Tell 'em what I took, man!

Reflections of a repatriated ex-patriot

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Unpleasant Surprise

So I go to work a couple of weeks ago, doing my regular routine.  Answering calls and following up on e-mails-- resolving issues, and trying to make our clients happy.  It's a Friday, so the volume is relatively light.  I spend the majority of the morning with someone trying to install the web application on his "server."  For some reason, the installer keeps quitting midway through, but no errors are written to the Event Viewer.  

I look to make sure that he has IIS installed.  Check.  

I find out if he's an administrator on his machine.  Check.  

I download a fresh installer to his desktop to make sure the one he got wasn't corrupted, and try to run the installer again.  Same result.  The blue installation bar rolls back and you get a message saying the install failed.

I then copy the files created by a successful run of the installation on my computer to his desktop via our FTP site.  I go to set up the web site manually, first attempting to put the necessary file permissions on the folders in question, and I notice something odd.  There's no security tab.  I check what operating system he's running.  It's XP Pro.  Had it been something stupid like XP Home edition, where there are no security tabs, the system wouldn't know how to apply the Network Service account access to the web application files.  Why he isn't installing this to a computer with an actual Server operating system (installing IIS web services on XP limits you to only 10 concurrent connections) I don't ask. 

I go to the folder options to make sure that simple file sharing has not been turned on.  It has not.  What gives?  All the bases are covered, so why doesn't the security tab show up?  For the hell of it, I open up the disk management console and I look at his partitions.  I put the phone on mute, shake my head and chuckle to see that he installed the partitions in the FAT32 file system.  You're not able to apply directory security to folders on a FAT32 partition.  No wonder the installer quit.  Why he wasn't using NTFS like everyone else has been (since like 1995) I will never know.  

I give the user the bad news, telling him he'll either have to find another machine to put the web application on or re-install the operating system with the NTFS file system.  He agrees to re-image the machine using his Norton Ghost application.  

I handle several more issues the rest of the morning and into the early afternoon.  Around 1pm or so, we get an announcement that there's going to be an impromptu meeting in the auditorium in the lower level of the building.  We're told by our manager not to answer any more calls after 1:45pm.  At around 1:30 one of our techs is called to the desk of a consultant to take a look at a computer issue.  A few minutes later the rest of us get up to go to the meeting.  A colleague and I are told to go ahead and head down-- everybody else will be following shortly.  I get to a half-empty room noticing there's a few people from each department.  Then I look down to the first row to see the Vice President looking despondent-- past us and through us, with his head in his hands.  There's a moment of tension and confusion, a few more people trickle in, and then he begins "As you all know the recent economic downturn has had a dramatic effect on our sales over the last few months . . ."

I just stare in shock as he eliminates everything I'd been working for the last twenty months, cancels my health insurance, halts my 401K, suspends my paycheck, destroys any potential for growth in the company, obliterates a well-worn comfortable routine, and injects deep uncertainty into my life.  The revelation engenders feelings of frustration, concern, anger, and even a kind of humility within the twelve other souls who had the misfortune of being told to head down early along with me.  "The rest of us will be down there shortly."  

One of the women in sales angrily demands that she be given commission for a big deal she's been working on, that looked to be in the final stages of completion.  The VP nods yes slowly.  Another breaks down completely, and starts whimpering.  A consultant demands to know how it was that they made their decisions.  "It was a mathematical formula," he states, but doesn't go into any details.  After the HR director goes through our packets, explaining the severance process, what to do to file for unemployment, our options for COBRA, etc., we depart, and go back upstairs, supervised, to an empty office where we're allowed to grab only the essentials-- the rest of our stuff is to be couriered to us the next day.  I feel like I've just been shot, or stabbed, or hit over the head with a blunt object.

I've never been laid off before.  It's a strange mixture of feelings.  On the one hand, there's the expected anger, disbelief, and real concern.  At the same time, however, there's a feeling of release.  Major liberation.  I can do pretty much whatever the hell I want now.  Pursue the same type of career, take a different track, seek more responsibility, less responsibility, just take out some loans and go back to school, go abroad again, or see how long I'll be able to stay on unemployment.  I've filed, and have already had an interview at a staffing agency.  I've got my resume on Monster, Careerbuilder, Dice, and I do searches every morning.  Severance check should be here soon, and that will get me through until the UI checks start coming in, so I won't starve or have to sell my car anytime soon. 

The fact that I'm just one out of about 700,000 in the last two months is both frightening and consoling. There's a lot more competition out there for the same jobs now, but I guess it's good to know I'm not the only one feeling the pinch.  Hey, at least now I've got some time to write some blogs . . . 

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