was the third warning, that if we didn’t turn in all the required paperwork we’d not be rehired for the coming semester.

In my fevered state, I panicked. I crawled to the computer and picked off an e-mail, sending, “Wha…? I turned it all in I swear to god but now that I think on it maybe the syllabus isn’t turned in ohno ohno do I e-mail it to you or should I mail it to…I don’t want to get fired, please don’t fire me, I’m a bad girl, a bad person, and is that you in the bushes with the pink slip getting ready to fire me from the only job in law I’ve liked since 1997, never mind, I think I’m going to vomit now in the family-throw-up-pot-cum-vegetable-cooker. Sincerely all the best very truly yours, Adriana who loves her job more than life itself.”

Well, I didn’t exactly say that, but you understand the fear that struck me.

I lost my first job as a lawyer after I had my first child. What happened was that the glow of pregnancy had lessened the appeal of working for a cranky older man on a bunch of cases I couldn't care less about. With my burgeoning belly, I’d grown to dislike the way Mr. Bob-who-shall-remain-nameless chewed on nothing as he listened to my analyses of cases, with his eyes peering above the steel eyeglass frames. I’d rush to doctor appointments, not caring that he was unhappy over my missing a client consult. He began to yell at me, find errors in everything I did. By the time I went on maternity leave, I was fully a battered wife. I thought, I can’t quit, it's the only job I’ll ever have in my life, I'll die out there in the real world. I came back with milk-leaking breasts, a three-month old in the care of complete strangers, a father just-diagnosed with terminal cancer, my heart broken, determined to screw up what was left of the job I'd come to hate.

I remember being told I was dismissed, right before the Christmas blitz. I was glad the torture was over, but the moment of being fired still haunts me, strangely.

This past Friday night, I dreamt for what seemed like all night about chasing the job, about being so angry over losing my teaching gig. I was dreaming of rejection. Employers’ faces blended with familial ones – offices blended with my childhood home, in particular the grand baby-blue carpeted living room.

When did my “job” become the most important bit of my self-esteem in my subconscious? Why has being kept on by an employer taken over all the things I truly love and care about? I can live without the job, working outside the home doesn’t mean much to me other than a small paycheck. And yet, there it is, the essential “me.” Fear of being rejected by strangers overpowers the acceptance by my very own children who say from their beds in the dark, “Come sleep with me, mama, and tell me a story.”

Update: As I suspected, the letter I received turned out to be a general letter sent to all part-time faculty. The contact person at the office informed me that I have complied with all the necessary deadlines. After I read the e-mail note, I could hear my mother's voice as clear as if she were sitting next to me, "You have a guilty conscience." I believe a better word is, "paranoia."


narrator said...

It's a strange world. Employers get worse at communicating with their employees every day. They've lost all ability to "speak" politely. For reasons I can't quite figure out, this seems as bad or worse in academia as it is in the corporate world. I've seen schools lose fabulous professors simply because deans couldn't communicate successfully.

All that said: I hope you feel better and I hope it works out.

Adriana Bliss said...

Thanks, narrator. I'm sure it won't be a problem, but in the event it is, I will get over it. And I'll come here and whine about it to my heart's content. :)

That said, yes, it's strange how at a time when communication is fast heading toward a zenith in growth, personal communication has sunk, pitifully.

MatzahNacho said...

The letter being addressed to all part-time faculty would make it appear to be a form-letter sent out to everyone, but it would definitely leave you wondering if your work had somehow never been received. It's too bad they didn't just send letters to those who had NOT turned in their required paperwork. What a thought! Did you ever get the other two warnings, since this one claimed to be the third? It really bites that you got it on Friday so had to worry about it all weekend.

Adriana Bliss said...

Right, a form letter sent for the purpose of stressing everyone (especially the paranoids) all weekend. Silly. Final warnings to the non-complying employees would have been much better.

Thanks for popping in to hear me whine! ;)

Carolyn said...

I agree w/matzahnacho. That was pretty lame to make you worry all weekend over something you weren't guilty of.

Once I got "fired" after 1 1/2 yrs. on a job as rental agent for an apartment complex, (well, was actually told that the company had to cut back positions due to financial crisis). They let me work all week and up to 4pm on Friday. The boss even called me that day and asked what was going on, made the usual chit-chat, etc., and never let on a thing. Then they came in and told me that evening at 4pm how they hated it, but had to cut out my position, blah, blah, blah... Now being one of cynical mind, I'm sure they didn't just realize the need to do away with my job that day, but they could have at least discussed the possibility w/me. Better still, they could have told me earlier that morning instead of working me all day...

It's been 2 yrs. now and they have not replaced me, so I guess they were at least telling the truth. The only comfort I get is knowing that the doofus in charge that didn't do anything anyway now has to do it :)

I hope your school doesn't scare you like that again!

Kilroy Trout said...

I was a school teacher for a couple years in my youth. In general I found school administrations bastions of conformity and bureaucratic protocol. Your form letter fits perfectly.

In the end I was encouraged to leave for, among other things, insisting to my 9th grade earth science students that the earth was indeed flat, and they must prove otherwise before I could teach them further. I must say the students quite enjoyed it but not the administration.

Perhaps if you were to make, say, Hunter S Thompson required reading you would receive more personalized communication.

Adriana Bliss said...

Carolyn, great story on getting laid off. I find the Friday Four-o-clock Firing to be the worst tradition. That and getting fired at Christmas. Oh...and like three days before your retirement kicks in. I suppose getting fired always sucks no matter when it is. And as pointed out by Kilroy so well regarding this sort of system...I suspect that I will receive many more letters like that througout the rest of my association with the school as non-tenure, adjunct faculty.