Two years ago, I had a big birthday bash at my place. Just a month later, many of my colleagues at my previous company were retrenched. All the designers had to go – including myself. I didn’t feel like having a party the next year.
Today, my neck’s been spared from the falling axe, but once again I’m going to miss working with some people. I have no idea when my turn’s going to be, but I’ll just focus on whatever work they give me in the meantime.
I remember the first time I got retrenched…
It was a hot afternoon in June 2001, and I was on the road with Ernest (videographer) and Sher Maine (reporter). I recall we were driving around East Coast, looking for a playground as our news story was about children, and you always needed space-filler scenes on TV. We were slightly late for our deadline but it turned out we didn’t have to bother.
It was then that we received a call from our office manager: everybody was to return to the office. I had a dreadful feeling about it, because a rival news station had already reported that the company intended to close down our newspaper. Sher warned her supervisor that her story was incomplete, but he said, never mind, just file it. Something was obviously wrong, because we usually had more pride in our reporting standards than that.
The newsroom looked more crowded than usual, because there’d usually be reporters away on assignments. But this time everybody was back, looking nervous but not terribly surprised at what was coming. Some higher-level management staff walked in, looking downcast, and alongside my chief editor Bertha they announced the closure of Project Eyeball.
One by one, we were called in to the editor’s office. Our direct boss had already given all the designers advanced notice that none of us were being transferred to any of the other publications. When my turn came, therefore, I thought I could control myself. I lasted a few minutes, while Bertha recalled as nicely as she could, how I was the life of the web team, etc etc etc, and handed me my slip. Suddenly tears started to well up in my eyes. Bertha immediately pushed out a box of Kleenex.
In between sniffles, I joked, “Wow, you prepared for everything.” She nodded seriously. There went my career as a TV news producer-in-training.
We had until the next day to pack our things and go. As I hauled my boxes over to the car, a little mongrel puppy spotted me and started yelping in a friendly manner. It tried to follow me around – even into the car. I was in such a bad mood, I snarled at it, and it look surprised. I didn’t want to hurt it, and felt instantly guilty and extremely childish (if it helps, I made sure it was out of harm’s way before I drove out of the car park).
And that was the end of the most exciting chapter of my working life thus far. I was just twenty-three, and one week short of my first year with the newspaper.