A Little Help
It was the right thing to do. So I was told; so I believed. Focus on my job for twenty years and it will provide for my family for life—good salary while working, good pension and benefits afterwards. Finding the discomfort of a stable job like that took several wasted years. During those years, I made many friends. Few of those would be with me far beyond the typical transient cycle of fickle friends. Though years and distance separated us, I stayed in touch with one friend from college. Support and care were obvious during our visits as though the years were just weeks. Friends for life? Depends on how you define ‘friend’ and what you expect from them. If we lived closer, we would spend most of our free time together.
When I spent a year or so in sales, I learned some skills that would survive with me for decades. Despair over poor sales killed motivation to beat the streets and cold sell. Local groups of competitors formed and we motivated each other to keep going and ignore the temporary setbacks. We cheered for each other and got close as friends despite being competitors. That closeness spawned transgressions, breaches of trust, and adultery when two of those friends bedded my wife. One was for fun, the other wanted her to leave me for him. That ended my sales career and those friendships.
We survived on rotating credit card debts for a year resulting in a net income of -$2200. After the freedom of self employment, I was reluctant to settle for a 9-to-5, yet knew I had to make that soul sucking compromise and admit failure. Some friendships, though temporary, were deep and strong. While I considered which job I’d allow to enslave me, another college friend and his mom saw an ad from a major computer company and felt that was right for me.
There were only two companies I trusted to be around for as long as I expected to live. The ad and the friend swayed me. I chose the paternal company with 100 years of history. It promised a job for life if I kept my nose clean. They also made an exception and hired me during a hiring freeze. Based on the research I managed and that exception, I swore my loyalty to them for life. I saw their loyalty to ‘family’ in practice with people who made serious mistakes. Instead of losing their jobs, they went to rehab—expenses and salary paid. I saw people choose to work for 50 years before retiring, for love of the family oriented company.
Imagine my surprise when I did well with them. They rewarded me with exceptional recognition, big raises and awards. Friends came and went as I moved around in the company and the country. Inspired with confidence, I bled for that company and continued to work eighty-hour weeks even after a promotion that took away overtime pay.
That ‘family’ loyalty changed one day when the board decided to focus on bottom line instead of family. They fired the CEO and brought in an outsider who reversed the HR policy from “How do we help this person keep their job” to “How do we get them out the door with minimal costs.” That CEO pressed for layoffs without calling them that. He got a $5,000,000 sign in incentive to take the job, $5,000,000 yearly salary and $11,000,000 golden parachute to leave just five years later. How many dedicated workers had to lose their jobs for did that greedy expense?
Instead of full retirement after twenty-five years with generous pension and medical benefits as promised, highly-rated workers were forced to choose between ‘voluntary’ retirement with a small incentive and partial, tiny, pension with reduced benefits or to stay and be fired in six weeks for unsatisfactory performance when they failed to do impossible tasks. I know of several of them—including me. After twenty years working there, they marched me and others out the door and cut all ties to the family business and socializing. The separation, cold shoulder and new found isolation were as devastating as a divorce due to the deep pain from broken promises from an entity that swore lifelong fidelity, much like the vow of marriage.
New CEOs came in with huge salaries and benefits and more skilled workers were officially laid off. Stock prices rallied briefly. Finally, the legless company imploded; filed chapter 11and closed its doors. The retired workers lost their pensions, the holdouts lost everything. Moving to Social Security meant most of us could not afford to live in our houses. We lost our homes and families. Those who sold their homes took huge loses to cash out and went to substandard rentals to stretch the funds. Word spread of suicides, a couple in company parking lots, with accusatory notes left behind.
Since I could carry anything but a tune, I was always embarrassed to sing. My wife constantly encouraged me to sing with her. When I trusted her support and braved singing a tune with her, she ridiculed it. I joked that that was why she got up and walked out on me. So what if I sang out of key?
When my funds ran out a few years later, I looked for a little help from my friends. I didn’t have any. Living on the dole meant no parties, no gifts, no expensive socializing, no friends. What did I do when my wife walked away? Yes, I worried about being alone to face a loveless life and medical issues. How do I feel at the end of my life? Like I wasted my life and now it is ending alone.
After 40 years of being picky about a new mate, I looked for less than the mismatch I had. Could it be anybody? Not just anybody, but I realized, I do need someone to love. Someone who will at least pretend to love me back for life. Though I never did before, I will convince myself to believe in love at first sight. Is paying for that mockery with the last of my funds an option? Until this point, I never considered it one.
With little time left to me, I must count my medicaid-supplied nurses as the last of my friends—especially the horny, ugly, Mary Jane, who brings me some ‘medical’ MJ and other relief. It’s still possible to get high with a little help from a friend. Well, at least I will try with a little help from my friend. Mother Mary, welcome me home.