Back when I was in college, my then-girlfriend Julianne’s mother helped me get a job at Orion Technologies. I was hired for the sole purpose of the company being able to tell other insurance folks that they had Y2K under control. All I did was some light clerical work, responding to requests on Y2K compliance and sending out requests to some of our vendors. It was a pretty sweet gig, but it was obviously pretty temporary. However, while I was there, my supervisor Alan started working overnight. When I asked him why, he said it was because the night operator had been fired. He gave me a rundown of the job, asking how the hell anyone could screw up something so easy. It took me a couple of days to work up the gumption to ask my official boss if I could have that job. I could do the “Y2K” stuff in my off-time. Or something. By that time, there really was no Y2K stuff anymore. Everyone was just waiting for the hammer to fall and crossing their fingers hoping that everything worked*.
If one has to work a full-time job while attending class full-time, you couldn’t ask for a better job. Orion was a computer reseller, acting as a middle man between (say) Dell Computers and (say) a local school district. This was not a particularly good field to be in as suddenly it was becoming easier for entities to simply order computers online. The company was struggling and, before long, they sold their computers division and sales division to a company called Providence that was looking to get a foothold in Colosse. It was something of a relief initially, except that without a computers division and a sales division, I didn’t know what the company did anymore.
Orion and Providence worked out a deal where Orion would call dibs a certain percentage of its employees but beyond that Providence was free to try to hire away anyone they wanted. I was not on Orion’s protected list, but Providence tried to hire me. They were offering me a 20% raise. Alan talked me out of it, though, saying that Providence may offer me more money, but they only needed someone for a very short transition period while my position was a part of Orion’s org chart and so I wouldn’t have to lose my job. Staying seemed like the more prudent thing to do, though looking back (even without hindsight), that may have been a mistake. At least I knew what Providence’s business was and if I had proven myself there was a decent chance they would find another position for me.
But, I stayed. Meanwhile, Providence needed their own Night Operator. And as it turned out, my roommate Hubert needed a job very badly (his mother was divorcing his step-father and all of their assets were in limbo). So I recommended Hugh, he got the job, and we were, for a brief time. I trained him on what to do and we argued about who got Ethnack’s Chair. But then Providence’s operations moved over to their own building and I was working solo again. Orion was struggling more and more and there was round after round of layoffs until, lo and behold, I was laid off. Meanwhile, the “six months” after which I had been told by Alan that I would be laid off by Providence had come and gone but Hugh still had a job. It was just as well, though, since he needed the money a heck of a lot more than I did.
Hugh went on to get a job at Bregna. I told him not to do it. I told him that Bregna was one a notoriously bad employer. I didn’t know it at the time because I had never worked there, but as of a couple years ago they stood as the third worst employer in the entire nation according to an employee satisfaction survey. He ignored my advice and went to work for them anyway. For reasons that I cannot recall**, Hugh offered up Karl for the job instead of me.
I was working at Wildcat by that point, but my new roommate Karl needed a job. And so, he recommended Karl and so Karl became Providence’s new Night Operator, a full year and a half after I had been told that the job would expire.
Hugh did not last at Bregna long. Even though Hugh had the kind of personality that would ordinarily cotton to being employed by a very… structured… company, Bregna being the type of place that believes structure includes (no joke) monitoring frequency and duration of bathroom breaks, he was looking for a new job in pretty short order***. This created a bit of conflict when he applied for a job that he knew I was angling for****. But then, out of nowhere, he got a call from someone at Orion that had remembered him and offered him a programming position. Even though I was still unemployed, this did not bother me as the four-asterisk job did since (a) he didn’t find out about it through me, (b) they never posted the job, and (c) it was a job he was obviously more qualified for than I was. So suddenly he was working for my ex-employer.
The axe finally fell at Providence and Karl was unemployed again. He ended up getting a job at… Bregna. Then I lost my job and got a new one at… Bregna. The job at Bregna was every bit as awful as advertised and despite the three-asterisk optimism Karl decided that if this was the kind of job that college dropouts got he needed to go back to college. I hadn’t intended to be there long, but even then I left early because I thought it was unhealthy to work for an employer where the highlight of my evening (it was an overnight job) was urinating on the side of the building while the cameras weren’t looking*****.
Hugh, meanwhile, has made his career at Orion. He’s a VP now. The company has changed its name twice and relocated once since I left (which makes its inclusion on my Work Histories a pain in the rear). I still don’t know what the company does even after visiting the website. Last time I was in town, I asked him and got a string of buzzwords I didn’t care enough to quite make sense of. It’s something cutting edge. And, of course, I am unemployed in Arapaho. Karl went back to school and is now a PhD candidate in physics at a somewhat prestigious midwestern university.
* - Everything did except the HVAC. I fell asleep on the night in question and woke up in a pool of my own sweat at 1am. I called Alan, who talked me through some steps to backdate the HVAC until we could get the guy out there.
** - Hugh and I were not on the best of terms at the time, so that might have been it. Or maybe I wasn’t interested. I do remember that I wasn’t mad at him for it. And given where he and I were at the time, I barely needed any justification to be pissed off at him for any stupid reason.
*** - The thing about Bregna is that however oppressive they may initially seem - and you can’t deny that they are - when you’re young you think “I can take this. I really can.” and even have this idea that you might even be able to make it a permanent gig. If you can get used to the monitored bathroom breaks, the emails your boss gets when some algorithm says that you’re going into such-and-such room/corridor and shouldn’t be, and the degree of control they try to exert over who you spend time with socially, you think that it’s a decent-paying job with advancement opportunities and good job security (provided that you walk the tightrope). Around week three you realize your limitations.
**** - In The World According to William, it’s an uncool move to apply for a job that you know your friend is angling for when you have a job and he does not. Particularly when you learn about the job after you ask your friend (innocently, I think, just catching up) how the job hunt is going and he mentions the position. Particularly when all of your complaints about your current job are things he f***ing warned you about before you took the job. Neither of us got the job. It is a good thing for our friendship that he didn’t.
***** - It was an Operations Center ritual. We coordinated it. One person would be watching the cameras and would page the other when it was safe to pee. It took a whole lot more effort (and coordination) than going in a urinal would have. However, (a) we all hated the company that much and (b) that way it wouldn’t show up on our restroom break logs.