Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This is shaping up to be a tough month

My company had another one of those employee meetings today. I'm not at liberty to say what was said in the meeting, but let's just say it was another dose of bad news, the worst yet, but certainly not the last in a heavy regiment of bad news.

We were all herded into the press room, a cavernous cement warehouse that's always quiet in the afternoon. The first among us had to wait a while. The walls dripped with anxiety and a fierce silence. Small jokes crackled and dissipated. The air had a finality to it, cold and sterile, like a morgue.

I leaned against a post, unable to stand on both feet. I felt like the one trying not to burst out laughing at a funeral. The morbid urge almost seemed logical. It seems like we're just getting what we paid for in this crazy backward economy of ours, throwing around fake money and goals until neither have much meaning. Funnier yet to be a journalist, part of the very entity trying to carve out some sense in this cold war of financial panic, only to learn we're next in line in a toppling house of cards.

So do you fall down or brace yourself to prop up what is certain to become an unbearable load? Neither option really ends well. Thus, the silence.

After most everyone had filed out of the room, my boss approached me. "Is this the part where you bolt out of the building screaming and I never see you again?" he asked.

"No," I said. "I'm not going to do that. Yet."

He looked up, toward the door. "Why?"

I smiled. "I think you know me well enough by now to know I'm not one of those people motivated by money. Good or bad."

"That's good," he said.

I shrugged. "Or bad."

"And next month?"

"I'm still going," I said. "Either way."

"But you're coming back?"

I smiled. "That seems hugely optimistic at this point, doesn't it? But, yeah, I want to be optimistic."

He shook his head. I didn't envy his expression. It's tough to be a manager in tough times. Better, I think, to be one of the tucked away rank-and-file. "You seem to have a good outlook," he said.

I laughed and held up my right foot, with its thick wool sock hanging out of an ugly medical sandal. "You know, when you have hobbies like mine, regular life never seems that bad."

We returned to our desks, grateful, as they say, to be living and breathing.

The rest will be OK. One frozen-toe step at a time.