27 July 2011

Looking for 'someone who's close to the action' my right toe! They're looking for someone who doesn't rock the boat:


I remember thinking back in 2006-2009 as I watched 'them' terminate employments that 'they' were in the process of eliminating the 'troublemakers', a weeding out of the aging, the difficult, the office activist types who had morals, values, and principals that didn't include violating just about every single code of common decency there is. I remember frantically trying to get my mortgage paid off, the house renovations finished, the garden producing, and the pantry stocked before they came for me-I knew they would sooner or later because in the end, I am a troublesome employee to the corporate Human Resources people.

I was a team player, I did 'play ball', but not to the extent of crossing that line-I never became ruthless, I never went corporate; I never lied, cheated, or back-stabbed. Credit to the team member to whom it was genuinely due even when it was someone we all heartily disliked, and I expected it back from the others. All the while I knew things 'out there' were so bad that my coworkers would throw me to the wolves, under the bus, etc, and oh yes, they did. People were so desperate to keep their jobs that I have some unpleasant suspicions about the acts some were willing to commit.

And when I politely refused to go along to the pub/lake-side BBQ/ride on the boss's yacht, I knew my days were numbered.

And I knew that because things were so bad out there, and because I was over 50 (53 when I lost my job), and because I don't play bulls*it games, I knew I was in for a very rocky ride.

And of course it was a very rocky ride both before and after losing my job. Finally, on 28 September 2009 I joined the ranks of the unemployed. I mechanically went about the things I needed to do-cancelled the cable and Internet, put out the word I was looking and would do odd-jobs ("Say, I can fix that wall your husband punched, trade me...") in barter or for cash. Thank-God I knew how to sink a wall anchor, patch a wall, replace a light switch; thank-God I knew how to sew, crochet, and garden and hunt and clean game-all my very valuable skills put to barter and personal use to save the cash I'd managed to stash. But it was a very rough time, those three months of unemployment I went through. I never really got another job, either, not the sort I was looking for-one I could stay in for years until I was finally ready to stay home all day becoming the cat lady-neighbourhood grannie.

So. Two years later the New York Times is publishing a piece on how hard it is to find a job when you haven't got one and how that is cutting millions out of potential employment. I like the Times, I've been reading it for decades. LA and NYT, the two best newspapers on the rack, back in the day, with the Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe thrown in if there was enough spare change on the dashboard.

But the Times missed the most important reason the well-qualified-yet-currently-unemployed are being eliminated from the CV (resume) queue-they were 'let go' from their last positions because they were undesirable for reasons sometimes so subtle the newly unemployed were utterly clueless as to what the hell had just happened.

I watched my now former employers 'let-go' a woman who'd used her horribly expensive company health plan to beat the first round of breast cancer.

I watched my now former employers 'let-go' several of us women past the age of 45-many of us scant years from being vested, so we missed out on our pensions.

I watched my now former employers...well, name the typical corporate dastardly anti-employee deed, and for over four years I watched those bastards commit it. Speaking up never did any good and trying to see it from the company point of view was incredibly stupid now that I think about it. To read the NYT saying that the reason those of us who are unemployed for over nine months are likely never going to find a job because we 'are out of the loop' is insulting, too easy, and at best naive.

We lost our jobs because we were troublemakers of one sort or another, and that is all there is to it. We were troublemakers in the corporate eye-we had to go because we used our insurance, might use our insurance, and/or wouldn't play the corporate games to the extent of selling our souls to the devil to keep up our house/car/credit card payments. Since I didn't have a mortgage, car payment, or credit cards, I was suspect; because I was getting older and would presumably soon begin to use my health insurance, I was a potential drain on their bottom line; because I wouldn't lie, cheat, or otherwise back-stab my coworkers, I wasn't really a team player, now was I?

I'm not an unusual case, I watched my now former employers get rid of everyone like me.

Our unemployment is the secret signal to potential new employers that we are the troublemakers who have been weeding out for them. We are unemployable now because when we lost our jobs we were unemployable to the corporations that insisted we permit them to own us by our refusal to be owned.

We've been disenfranchised because we refused to be enfranchised by a system that insists on making people into non-people. We're screwed, frankly, and the potential employers would like us to go off and quietly die, thank-you very much.

25 July 2011

Within hours of posting a new entry on my blog Friday, an unimaginable horror was visited on a country little more than 200 miles from where we live. For many Scots the massacre of over 85 teen-agers brought back memories of Dunblane, and the streets of our town emptied as people were home or in pubs listening to the increasingly horrific stories pouring out of Norway.

The quiet streets lasted through the weekend. Yesterday we pulled ourselves (Paul and I) away from the Internet news feeds and went for a long slow walk around the loch. It was a rare sunny day in Angus (at least our corner of it), and we had an incredible afternoon.

We were not surprised to see all of the families out on the paths, some on foot, many on pedal bikes. It seemed as though the Scots were holding their children close. We saw teens with their parents, and for once the teens were not eye-rolling but staying close to their parents. Quietly talking, in some cases walking arm-in-arm, all reaffirming their family ties. As the loch is a favourite place for Paul and me, we know the large numbers of families with teens cheerfully along was a rare occurrence. Teens are teens, the world over. But this weekend, Scottish teens were glued to their parents.

I wanted to call Fox immediately, I always do when these things happen, but I knew his mobile was off because he always turns it off while working. It is an instinctive thing in a parent to reach out to their child (no matter the age of that child) in the aftermath of an unimaginable horror so seeing the families yesterday was not too surprising.

I was washing up after supper last night, and was thinking what doubtless many people are thinking-when in the hell did things go so terribly wrong?! Was it when Rabin was assassinated (1995), was it OK City (1995)? Was it when NAFTA was pushed through (1994); was it multi-culturalism gone horribly wrong as the madman who perpetrated this latest nightmare claims? Surely it went wrong before 9/11/2001, though, the feeling is that 9/11 was a reaction, not a catalyst.

When did the world turn upside down, and things like what happened Friday become something that happens?

When did living become so fraught?! Like the other women I spoke with Saturday, we want to not have to think about these things-we want to feel relatively safe to walk to the shops, send our children off to summer camps and school; we want to be worrying about getting ready for our brutal northeast Scottish winters, and getting stock cupboards (emergency pantry in the States) filled economically. We want to be talking as we queue for pork steaks and beef mince (pork chops and ground beef) about the latest find in the charity shop, and how we up-cycled a pair of sueded curtains (micro-suede drapes) into a really stunning overcoat using the picked apart fabric and an old duvet for wadding (batting).

We want to be sharing tips on finding the best bargains on the groceries and other household goods we need to keep our loved ones comfortable, not tips on staying safe in public places!

Then we look at each other sheepishly, ashamed that we are complaining when a scant 200 miles away mothers are waiting to plan funerals for children whose bodies are not yet released from the crime scene.

And yet...and yet complaining, talking about these nightmare things is nothing to be ashamed of I think. We live in the 21st century. We live in a civilized country, a country wherein events like the one of last Friday are one-offs, things that should never happen to anyone-yet did in 1996 when a lunatic murdered 16 children and their teacher at Dunblane. We hadn't forgot Dunblane, just put it aside with sorrow and believed it was a one-off.

But then Columbine happened (1999); life changed for Americans then I think. There had been an earlier school shooting-can you remember when it happened, where it happened? I can, it was in Pearl, Mississippi, 1997. My son was in military school when that happened, and he told me on Easter break that he was afraid to go back to school after the holiday because he thought it might happen at his school. But we thought that was a one-off too, although the phrase 'going postal' (1983) had been part of the American (indeed global, I had friends in London who used the term) vocabulary for years. But then Columbine happened, and I distinctly recall being very glad I'd listened to Fox, and withdrawn him from school that spring of 1997.

I can go back to the Olympic murder of the athletes (1972), I can see the USS Vincennes shooting down of an Iranian airliner (1988); I can look to the savagery of the wheelchair bound man thrown overboard from a cruise liner (Achille Lauro, 1985). But we counted those as horrific one-offs too, as we did all the hijackings, all the embassy bombings, all the events that happened every few years...maybe the world didn't turn upside down overnight, but in a long slow roll that began in the early part of the middle years of the 20th century-did the world turn upside down when President Kennedy was assassinated? Is that where all of this really began?

I am an American. I remember being a terrified seven year old praying fervently with my classmates in St Joseph Elementary School church that November day in 1963. I remember that as being the time I first became aware that outside events could directly affect MY life and the lives of my loved ones. Maybe the world turned upside that horrific day and everything that has happened since is a reaction to the unimaginable event of someone being able to shoot the head of a First World country.

All I really know is that yet again a horrible, unimaginable thing has happened. And it happened not because a hurricane, tornado, tsunami, earthquake struck. It happened because a man who felt disenfranchised picked up a gun and started firing.

22 July 2011

Busy days! We're working on getting the last of the painting done inside, and getting more done on winterizing the house. In between coats of paint we run errands, and invariably on the way home walk past a house that has been on the market for over a year.

It's an average house, nothing special except that it's detached (meaning it's not attached to any other house along the lane; our house is a semi-detached, what we would call a duplex back in the States). Detached houses are somewhat rare in this town, so it is a curiosity to us and we have been watching it since last August to see who would buy it. So far no-one, which is why last week we succumbed to temptation and had a wander around the back garden.

We found out why it hasn't sold, we think. It has a very badly done conservatory extended from the back, the kitchen (what we could see through the window) is TINY, and the greenhouse is oriented the wrong way for the way the lot lies. Also, there is a concrete roof, and my husband is adverse to anything less than slate; and the retaining walls look as though they will require work while we are still young enough to enjoy the life savings on something other than going halfies with the neighbours on a rebuild. Even at halfs, there are three VERY tall and fairly long retaining walls to be maintained. OUCH if the things go at the same time, which my husband thinks might well happen. As he is a retired building conservation officer I am confident this is not a house we would be interested in.

It is nice, though, to look at available houses. The looking inspires us to recall why we like the house we are in-great neighbours, great location, great gardening, only one longish retaining wall, and best of all no mortgage. Good neighbours are hard to find, and we have great ones. That alone (combined with the paid off mortgage) is enough to keep us where we are.

I still haven't heard back from the people who took Mozart and Gonzo. I am a bit pathetic, I email them about every other day, and when I look at LOL if I see cats that look like them I tend to scrutinize the pictures-is that Mozart, is that Gonzo?

My son seems to be doing well. Although like all mothers, I wish he would contact me more often! I sent him stamps and pre-addressed envelopes and everything! ROFLOL, my husband says I should let the worry go, maybe I will be able to after a few years of having contact with my son again. Maybe.

The garden is moving along slowly. We have cleared several beds and actually have a bed across the back wall planted with tomatoes and salad. We missed the planting times for most things, and that is probably just as well as we have not got the complete set of beds sorted. We have a lot more gardening space than my husband realised, when we got the long bed along the side of the house cleared and saw how much space was there he was astonished. The entire bed is sun-drenched (when there is sun, lol, this is Scotland, after all) for the entire day. Finding that out has changed the garden plan considerably.

Wednesday I had a dentist appointment, something I had really been dreading as I knew beforehand what the dentist would say and was frankly very worried about sticker shock. Because I was so preoccupied with the money worries, I found myself having more trouble than usual understanding the accents of the people around me as Paul and I travelled by bus to the dentist office in the next town over-had I been alone I would have ended up in Glasgow instead of the town I was aiming for. The strain must have shown on my face and Paul kept calling me Mrs. Grumpy, but I was sure the cost was going to be incredible and I was really worried!

The cost is so small I am still in shock. I already knew what the dentist was going to say regarding needed treatment, and had I been in the US, the cost would have been close to $20K. I knew this because I had been to the US dentist before coming over to Scotland last year, and had reeled from that office in horror. The $20K was after the insurance contributed, btw.

Things are different in the UK. By September my teeth will be sorted, my gums will be healthy, and I will only be out of pocket £300.

Still, as soon as I think I've got the knack of being an American-in-Scotland, I run into something new, and feel lost again. I do still love it here, but sometimes I realise how different things are, and I have a little trouble feeling balanced. I wobble, and want to hide in the house.