This week’s Hump Day Hmm.. is about the interesting concept of karma. I’ll be honest and say that I really didn’t believe in it until about two years ago, when I lost my job. It was the only job that I had ever had and still is the only job I’d ever had; and actually, it ties into my post about last week’s Hump Day Hmm.., as this story begins where that one left off, in January 2003.
After I had left college, I had really no idea of how to go about searching for a job, so I just stayed at home every day and watched the trains go by. I even got a digital camera so that I could take pictures of the trains and work on them on my laptop. That lasted until August of that year when I got a call saying that I was going to head into the city and start working, literally that day. I guess I was ready to get to work because I only remember a little bit of nervousness, which I would think is predictable for someone who’s never experienced working before; not even the odd summer job during high school like just about everybody else.
It turned out that for a little while, even though I was putting in a full 8-hour day, I wouldn’t get paid and would be considered a “volunteer” for that period. In the end, it was three weeks before I started getting a paycheck, and it wasn’t that bad of pay – $9 per hour, and I was quite content. Most of the contentment came from the fact that I was promised that I’d work as a temp worker for six months, and then it’d be a shoo-in to become a full-time employee, with benefits. Well, about three months into working, I thought I was fitting in well with the job, and apparently I had enough of an independent streak that I got moved from my cubicle all the way over to the other end of the floor. Certainly, I could (and can still) use the exercise, but it didn’t make much sense to me to be split off from the rest of my department. Yet, I didn’t complain because there was this promise hanging over my head.
So, about a month into my stint at the far end of the office, I got frustrated at some of the people who were sending work to me because they wouldn’t fill in a form correctly or something like that. Apparently, I complained loud enough (and using the wrong words, including calling someone who wasn’t there stupid) that it was heard by someone who reported me to my boss. I was then hauled into their office, given a lecture about respect, forced to follow a new procedure that slowed me down a lot, and to top it all off, I had to print out definitions of some words like honor and respect and memorize the definitions. If you thought that wasn’t the worst, sit down for this one. While I was being lectured, I was told that I’d keep my job, but if it were someone else, my boss would have fired me. This person went on to tell me that people asked them why they didn’t give money to charities and they said that basically, it was people like me who were how they gave to charity. In other words, I was a charity case to my boss.
After that, I never did actually see much of my boss, other than
every the occasional Monday when I had to have this person sign my time slip because I obviously couldn’t be trusted with being honest with my working hours. Heck, the slip was never looked at, just signed off on and given back to me to fax to my temp office. Come to think of it, I never saw that much of my boss. I didn’t mind though unless I needed my slip signed; I can’t tell you how many times on a Monday, I’d get to 3:00 and not have it signed, causing me to panic about getting it signed so that I’d get paid that week.
But I digress. Six months go by and no job offer comes to me as a surprise. I did, however, finally get to move back over to the original area where I worked after the person whose cubicle I took over moved into the supply closet next door (it did make sense for that move since they did control the stocks of that room, and it is a fairly large room). In the time that I worked there, at least four or five people came into there, worked as temps for a while and then got hired full time there. Yet, here I was, a year into my employment, still a temp and still making $9/hour (regular employees were eligible for merit raises, mostly 3-5%). I was well liked by almost everybody in the department, save for one person who not many people liked.
Another little tidbit is that because I was a temp, I didn’t get sick days or vacation days, so I put in probably more work than anyone else in that office, yet everyone else would take a week off here, a day off there. I also was never late, even when the weather was bad, and even when the person I got a ride from took the day off, they made it a point to get me to work on time. The only times I took off work were on the holidays when nobody else worked (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day), two days in September 2004 to look after my mother when she had a minor surgery, one sick day in March 2005, and a couple days in December 2004 to go out of town for Christmas. All during this time, I was promised that I’d get the job just, but there was always an excuse as to why I couldn’t – first was that I needed a license (never minding that I had a dependable ride, and backups available, plus there was always the bus that I could take). Then it was that there weren’t any openings, then the last excuse I heard was that there was a hiring freeze on (even though people were being hired in other parts of the company).
That takes us to June 2005. I don’t know what it was about the building, a lack of oxygen or possibly a lack of sleep on my part, but I would (and I’m willing to admit it now) nod off for a minute or two, but it would only happen when there was nothing to do, and not after 9am, when business would pick up for me, not that it should matter since I didn’t have to see customers who would come into the front office (one good side effect of being a temp; a bad side effect was that I maybe went to three meetings the whole time, and never heard anything that happened in them). Apparently someone saw me, and instead of trying to get my attention, they got my boss’s attention. That led up the chain to my manager at the temp agency getting the word about it. I get home and there’s a message from the temp agency saying that I needed to call right away. I was told that I was caught sleeping on the job and that the punishment for that was immediate termination. No warnings, just “You were sleeping, you’re fired”. I was oh-so-kindly told that I could come in on Tuesday and work a last day, but what was the point? I could understand if I was parting ways on my terms, but I was fired and I was told that there were no other positions that I could possibly get. So I went in that evening, and cleaned my desk out and haven’t been back since.
Now, here’s where the karma comes in. Since I was fired, I applied for Unemployment compensation through the state. They definitely did not want to pay for it as they found every transgression I may have done, and a lot more that I didn’t and told that to the state. Among the things they said I did were swearing on the job, aside from the incident I mentioned above, I had had more outbursts at work, and that I was told that I would be fired if my behavior did not improve. Of course, I had a few items going in my favor – chiefly among them was the line that I was a “charity case”, along with the fact that there was never an employee handbook given to me, I had not been warned again after the incident above, not aware that my job was in jeopardy, and also that I was a diligent employee.
After the state investigated, they determined that I did indeed have a right to receive benefits, at a rate of about 50% of my previous gross income. The company didn’t appeal (they had the right to) the decision, probably realizing that if they did, the whole story about the promise of a job would come out and it would probably turn into a nightmare for them. A couple of months later or so, word came to me that my boss was leaving the company quite suddenly. The line that was given was that my boss was leaving to explore other options, but considering how quickly it happened, the speculation was that they were told to leave or get fired, likely over the whole incident with me.
I still have a couple of contacts from there; I don’t talk to them all that often, but from what I last heard, the manager above my boss (in the same company) has moved up the ladder, not surprising considering that they have worked up from the bottom. The irony is that the son of the manager started working there shortly before I left, and he was, well, much more liked than I ever was – mostly the pucker factor of schmoozing with the manager’s son will make them more favorable. He also seems to like to lounge around until he is supposed to start; I know that when I got there early, I would always go straight to work, and I never claimed the extra time over the hours I worked. Lastly, and this was something that was noticeable almost right away after I left, I heard that things weren’t quite the same there. The people who took my position (and it took at least two to do that) weren’t as efficient or as attentive to details as I was and still am. In fact, as far as I know, there are still major errors being made from time to time.
So, yeah, I think karma is definitely out there; it doesn’t always come around to balance the score, but generally, if the misdeed is big enough, karma will be there to sort it out.