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As the Hammer Falls

By H.G. Miller

We all figured it would be a Friday when its large metallic head came crushing down upon the lives of our co-workers. So, that was a surprise. But, the amount of time it took to finish the job. Whew…

People started getting fired at 9 a.m. Like a slow wave, it rippled through the agency. “They're laying people off…” Whispers from one cube to the next. Wary eyes darting around. I myself mussed up the desk a bit - some sort of pointless exercise in looking busy, active, necessary.

I don't even know if it's over yet. It takes a while to fire people. They did five in the office across from me. Walked them inside, shut the door, and five, sometimes twenty minutes later, an unemployed person walked out.

Some stormed out.

Some cried.

Most just sighed a bit. Unsurprised. Preparing to move on with their lives.

Those of us still working continued to whisper. Who's next? Is it me? What have I done to make myself a valuable asset to this company?

The entire agency has been on edge for a while now. People will talk about it, but not honestly. Nobody wants to admit how much or how little they really do on a day by day basis. Everybody's afraid for the time they spend on the phone, checking email, playing Tetris or whatever digital toy happens to be around.

Tomorrow will be hard. A day spent in fear. Are they finished? Me? Go where? Oh…

Is it time to iron out my khaki pants and dust of the red shirt that survived through years of abuse on the hallowed grounds of Target? I've been sending my resume out lately. Trying to outwit the inevitable. No luck yet. Talent and personality mean little on an 8 ½ x 11 inch sheet of paper when the companies you contact have just finished “restructuring” in the same way as yours.

One person I talked to told me that this was life. How things had to be for a while. Blame it on the dot coms. The republicans. Corporate greed.

Well, I can't blame anything on anybody yet. I still have my livelihood for now. I go to sleep tonight as one part of a percentage of Americans who can thank the previous economy boom for letting me get into a job I really had no qualifications for. Tomorrow night, I may be cursing that same economy for lying to me about the endless potential of a determined mind.

As always, though, I shall speak about perspective. After watching people I had joked with about such mundane things as weather and sports have their desks cleared out under the watchful eyes of HR, I sat in traffic and watched. I watched all of the people moving along, wondering how many times all of them have done this before.

I've been lucky enough to only go unemployed once in my adult life. It took me two weeks to land a job at a local record store where I made just enough money to pay for the gas I needed to get to the record store. A month later and I was testing out the cushion of the chair I sat in today while watching the parade of sad faces leave that office across the way.

Funny how it goes sometimes.

I sat in traffic and read the license plate in front of me. It had a plastic frame with a Springsteen quote:

“Better Days Are Shining Through”