Monday, December 18, 2006

An Anniversary, Of Sorts

I’ll spare everyone the gory details of how my wife and I came to live in Fayetteville, NC. (At least for now!) We arrived here in April of 1998 and on May 22,1998, I started a new job at a manufacturing company in the small town of St. Pauls, NC.

This company traced its lineage back some 95 years to a blacksmith shop in Brooklyn, NY. Many employees had been there thirty years or more, and, being a profitable company there were many nice benefits doled in terms of bonuses, 401k payments, sick time, etc.

I was coming on board right on the heels of the plant being sold to a major corporation. The president of 35 years was now out of the picture but the benefits package and old-school employees were still intact.

A couple years into my tenure there, the plant was sold a second time to yet another major corporation. To make a long story short, in my seven years at the plant, there were seven Plant Managers through the revolving door on the corner office. The previously generous employee benefit package was winnowed down to the point where sick time was rescinded and employees were receiving attendance demerits for staying home when ill! (I will mention here that two employees actually dropped dead in-house than dare to take time off to go to the doctor or find out the source of their searing chest pains.)

The thing that really hit me was that my department manager went out for an operation in early 2003 and never came back. Something went terribly wrong and he ended up on permanent disability. I watched as my office went from housing four people down to one, i.e., me. I actually came to work for ten months without a direct supervisor!

One day, the current Plant Manager decided to stuff me into another department. It wasn’t a good fit, but since there really was nothing left of my department, well something had to be done, I suppose.

I could glimpse the grim reaper of downsizing hovering over my shoulder if I turned around quickly enough. In a panic, I started looking for a new job – any job – before this one completely dried up. (I should mention that I hadn’t received an annual employee evaluation for three years. This was surely a bad sign!)

Well, I didn’t outwit the reaper. On March 24, 2005 I was shown the door.

Regrouping with my wife, I suggested maybe this was really a blessing! Surely, I reasoned, this was a sign that it was time to move back north! Our new infant daughter could grow up around friends and family and we could happily shovel snow the rest of our days.

I signed up for unemployment and set about combing the internet for employment in Western New York, Western Pennsylvania or even Michigan where my sister and now-widowed Father were living. I had many nibbles and took several trips “back home” to interview for jobs that I thought were sure winners.

Each trip ultimately ended in disappointment. The curt dismissal letters started to pile up.

I will mention here that throughout this whole ordeal I had been praying. Praying to know God’s will as far as my employment was concerned. For which company back north would I be working? Would it be a repeat of what had come before? Additionally, of course, when, oh, when would I get back to work?

In the mean time, I continued to answer local employment ads as well. The Employment Securities Commission requires that you document a minimum of two job applications per week. My unemployment benefits ran out after six months and I was still scrambling.

I answered a very unassuming ad placed by a local “temp” agency looking for some sort of technical/engineering support.

I went in and filled out the application.

I took a test on basic math and measurement skills.

I got the job.

On December 19, 2005, I started work at a local manufacturing company. It was a “Mom ‘n’ Pop” shop with an eighty year history in the area. The company was now being run by the granddaughter of one of the founders.

On March 23, 2006, nearly a year to the day of being dismissed from my previous job, I was put on the new company’s payroll as a full-time employee.

Yep, my prayers were answered. Only I thought I was praying for a job back north. Turns out I was really praying for a job at a small company that was free of the corporate smoke-and-mirrors, please-the-share-holders-at-all-costs mentality.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes you don’t know what it is you’re praying for? I guess as long as you pray that God’s will be done, you’ll be sure to get results. Just be open as to what those results are.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Anniversary!

The family who started and continue to run the business you work for must be exceptional people. Employment laws, regulations, costs, benefits and insurances are increasingly created/influenced by corporate America. It is more and more difficult for the small, independent business to survive (despite politicians telling us they're all for small business), and those that do thrive are led by bright, enterprising folks who can think outside the box. I know something about this... my husband and I have owned/operated an "independent" employment and temp services business for over 25 years.

May your employer thrive, and may you continue to enjoy being a part of the company!

December 18, 2006 9:22 AM  
Blogger whimsical brainpan said...

Amen! And although Fayetteville can get pretty hot and isn't the best place to live culturally you do have a friend who lives in the largest city in the mtns. (which is so full of culture it has been called the Paris of the South, sans snobs of course) and we do get snow from time to time.

Happy Anniversary!

December 18, 2006 4:06 PM  
Blogger Craig D said...

whimsical: The "Paris of the South?" Is this Asheville? (Though Fayetteville can boast of having a scaled-down version of the Eiffel Tower in the parking lot of the Bordeaux Shopping Center!)

wizard: Yes, God bless the small businessman! I wish you continued success in your endeavors!

December 19, 2006 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is certainly an exciting day in Bloggerville! I'm sure you are already aware of Dirk's award, but have you seen what Time gave me? And the exciting link from my site to their third award of the day?!!

December 19, 2006 11:37 AM  
Blogger Craig D said...

Yes, congratulations on the Wizard of the Year award! And I see Frank Zappa has received the posthumous Mother Of The Year, as well!

December 19, 2006 12:30 PM  
Blogger whimsical brainpan said...

Yep, I live in the wonderful city that is Asheville. I love it.

December 19, 2006 1:32 PM  

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