Saturday, February 04, 2006

I gave Hollywood my twenties and all I got was this lousy severance check

At 5:30 this afternoon, I got fired.

Yeah, you're reading that right.

About two weeks ago, the president of the company asked me to meet with him privately and for undisclosed reasons. I had no idea what it was going to be about, and his assistants didn't have any clues to offer me. I freaked out a little, thinking it was gonna be bad news, but after a number of conversations with my ex-boss Charlie and a few friends familiar with our company politics, I changed my mind. I became convinced it was something benign. Then the meeting got cancelled. And it wasn't rescheduled. I breathed a little easier. Two entire weeks went by. Then the meeting went back on my books again this morning. I had almost forgotten about it.

One of my peers at work, a guy who was promoted at the same time and to the same level I was had the same meeting on his schedule. I was still thinking it was something innocuous, like a new project, or a title bump or something of that ilk. He wasn't so convinced.

"I really don't have a good feeling about this." His usual New York tough-guy facade was crumbling.
"I'll bet you a dollar it's nothing bad."
"OK, you're on."

Something inside of me shifted when I looked in his eyes and shook his hand after he took the bet so quickly. It's like when you're at the table with pocket nines and the flop comes king high or something and the old rock falling asleep in the 1s leads at you. Something told me my hand wasn't good anymore.

It was only 3:15 so I still had a good two hours to freak out to various individuals in my life before getting called down there. I talked to Charlie and he offered me 5-1 that I wasn't getting fired. I took the action. Showcase sent me an email letting me know he picked up freshies for the weekend and wrote as like a funny ha- ha joke "P.S. I hope you don't get fired." I read the same eight pages of a script three seperate times before giving up and flinging it against the wall.

My phone rang at twenty after five. The ex-reality show cast member assistant to the president of the company told me that I should come down. I walked out my office door, down the hallway, took the shortcut through the file room into the side hallway, and crossed myself before punching in the combination on the CIA-style keypad to get into the main hallway. Mr. President was standing right outside his office as I arrived. We went inside and he shut the door.

"I wish I was calling you down here to tell you good news, but I'm not, so I'm going to be very direct about this. We're letting you go."

I couldn't look him in the face anymore. I felt like I'd been smacked by a truck and thrown fifty yards. My brow furrowed and my eyes wandered down to this ugly little southwestern-stlye rug he had spread out beneath the coffee table. It was blue and orange and looked faded from the sun. I stared at the rug and the wooden legs of the table as I heard phrases like "It has nothing to do with intelligence or performance" and "you're not the only one this is happening to" and "The Big Man just wanted to make some big changes." I couldn't process anything. I had played this scenario out in my head dozens of times in flights of perverted fancy but I never thought it would go down like this. At 5:30 on a Friday with no warning less than two months after a stellar year-end evaluation.

We go through life often not knowing when certain moments will be the last of their kind. Not knowing that the hug you gave to your college roommate on graduation day would be the last one you'd ever share. That the half-hour visit you paid your grandmother before getting on that plane back to school would be the last time you'd see her alive. That the lazy morning sex with him on that Tuesday would be the last time for the two of you. I certainly didn't get up today thinking today would be my last day of employment at a place I've given the last five years of my life to.

I walked around Beverly Hills for a long time in stunned silence. After a few blocks, I called Showcase. He thought I was joking when I told him what happened. Then he said something that seven seperate people would say to me in the hours to come as I broke the news:

"I really think this is a blessing in disguise for you."

You know, it really may be. It's no secret I wasn't happy there. You all certainly know that. But despite my obvious discontent, I was still damned good at my job. My writers loved me and respected my notes. I'm just not a typical Hollywood person. I'm not a perfect fit into this industry. And that's fine. I like who I am. I'm not ready to change that for a bunch of showbiz fucktards.

The level I'd reached within the company essentially demanded that I drink the Kool-Aid. Give into the lifestyle. Make Hollywood more or less a 24-hour job. Make the Big Man's problems my problems and care about them deeply despite the fact that I know he's a mercurial egomaniac who will never give a shit about anyone who works for him. I resisted the Kool Aid as much as I could for as long as I could and he knew that. In an environment where no one tells him "no" and everyone bends over backwards to kiss his ass, the Big Man had to understand, even in the smallest way, that I had his number.

I'm still in a ridiculous amount of shock, but I'll be OK. I even went to play in the Murderer's Row game tonight to get my mind off it all. I have to kick my poker game into some serious gear now that I have no other regular income!

I am unemployed for the first time in my entire life. I've worked nonstop since graduating college, barely stopping for a vacation let alone an extended break. I haven't updated my resume in 6 1/2 years because I haven't needed to. It's strange having so much responsiblity evaporate in an instant. I have no idea what I'm going to do, or even if I'm going to go back to the industry. No immediate plans. For at least this week, I'm just floating free.


Human Head said...

Man, that is terrible news. But, if you really did hate it then maybe everyone was right with all of that blessing stuff.

Try to enjoy your first vacation--I have no doubt that someone with your talent will be more than OK :)

CJ said...

You want me to fire someone? I'll hire you!!!!


I'm sure you'll bounce back fast! You're smart and strong. They can't keep you down long!

Call any time if you need someone else to talk to!

F-Train said...

Ugh, I've been in your exact situation. It sucks. Of course, in my case, I used it as an excuse to move to LA for a year and that was one of the best decisions of my life (even though I'm no longer living there). Every cloud has a silver lining, I suppose... I'm sure you'll find yours.

On the bright side, I'll be arriving in LA Wednesday night. Consider this an offer to buy you a "Fuck the Man!" dinner Friday before Murderer's Row.

Pauly said...

New York City?

April said...

Wow, you just may be a triplet! When I was similarily fired from my soul-sucking corporate job after giving them nearly 6 years, I still hit happy hour that night with my work friends!

It hurts quite a bit at first, but it likely is the best thing to happen to you. Making the decision to leave a job or career is scary and often very hard to do - I know I debated my choice to leave and go back to school for MONTHS. (To anyone who would listen). Then, the decision was made for me. Best thing that ever happened.

Take some time off, figure out what you want to do, what's going to really make you happy - then go for it. And if you need anyone to talk/cry/yell to, I'm here.


Gene said...

When you lose a job the way you did it's almost like someone died. The world doesn't look quite the same for awhile. When I got laid off it wasn't quite the same situation as you (my job was a total dead-end that I hated) but it took me a few days to get my bearings. I drove to work that day thinking about this problem I was finally going to get resolved, and 30 minutes later I was back in my car driving...not home, just driving.

That morning I got some coffee and when I got back to my desk the phone was ringing and our HR rep's name was in the window. And I KNEW what was about to happen. Go downstairs, our big boss is there, gives me the bullshit spiel about business slowing down and cuts need to be made. I got a folder with info on filing for unemployement, on how long my benefits would last. My supervisor comes down with my bag, I was quickly escorted from the building...and it's a beautiful sunny day and I don't know what to do.

My coffee still sat on my desk. That problem I was going to clear up? I worked on it for seven months--I have no idea what happened. I didn't have to care anymore. I also didn't get to say goodbye to a lot of people I worked with for 2 years and really liked. I drove to Barnes & Noble, got a coffee there, and sat down to give my mind a chance to slow down.

Lots of people told me that this could be a blessing. In my case it was--I got a job that pays better and that I like better. It also helped that I got laid off with like 40 other people, so I didn't feel like it was all my fault. Take some solace in that, that you did a good job were rewarded, in typical fashion, with the shaft.

And give yourself some time to float free. It's amazing how the world keeps spinning without you there to take care of the ludicrous work problems that once consumed your thoughts. I hope this is indeed a blessing.

StudioGlyphic said...

Severance checks are like 2 years of salary in Thailand.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the same position right now. I'd offer job hunting advice, but I've been out of work for 6 months so I must be doing something wrong.

Good luck!

Unknown said...

I know you don't know me very well, and it probably seems like I'm stalking you, but let me at least tell you one thing.
Getting fired was the best thing that happened to me.
I had always wanted to live in Colorado but couldn't find the balls to quit my job at a Kansas newspaper because I was comfortable, even if I was unhappy. I was engaged to a stressful woman, I was bored at my job and deep down I hated the city but I was comfortable.
Well, I got fired, despite, as you say, a sterling record, and that kicked my ass for about two weeks.
And then I decided that I would follow my own road for once.
And I got a job at a great paper in Colorado.
And I love it out here now, married to a great woman, with lots of great friends, and I finished all the 54 14,000-foot mountains in Colorado, and no way could I have done that without moving here.
I often think what my life would have been like without that little kick in the ass.
I don't know if this helps or not, but I hope so.
P.S. I am not a stalker, just a big fan of your blog.
P.S.S. Yay! Change 100 will have more time to blog!

ilico said...

Sorry to hear, can be the worst and best news at same time. Take stock of where you are at, enjoy the 'break' and come back re-freshed.

And something else, the last time I was 'let go' I was told via e-mail...yes, via e-mail. The good news was that I had another, better, highier paying position the very next day.

FatBaldGuy said...

Good luck with whatever happens next in your life. Remember, fear is beacuse of the unknown. Once you decide what to do that feeling will subside.

jremotigue said...

Good luck to you! I'm sure you'll bounce back!

Shelly said...

Everything happens for a reason - make this the opportunity of a lifetime :)

riverRAT said...

Wow, talk about a bad beat. I'll resist using any other poker lingo as i'm sure the horse is well dead.

Anyway, i'm sure eveything will work out in the finish. Kick back and have some fun. The rest will sort itself out.


peacecorn said...

Hang in there little junk grabber.

John G. Hartness said...

That sucks. I'm really sorry to hear that. I'm sure you'll bounce back, but I know right now it feels like you've been kicked in the junk rather than being the one doing the grabbing. Lemme know if I can do anything to help, my contacts in the biz are all on the on-set kind, but I'm more than happy to pass around a resume to the folks I know if you want to stay in the industry.

EN09 said...

Hollywood types... Screw'em Change.

I don't know you at all, but from your writings I know the type of person you are. You'll survive this and be a whole lot better for it.

As Human Head said, with your talent and overall attitude about life in general, you'll be way more than okay!

Pack a bowl and take a week or so off to just relax and get things in order, then git after it!

Best wishes to you my friend.

Joe Speaker said...

Aw crap. Sorry K. Take some time to decompress and you'll come back better than ever. I'm rootin' for ya and you need anything, just give a holler.

Jordan said...

Sorry to hear the news, Change. Hopefully, you were underpaid and your next job will pay more. This way you can see it as a roundabout raise! When like gives you lemon, make a glass of grey goose with a twist of lemon.

ScottMcM said...

Fuck that shit I will be the militant here.

Even if you hated the job to come in and tell you after 5 years of working that they just wanted to make a few changes and they were letting you go. What a pussy way to do it... at least sack up and be a man about it and say you are fired not that hand holding lovely " I wish I had good blahblahblah"

I say you have a random repressed memory surface about a time he touched you funny and now it makes you unable to trust anyone in a office environment and that they either hire you back at 2x the pay or other memories will surface.

of course you it could just be all the diet Dr Pepper I am drinking today making me look for a fight.

Remember Change you can always say fuck and move to Austin... it is the easiest town to be poor and jobless n the whole country and I will hire you :)

lucko said...

You don't know me at all, but I read your blog and have always enjoyed it. Just wanted to wish you good luck even though I don't think you will need it. I am sure you will find a better job in no time.

Unknown said...

I can't offer much except funny quips and undersized junk to grab if needed.

Hang in there K.

Daddy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Derek McG said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ignatious said...

damn, best of luck. not to be pithy, but i have no doubt that you'll land on your feet.

JasonSpaceman said...

I wasn't fired this time last year, but I did quit my job under duress. I had no backup plan, no outs at all, but I was able to get by. And after a few months went by, something fell in my lap - something that helped me get to where I am today. It sucks to be unappreciated, but it sucks worse to stay where you're unappreciated when you have the freedom to find somewhere you belong.

I'll be in LA next week - let's get together for a while, OK?

SirFWALGMan said...

Cant say I know what your going through, Tech's been pretty good the last 13 years, but good luck finding something else.. Soul Sucking jobs stink and sometimes it takes getting pushed out of one to change things. Love your writing as always.. gl.

Derek McG said...

now you have more time to smoke your freshies! keep your chin up K.

drewspop said...

Smart, real people, that get the joke of life, always land on their feet. Best of luck in your next endeavor.

Otis said...

As a guy who gave his 20s to an industry he ended up hating, I can tell you my 30s have already been 1000 times better (despite the ever-growing recognition that the next milestone is 40).

Consider it, as I'm sure by now you are, a kick in the ass to start doing what you want.

Like, for instance, write. Because you do it pretty damned welll.

iamhoff said...


I wish I had something original to say, but so many have already said it...they suck, they're going to be worse off without you, and this is your opportunity to grab the junk of life (the ultimate junk, besides I guess Pauly's!) and yank for all you're worth! I've not had the opportunity to meet you, but your writing is outstanding and I'm sure that you'll have no difficulties finding a better gig with better pay and less stress. Job hunting sucks (my GF has been trying to change careers voluntarily now for over a year...lack of experience in a given field is a beeyotch) but you seem well connected enough and experienced enough that you should have your pick of things. Enjoy the break and come back ready to grab junk and take names!

Tully Moxness said...

My condolences Change...I hate getting fired, but it always turned out better. If you need a writing partner, let me know. I can easily get myself fired from my current job to devote more time to it. Keep your chin up!