Just over 11 years ago, I jumped off a bus in the middle of downtown Seattle. From there I walked the last few blocks to my office located in one of the older buildings surrounded by modern sky-scrapers. Honestly, my morning walk was the most interesting part of my day.
Would I catch the woman placing her wooden sign on the corner announcing to the neighborhood her flower shop was open for business? Of course, the coffee shops were bustling with suits desperate for their morning brew. The post office didn’t open till 9 am but patrons began lining up at 8:30.
These were the people that become part of my morning routine.
But this morning would be anything but routine. As I made my way up the well-worn stairs of the Skinner Building, I was met by our HR manager. I didn’t know her well. I joined the company during its infancy. A time when an HR manager was a luxury we could not afford.
“Don’t go easy on them” was all she said as I passed her. Don’t go easy on whom?
As I made my way down the hall, I noticed a group had gathered in our only conference room. What was going on? It wouldn’t take long to find out.
The company had run out of money. Nor could a suitor be found to keep us afloat. The president of the company announced that today would be our last day of work. The Seattle office would be shut down. The HR manager’s words now made sense: “Don’t go easy on them.”
Yet there was little that could be done. Today’s paycheck would be the last. Medical benefits would cease, and the company would not provide severance. Only a few people asked questions. I stood there in a daze hoping my paycheck would clear before walking down the steps and back into the city.
My brother-in-law and I worked together for the last few months and decided to celebrate the company’s demise by Rollerblading at the park. As we made our way down the path leading out of Woodinville we chatted but said little about what had happened earlier that day.
But we both knew the day was coming. Our managers stopped coming by the office. The phones stopped ringing and there was constant talk that paychecks wouldn’t be cut on time.
So when the news hit, it’s hard to imagine many were surprised.
I compare that moment to what took place two weeks ago. This time in a conference room in Redmond with about 25 employees hearing their jobs with the company would shortly disappear.
But this time nobody saw it coming. Anger was replaced with shock. As I tried to comprehend how I’d explain the situation to my spouse, I looked around the room at the faces I know well, many of which I hired. And not only hired, but convinced to join our company with hopes of acquiring valuable technical skills and and the opportunity to see various parts of the world.
As I began my job search last week, I thought back to that care-free, Rollerblading spirit of years past and realized that break and chance to clear my mind is what I needed at the time. It helped me worked off the frustration and disappointment.
And even though I have four young children counting on me to support them financially, I feel at peace as I begin my search. I have no idea what I’ll do next. I have a few weeks to figure it out. Which leaves plenty of time to strap on my Rollerblades.