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Losing a job you loved is the real disaster

by Ogi Overman

Losing a job you loved is the real disaster

One figure I read was 524,000, as in jobs lost in December. Another report had it at 639,000. Either way, the Labor Department says that 2.6 million are out of work at this moment. But the only figure that matters is 1 — if you’re the one who lost his job. My brother was the one. After 12 years with a company called After Disaster, he was given his pink slip on, of all days, New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year, eh? The company didn’t have a Christmas party this year, so my brother took it upon himself to host one. Spent a lot of out-of-pocket money, even sent out invitations, so that a couple dozen of his coworkers, their wives and girlfriends could have a little get-together. Being one of the senior employees in a highstress industry with a lot of turnover, my brother felt it was the right thing to do for company morale, even though he couldn’t afford it. He was that kind of team leader and team player, a genuine company man who wore the After Disaster logo on his red shirt proudly. The loss of income is bad enough, but the loss of insurance is even more devastating. My sister-in-law has some health issues, is on a number of medications and, even with insurance, the co-pay ran them a couple of hundred dollars a month on top of the cost of the premiums. I suppose COBRA insurance is available, but if you’ve ever left a company plan, you know the premiums are completely through the roof. And with no income… well, you get the picture. Sure, times are tough all over and this could happen to any one of us for any number of reasons. My brother, a happy-go-lucky sort, is not one to mope around and blame others for his situation. Like most everyone else in dire straits, he’ll scrape by on unemployment benefits and a little odd-job business he’s had over the years, trust that better days are ahead and eventually land on his feet. But what hurts, what is so unjust and unfair about it, is that he has sacrificed more than most men would for his job, risked life and limb, missed much of his two sons’ adolescence because he was out of town or state — and gets dismissed because he was “not pulling his weight.” After more experience and seniority than all but two other techs and the owner, all of a sudden he is not pulling his weight. I guess he was not pulling his weight when he was among the first responders after hurricanes Danny, Bonnie, Ivan, George, Francis, Dennis, Jeanne and at least a half dozen others. During the four that hit Florida back to back in 2004, he was away from home for six straight months, getting to see his family during that span a total of two weekends. While he was not pulling his weight he missed his 15 wedding anniversary,his two sons’ DARE graduation, numerous school programs and ceremonies,and many of their football games and wrestling and lacrosse matches atNortheast Middle and High School. He finally asked his boss if he couldcome off the road and work disasters closer to home, even though itmeant a pay cut, so that he could be a better husband and father. Iguess he was not pulling his weight when he put on the Tyvek suit,respirator, goggles, hard hat, boots and gloves and cleaned up rawsewage spills or sealed off rooms from toxic black-mold outbreaks orbreathed asbestos or worked hundreds of other water- and fire-damagesituations. And crawling under spider- and snake-infestedhouses or 120 degree attics doesn’t count for anything, I suppose. Iguess pulling your weight doesn’t include crossing the bridge from themainland to Nags Head in 80 mph winds after Hurricane Dennis haddoubled back to pound the Outer Banks a second time and getting blownaround like the feather in Forrest Gump. Or dodging tornadoes spawnedby hurricanes in the dead of night in torrential rains. Iguess he wasn’t pulling his weight when he carried an oncall pager fortwo solid months and got out of bed or interrupted a weekend God knowshow many times to respond to a water- or fire-damage claim. Generally,in those types of situations, the person making the claim islegitimately upset, fearful, depressed, traumatized and/ordisconsolate, and as the primary technician it fell to my brother toconsole and assure them that he represented the best company in thebusiness and that they were going to make like new whatever it was thehomeowner of businessowner had lost. He honestly loved that company,was proud to represent them, and it showed in word and in deed. That’swhat really hurts. Ogi may be reached at ogiman100@yahoo.com and seen on “Triad Today” hosted by Jim Longworth on ABC 45 at 6:30 a.m. Fridays and on WMYV 48 at 10 p.m. Sundays.

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