July 7, 2012

The Looking Glass

Tonight, I've done something I haven't done in a long, long, long time. Had a few drinks and got behind the wheel. Now before you start ripping me a new asshole, no, I wasn't drunk. But i did have a  good buzz going. However, by time I left, the buzz was gone.

See, a little over five and half years ago, I started my current job. New place, new experience, hell, new state. When I had started, like a lot of people, I was a little cold to other people, as I was the new kid. Like in middle school.

At this time,  the team I was assigned to consisted of a lot of "green" techs. We struggled together, we laughed together. We started to grow up together. I had given myself a year with this company to start moving up the ladder. And that's exactly what happened. Not only myself, but another of my teammates were hand chosen to foot a new project. A project that we knew could work and a project that had potential to make the company  a lot of money.

During the time leading up to this, the company was in a conversion. Three million customers needed to be converted. Day after day, we would show up to work and we knew the phone ques were backed up to 3-400 hundred. And yet, we didn't care. Smiles on our faces, good attitudes, we did our jobs. We respected those in positions above us and wanted to join them one day. For those picked for this project, now was our chance.

With a team of 10 people, we worked our asses off to get methods, procedures and the work down. We made business case after business case to get what we needed. It worked.

Flash forward 4 years. Through a corporate buyout, cut wages, removed benefits and a lot more, this team continued. At one point each member on the team was working with up to six customers at the exact same time, and yet it still was enough for corporate. Then one of our team members had an idea. This team member was also one of the guys that was on my original team when I had started, who came into this department after it was well established.

This guy took his idea to our bosses boss. With some straight forward talk, so straight forward numbers, he was given the position of project lead and assembled a team. I was part of that team. Not because we were best buddies. We barely spoke. But because of my abilities as a designer, thinker and trouble shooter. So a team of six people, with a timeline of 6 weeks, created a piece of software from the ground up, which none of us ever attempted before. We finished in five!

During the "meetings" the software was presented. Everyone, including regional directors loved it. We got the green light to start the Beta test. We took 10 of our most problematic customers, called them, and got them as our testers.  These people who would call every other day, each week for basic nonsense, no longer called us. Why? Our software was solving their problems. The way they looked at the numbers, the software was saving the company $840 a day, just for us six techs. Multiple that by three to four calls a week, you see where that is going. Then suddenly, without warning, they pulled it out from under us. They outsourced the department and killed the project.

Tonight, the guy who started the project left the company. For the last year and a half, we have all just gone with the flow. We have all gotten up in the mornings, said WTF, i need to work today, and drudgenly took our asses to work.

As I was getting ready to leave tonight, I shook his hand as I was stood there, weaving back and forth with the amount of alcohol I had consumed. On an empty stomach no less. He looked at me and hugged me. We embraced for a moment or two and the world seemed to have stopped. We let the embrace fall, yet our hand's still tightly clasped together. As I said thank you, he whispered, "no need."

He went on to say, we watched this company go from a place that respected its employees. A place where even on a bad day you were happy to come to work. To a place that it feels like there are bars on the windows, your no longer a name but a number. We watched as this newly formed company, made the country's most hated company list with in its first three years of existence.

 Over the course of the last 5+ years, we had come to admire each other, respect each other to the point, we would never have to question each other.

So my buzz, now gone. I was no longer swaying. We had talked for about ten minutes, while the other dozen or so people around us kept laughing and joking. As I got in my car, I sat there a moment. Wiped a tear away and started the car. As I looked up in the mirror, I saw cops behind me with a car pulled over.

As I drove by work, I swear out of the corner of my eye, the sign on the front no longer read Centurylink, but it read Embarq. The old company name.

As I pulled into the driveway, I took a deep breath. I got out and turned and stopped. I looked down in my hands to see my keys. The reason I stopped drinking many years ago, is I could drive better when i was bone drunk. Straight lines, curves, speed limit. I looked back at the car and I swear I saw a younger me sitting in the driver seat.

I saw the young me who couldn't walk or stand because I was so drunk, but yet i could drive with out an issue. I could see the deer up ahead and slow down enough to not hit them. Could have a cop follow me for a mile and not pull me over because there was no swerving or speeding. But I also saw the young me who was so drunk and flirting with a girl, who had missed his ride home one night. Only to waken the next morning to find out that the friends I was to ride home with had crashed and died on the scene.

Then it hit me. I realized, as human beings, we fuck up. We make excuses for ourselves. But it's also us human beings that bring the best out of each other. We learn from each other. We come to understand and respect each other.

I realized, if it wasn't for this co-worker, I never would have known what I was made of. So I wish him and his lady, the best for the future. He was able to get out. A little after other, but before a lot more of us. I hope the road before them isn't as bumpy as the road he just turned off of.
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