Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chapter Two - Part 1

Eventually I gave up and went to a job fair. I had always looked down on Job Fairs. It was where the losers and the hopeless went. Well I felt like both of those more often than not during some point in the day. I printed off copies of my resume. That was weird in itself. Putting on a tie only compounded it. I couldn't even remember how to tie it correctly at first. My suit still fit. I was losing weight which was good until the little voice inside my head said "Of course you are. You don't have a job dumbass."

My car was still there. That was a good sign. I had a missed last months payment. Traffic was lighter than usual on Route 7. I saw that as another positive sign. I was looking for omens, signs, and anything encouraging I could think of. Trying to psych myself up for this. Getting on my game face. Emanating good vibes. Smiling a winning, confident smile. I felt like throwing up.

My heart sank when I pulled up and saw the line. This turnout for what was being called an IT Career Fair? Oh, I was so screwed. Yes I was. I got of the car anyway. No one smiled or greeted me. I was just another threat to them being able to afford to eat. I thought I recognized a couple people but they looked away when they saw me.

I got into line and stared at the back of the head of the man in front of me. He was easily 40 years old. Maybe older. He had colored his hair black. I didn't understand why men did that. It always looked like they colored their hair and it screamed "I'm getting old and I don't want you to notice!" I knew it was petty but I was glad to see it. One less person to deal with.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chapter One - 1d

Life was good for about a week. Maybe not even that. In the background, no matter how much I tried to block it out, my personal money meter was running. So I started looking online for work. Then I really started worrying. Nothing was out there. Well, nothing may be an exaggeration. To be accurate there was nothing out there for me. Nothing but temp or contract work that was a two hour commute away. By week two I was applying for those. Nothing. Just auto responses dropping into my spam folder like little pieces of electronic dog shit.

In the next two months I got two calls on my resume. Before I got an offer usually for every eight resumes I sent out. This time I had lost count on how many I had clicked "Send" on. The one that seemed promising required a clean piss test. That wasn't going to happen. I smoked it a bit now and then. Like every morning. If you got a buzz on early in the morning it seemed to hang in there all day. That way I could conserve my weed usage. Plus it helped with my anxiety levels. Self medication does have its place you know.

By month three I was running out of big money. Big money, to me at least, was enough money to pay my mortgage and condo fees. Big money was paying the note on my car and the quarterly car insurance bill. Little money I still had. Little money was for buying coffee at Starbucks and sitting around listening in on other peoples conversations in hopes that I would hear them tell someone how much worse their life was then mine. I heard some good stories of pain and loss. I also listened in what I thought at first were real estate agents selling houses. Instead it turned out they were former real estate agents selling various franchise scams.

I was also, at least at first, hoping I could get laid. I realized that being unemployed wasn't going to render me more attractive. I just hoped I could get a boredom hookup. Never happened. The barrista, who was cute but married, did give me free drinks when they made mistakes. That was the extent of my big score. Eventually I gave up on going there. It was getting expensive and way to depressing.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chapter One - 1c

Talking to HR was about what I expected. A big nothing. The cafeteria had tables with placards lettered A-D, E-H, etc. Security was standing around making sure no one flipped out. As I came in with my box of personal stuff that half filled a copier paper box that I had emptied by dumping all the paper out of onto the floor I was stopped by a guard. He told me "You leave. You don't come back in. You raise your voice. You leave. You act like an asshole. You leave." Then he gave me the death stare.

"Fine" I shrugged. "Like I give a shit." Then I walked over to get in line at my table. I half expected him to say something or shout "Out of here! Now!" But he was already repeating what he just told me to someone else. "Fucking robo guard" I thought. The two people in line ahead of me I only knew by sight. I think the girl at the table talking to the HR drone was named Sheila or Shiela." She was crying. The HR drone who was Black like Sheila handed her the box of tissues she had on her table. Her expression didn't change. She was not showing any expression what so ever. I had landed in robo land it looked like.

Sheila left muttering "What am I going to do" over and over as she headed for the door. I watched her go. She had a nice ass. A little big but my sex life had been slow lately. We shuffled forward and I set my box down at me feet. The guy in front of me looked at me, looked at my box, smiled sadly, and said "Sucks don't it."

"Yep." I replied.

I think he wanted to care and share but I didn't. I was busy running numbers. Like how much I had in my savings account. How much in checking. My 401(k) which had gone back to doing a serious meltdown after showing signs of life and when my next car and condo payment were due. I was okay for awhile. Network people were in demand. It would be tight but I think I would be okay for awhile. Hell, I could get unemployment. I started to smile. Life was good.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chapter One - 1b

My life, such as it was, consisted of work, getting to and from it, and the Internet. Sometimes I played my guitar. I usually played that on my tiny balcony. It seemed more romantic, more edgy out there. Plus in the back of my head I thought I would catch the eye of some fair maiden. This would lead to an encounter in the elevator or the hallway where she would stop, look twice, and exclaim "Hey! It's you!" Then she would laugh somewhat embarrassedly, look down for a second, then up, the desire impossible to hide in her eyes, and say "I was listening to you play guitar. Would you like to come by and play for me? I'll make us dinner." It never happened of course. I did find a flyer for guitar lessons under my door when I came home one night though.

My life on the Internet, for the amount of time it took up, returned very little actually worth anything. By worth, I mean anything that came in handy later after life changed for me. This was not really a surprise since half my time was spent finding the perfect porn video. The other half was spent looking at youtube videos and reading stuff I forget five minutes later.

The first change was when I was laid off. Yep. That certainly got the ball rolling. I went in one day, late due to traffic, and cleared through the security at the parking lot entrance. That part was easy because no one was there. That was my first clue that things were not right. The second was when I walked past the cube that contained the hottest girl on our floor. She was crying and there were three guys around her trying to comfort her.She was a drama queen normally so I shrugged that off thinking she had probably broken a heel or her favorite on Dancing with the Stars had been eliminated.

The next clue was when I got into my area and the Director of IT was waiting for me with a security guard. He looked pissed. The first words out of his mouth were "Forgot your Blackberry again?"

I replied "Ah...yes."

"Well, it doesn't matter. Your assistant took care of it." I could see Dat Le, my assistant, busy in our glass room.

He continued "We lost the contract. We are shutting down immediately. There is a chance you will be called back as a consultant. HR will want to see you. You have 30 minutes to pack your stuff." He looked at his watch "Make that 20 minutes. HR is in the cafeteria. After 20 minutes that will be the only space you will have access to." Then he got up and walked away. No goodbye. Nothing. I was stunned. Not too stunned to notice that the security guard hadn't left with him. I looked at him and said "Ain't this some shit."

He smiled sadly and replied "Yeah. I got until the end of the day."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chapter One - 1a

When I say "First inkling" I want to laugh. I had no clue then really about how bad it was going to be. In fact my definition of "Bad" has been revised downward multiple times since. I lived in Tysons Corner not far from where I worked. I had a condo. Not as good as a house when I bought it but respectable. I was one of the first buyers so I got the side I wanted. I had a nice view of the office towers and other condos that had sprouted like mushrooms around us. At the time I though that was very cool.

Unfortunately not only was I one of the first wave of buyers but I also turned out to be part of the last wave of buyers. The building was 20% occupied when I moved in. More units than that had sold but no one was living in them. They had been bought by speculators. At the time what they were doing made perfect sense to me. These places were only going to go up. It was easy money. Hell, I only planned on living in mine for a couple years until I could sell it and buy a house or something. It got a little fuzzy after that. I wasn't sure what I was going to buy. I just knew it would be better. I wasn't even sure how to define "Better." The best I could come with was bigger. There was usually a blond in there somewhere too. In my world big houses were the ultimate aphrodisiac back then.

It was a nice place. Huge too. The freaking hallways went on forever. They had left the concrete supports exposed everywhere for the edgy look. The same for inside the condo where they left the vent work exposed but painted in muted earth tones. I had a loft room behind the kitchen. It was raised and only had three walls and no door. My bedroom led into the bathroom and, as one woman visitor squealed, "You have a huge closet!" I didn't get her to squeal like that later much to my disappointment. I found out that sex was not as exciting for her as spending money, preferably mine was. We went our separate ways after I figured that out. I was way to young to be a sugar daddy.

The building had a pool too. I hadn't looked to closely at it when I bought the place. When I finally went down to use it I was surprised to find that it was only four feet deep. I asked about that and was told it was for "insurance reasons." It was still a nice place. It even had a Harris-Tweeter grocery store connected to it. I found that parking was never a problem no matter how late I came back at night. Eventually they closed off about half the parking with a chain link fence. I didn't ask. I already knew. It had to be "insurance reasons."

Chapter One - 1

Back then I worked as a network administrator for a company inside the Beltway that had a couple of big defense department contracts. The one that employed me and 312 other people was the contract for the new prototype Stealth F-34A that was supposed to go into testing very soon. It looked like something out of Star Wars from what I had seen. It was Super Duper Top Secret but if you do my job you have access anywhere. I was fascinated by it and repelled at the same time. Fascinated because I liked science fiction. Repelled because it looked so evil. Not a good evil either if there is such a thing. It was death and suffering evil. Of course I kept that opinion to myself. It helped that most people didn't care what I thought anyway.

I think my background in networks was what enabled me to see how bad things were and how bad they were going to be. Networks are all about interconnectivity, multiple nodes, interlocking electronic crap and software that all had to work together and correctly all the time. If it didn't, then my daily routine went from somewhat boring, which I liked, to incredibly stressful. People freaked when the network went down. They also didn't want to hear about how it was really multiple networks that were run by different entities and they had all become entwined like one big mutant kudzu forest. They just wanted the "Network" up now!

That was my first big realization. The entire world, or least the part I lived in was just one big freaking network. Since I knew how patched together mine was, how, since funding for new equipment had been cut to nothing a few years before, and how a lot of it was black box to me, and everyone else, because the people who designed it had been let go and never left any documentation behind, well that was terrifying. Especially as the points of failure were growing all the time. I wasn't the only one out there running a patched together piece of shit that I had no money to maintain.

My other realization, it quickly followed the first one, was the people in charge cared less. They didn't want to know that we had problems and they that they were only going to get worse. They just wanted to make money. Some of them didn't I realized even care about the money. They just liked running things. If parts of my network and the apps running on it were black boxes to me then the entire company was a black box to them. All they knew was that their needs had to be met. Screw everyone and everything else. That was my first inkling in to how bad things had become.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chapter One - 0

So begins the book of Gip.

I asked myself one day "Why do we exist? To consume the flesh of the world? The sweat of children? The tears of hungry mothers? We are thieves. All of us. You say you aren't a thief? Then you must be a fool. I am a fool too. Yet I decided to do something about it.

I didn't plan on doing what I ended up doing, and I sure as hell didn't plan on going where it took me. I think that is common for a lot of people, especially nowadays. I can say I was one of the original apostles of the the Prophet. Not a lot of people remember that these days. That's fine with me. I like living as much as the next person.

For me, the journey started before I became unemployed. I became "Aware" that something was very, very wrong in the world. My problem was I couldn't articulate it then. I tried, and like learning a new language by teaching yourself with books an audio clips I learned simple phrases. I look back now and think of them as identity passwords. For example I would be hanging out a microbrew with some friends. There would be a group of women who stopped off from work there. We would merge our groups, if we were lucky, and often enough we were, we would begin "Identifying" ourselves.

Some guys would go the sports route. The bike thing was especially big. That was a tough one to fake. You had to have the body to back it up. There wasn't a lot of fat bikers if you know what I mean. Then there was what you did for a living. In DC that was huge back then. Mating was done by first making sure your object of attraction wasn't broke. So you would talk about what university or whatever you attended. Then that would lead into what you did for a living. Then there was how you graded out politically. Sarah Pallin wannabees did not usually fuck stoners and vice versa. I was lacking in sports and universities so I had to make the Green, sensitive poet thing work for me. Since I was making decent money than my other failures were usually overlooked. At least for the first fifteen minutes of conversation.

The problem was I wanted to scream "The world is dying!" That didn't go over really well the one time I tried it. Especially as I could never remember all the cool statistics the Green doomers could recite casually. It was just something I knew in the very marrow of my being. So basically, yeah, I want home alone a lot. If I got an email address or, if I was Mr. Magic that night, a cell phone number. The rest of the social contact/networking options, well, the truth was I hated them. In fact I often forgot to charge up the Blackberry my job had given me. Like one of my bosses said when I told him for third time why he was unable to contact me on a weekend by my cell "I don't know if you're a rebel or an idiot Thomas. Start charging your fucking cell phone." I would reply "Okay. You got it" but I never did. I also did not have a Facebook page, twitter, text, or like cats. Once that became clear it was usually time to watch their eyes start searching the crowd for someone else.