It’s Times Like These You Learn To Live Again

How’s your year going so far?

I gotta admit, mine hasn’t been the very best. Although, based on how it began, I expected something completely different. I’m guessing we all did.

My story is no better and no worse than yours, but it is mine, and so I want to tell it to you, for whatever it’s worth.

I started a new job on January 6th, after a difficult and somewhat morally challenging exit from my previous role. Y’all may remember that I was laid off from my job about a year ago, and a friend and former boss immediately helped me get a new job.

Problem was, the job was never a particularly good fit for me. My boss was wonderful, supportive, and challenged me constantly to be better. Her boss was a micro-managing maniac who had nothing better to do than dig into spreadsheets 20 hours a day. I didn’t have any passion at all for the job—it was never more than a paycheck. Oh, and the paycheck wasn’t anywhere near what was promised. After my guarantee expired, my compensation never reached more than 66% of the target they gave me, despite growing my book of business every quarter.

So when I got recruited away by company that promised significantly more compensation, more responsibility, and a smaller geo, I didn’t hesitate. I made the difficult call to my boss, explaining that I needed to take this new opportunity. She was quite supportive, and allowed me to work out my two week notice.

I took the time off before beginning my new role to go to New York for NYE, partying with my good friend Alex Roy at his NYC going away gathering. I met some wonderful friends of his who invited me to their home for a lovely dinner a couple of nights later. I managed to hear the Mingus Big Band, Melissa Aldana, and see some great theatre, too.

So when I flew to Dallas to start my new hire training on January 6th, I was expecting 2020 to be one of my best years yet. Of course, we all know how it’s gone for most of us, but I have had a couple of extra kicks in the teeth along the way.

My new boss turned out to be a narcissistic sociopath. She disliked me from day one, even though she had been the one who hired me. When I asked her if I could send an introductory email to my new team that I was managing, she replied by sending me an email that she had crafted on my behalf and told me to send that email to my new employees. She made it a point to attend all of my team meetings, and basically conducted them herself.

After less than two weeks on the job, she called me to tell me that I had to lay off one of my employees, a hard-working single mom who had been doing a great job. I refused, saying that she was actually my strongest employee, and that we should be hiring more people, not laying people off. My boss replied with, “Well, that decision will likely come back to haunt you.” This was on a Thursday afternoon.

She refused to respond to any calls, texts, or emails after that. On the following Wednesday morning, January 29th, while I was watching my daughter star in her school play, my boss called me to tell me that she was laying me off after 22 days of employment. Keep in mind, the company had paid me a $5,000 signing bonus the previous Friday. I would be offered two weeks’ severance, and no benefits.

Now, this wasn’t all bad. Including the severance and the signing bonus, I had been paid about $20,000 to work for 12 days. I think most people would take that.

I figured that I’d be able to find new employment rather quickly, and thanks to a referral from a friend, I was right—after six rounds of interviews, I was offered a new job with an automotive software company.  My daughter made me a big banner and hung it over the fireplace when I got the job offer—it said, “We’re proud of you, Dad!” The title was going to be a bit of a demotion, but the pay was more than I had ever made, and the travel was minimal.

The start date was also going to be about a month away, thanks to their new hire class schedule. No worries—I was also in the final stages of interviewing for three other jobs, so I figured that I would accept, and that if it didn’t pan out, I had options.

Well, not so much. All three of the other jobs ended up being put on hold due to the Chinese virus. Again, no worries—I had a verbal offer and a start date. However, my offer letter kept getting delayed…and delayed…and delayed. Finally, I called my recruiter. She didn’t know exactly what was going on, so she referred me to an HR person. He didn’t know exactly what was going on, either. I called my hiring manager. He didn’t know exactly what was going on. It quickly became obvious to me that I wasn’t going to be starting this new job any time soon.

My suspicions were correct. The position had been placed “on indefinite hold.” Could be a week, a month, several months…who knew? But the HR person promised to do a weekly check-in with me to keep me updated. We did exactly one of those before he was let go, as well.

So I did something that I’ve never done before. I applied for unemployment.

I realize that may not seem like a huge deal to most people, but to me, it was a total gut punch. I felt like a complete and utter failure. The banner that my daughter made me was eventually taken down. Financially, I knew I’d be okay for a little while longer (please, save your comments about my spending and saving habits), but that wasn’t my real concern.

I don’t think that everybody, especially women and younger people, understand exactly how much value men of my age and older have always placed on our jobs. They give us a sense of who we are. In many ways, we are defined by what we do. When we meet people at parties, we always ask each other, “so what do you do?”

For literally the first time in my adult life, the answer is now, “nothing.”

So I have decided to control what I can control. I started a cycle of the workout program P90X3 43 days ago, and I haven’t skipped a single workout. I started intermittent fasting on a 16/8 cycle, and I haven’t cheated once (I’m extremely hungry as I type this). I’m down about 10-12 lbs in the last two months, and my Cardio Max score is “excellent.”

I spend a lot of time with my children, and I have to say—I’ve been missing out. My kids have never known a life in which Didi, as they call me, wasn’t gone 4-5 days a week. I haven’t been on a plane in over two months, and I’ve made nearly every dinner and lunch for them. My daughter joined me in my workouts in Week 2, and now she is a Tony Horton disciple, too. My son started two weeks ago, as well.

We go on walks. We play games. We sit at the same table as they do their school work and Dad searches for jobs. It’s been absolutely wonderful, and it has made me take serious inventory of my life. Chasing the next airline or hotel status, or even the next job doesn’t see nearly as important as it once did.

And last Thursday, I got a call from the COO of the company where I was supposed to begin work a couple of weeks ago. He reassured me that they definitely wanted me to work with them, and that I would be the very first hire the company would make when “everything is back to normal.” He also set up a new weekly check-in for me with the Director of HR for the company. He didn’t have to do that. I thought it was extremely kind of him to do so.

Of course, not everything is rosy. I have been fighting with the Kentucky unemployment website on a daily basis—I filed my claim over a month ago, and have yet to receive a nickel. I fight off the demons of depression and worry every day, too. I renewed my prescription for Wellbutrin XL, something I’ve been reluctant to do over the years, and it seems to be helping quite a bit.

But I don’t always feel positive about life.

It seems that the country has become quite divided on the issue of when it will be safe to “reopen the economy.” And it’s not the usual divide, either, between R and D. It’s between those of us who aren’t working—a group with over 25 million members now—and those who are staying safely employed at home, taking Zoom meetings and collecting paychecks. I’ve heard people say ridiculous things like, “Are you willing to die for capitalism?”

First of all—YES. I’m absolutely willing to die for capitalism. I’m willing to take the risks associated with working in this environment. I’m 42 years old and in something resembling the best shape of my adult life, with no underlying conditions. Shouldn’t I be allowed to take that risk if I want to?

When I say this, I’m usually met with some remark like, “Well, which essential jobs have you applied to?” I’ll tell you what—find me an “essential job” for which I’m qualified and which pays even half of what my salary has been for the last 10 years, and I’ll do it tomorrow.

I don’t know that I have a moral to this story, or a great summary close. Nothing feels particularly certain for any of us right now. As several states prepare to “reopen” this week, I’ll be paying close attention to see what happens, as I think we all will.

But regardless, I’ll come out of all of this a better man in many ways. I’ll be a better father, I’ll be in better physical condition, and I’ll be in better mental health. And if I end up taking only those three things out of this, then I’ll call it a win.

57 Replies to “It’s Times Like These You Learn To Live Again”

  1. TJ

    I’m right there with you–of course, most of us in a sales capacity are. I’d never taken a dollar of unemployment money until now. Now, I’d have find a “essential” job that pays at least $26/hr to make as much as I am on unemployment, while competing with literally hundreds of thousands of other unemployed applicants–most of whom will work for less.

  2. Fred Lee

    Thanks for writing this, I think it’s interesting to hear stories of how different people have been affected, and frankly those who haven’t been vulnerable (financially or emotionally) in the past suddenly find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Like you I’ve never been unemployed and I’m not now. But I work for a small company and recognize that, for the first time in my life, it could happen very quickly, and despite *feeling* like a somewhat marketable computer engineer, I’m not sure that would help right now. I’ve found myself wondering how much unemployment would I get? How would I even go about applying? It’s not imminent but I’ve never in my life thought about it until now.

    I also find interesting the chasm between those of us who are, as of today, relatively unaffected and those who are tremendously affected. And it happened overnight. No individual’s *fault* that they’re unemployed, it’s just the rug figuratively being pulled out from underneath them. I go on bike rides past a fancy golf course a couple miles from my house. There’s still a steady stream of Porsches, Mercedes, Jaguars, and the occasional Mclaren driving in and out all day, rich folk on the golf course like nothing has changed. And honestly that’s probably fine. Personally I’m all for as much of the economy staying open as possible. Meanwhile a few miles further down the road you enter the neighborhoods of “zero-lot-line” housing. Kids are outside playing but the sense of uncertainty is palpable.

    Obviously the best thing we can do is re-open as quickly as possible. In my area of the PNW we “locked down” quickly enough to never have much of a caseload. Which means the hospitals are empty, and hemorrhaging money as they try to outbid each other for a mask or gown, or a ventilator that it turns out doesn’t really do anything useful. Is that useful? Not without a solid exit plan. Some seem to think that if we stay home long enough the virus will just die out. And that’s probably true but we’ll all be dead or unemployed if we wait that long.

    Interesting times.

  3. John C.

    All the best. All of the women in the workforce are leaving so many males under utilized. In the society, that puts at risk the basic human ability to create a family. In the individual, the toll is just an immense amount of pain. I had hoped that the fleeting prosperity of the early Trump years, as with the late Clinton years would go some way to righting the ship. I wonder how many such chances can be blown before we run out.

    • JMcG

      I agree John. Find someone who still believes in the Austrian school. Ask them if opening the workforce to women doubled the labor supply. Watch their precious little libertarian heads spin off their shoulders. Then move on to tariffs.

      • John C.

        In college I had an economics professor tell me that if Ethiopia offered Mercedes, he drove a 240D, at a lower price that Germany should take them and be thankful for the resources freed up for other things. At 19 I was smart enough to remain unconvinced, but gee if I was really smart, I should have asked for my tuition back.

  4. stingray65

    Sorry to hear about your trials and tribulations in 2020, but it is not surprising at all that you are making the best of it, which is why I am confident you will land on your feet. This crazy over-reaction to a rather mild virus should never happen again, but unfortunately we are setting precedents every day that almost guarantee it will. Why does government shut down the economy when the modelers they rely on have a perfect record of being wrong about every supposed pandemic over the past 100 years (all in the direction of predicting way too many cases and deaths – just like the climate change modelers)? Unemployment benefits are supposed to be for people like you who have worked and contributed for years and now have had a temporary setback that will be helped by some transition money, but the extra benefits that Pelosi and company added to normal unemployment means that anyone making less than $15-20 per hour will be making substantially more on unemployment than by returning to their old (or similar) job. Spending $3+ trillion on WuFlu relief funding is also dangerous, because the biggest chuck of it is going to support government bureaucracies that have done little except slow down effective responses to the dangers and which has not suffered any significant economic hardship. And of course, if dragging out the reopening can keep the economy in recession until November and help get rid of Trump, the Democrats and the media won’t hesitate to use it again to get back or retain power in the future.

    And for all of those self-satisfied people working from home and continuing to draw steady paychecks, remember you too will eventually become expendable or effected when food supply chains and energy supply chains get disrupted enough to not come back quickly, or when the source of your paychecks stop getting theirs. Governments don’t produce anything, they can only take and redistribute, and if there is no private economy we can all end up like Venezuela.

    • Mopar4wd

      Well so far on a month by month basis COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death in the US behind Heart failure and Cancer but well above car accidents. There is also some data showing up now that deaths in places like NYC are 55% higher year over year and only about half of those are currently in the COVID-19 specs. So It is indeed much worse then an average FLU. Will it be worth the economic pain? Time will tell, I think it might be but I have kept working.

      • Christopher Feola

        “Well so far on a month by month basis COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death in the US behind Heart failure and Cancer but well above car accidents.”
        The problem with this argument is the US is a LARGE place, and the pandemic has bifurcated. New Yorkers refer to the NY Metro area as the Tri-State Area, consisting of downstate New York – basically Westchester out through Long Island – New Jersey, and the “gold coast” area of Connecticut. Here are the Covid 19 deaths broken out:
        Tri-State Area: 25,271
        Other 47 states: 32,369
        Or think of the problem this was: on April 7 there were 556 Covid deaths in NYC alone, not including NJ or Connecticut. In Texas, TOTAL Covid deaths so far are 663.
        Covid is a disaster in the New York Metropolitan area, and I’m not sure how it gets fixed short of a vaccine. In the rest of the country it’s a lot closer to a bad year for the seasonal flu. Which ain’t beanbag: Remember, for the US the CDC “estimates that (between) 12,000 and 61,000 deaths annually since 2010 can be blamed on the flu.”


  5. act

    I appreciate hearing your story, and I feel for you. I’ve been very fortunate to still have a job flying airplanes (no Zoom required!). And I know it could all vanish tomorrow. Hang in there.

    “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! — how consoling in the depths of affliction! “And this, too, shall pass away.” And yet let us hope it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.
    – Abraham Lincoln

  6. NoID

    Good on you. As someone who has previously criticized your spending habits (sorry), I do recognize that we tend to fill the glass we’ve been placed in, and we can always justify it to ourselves. Whether a jury of our peers would be convinced is another story, but that’s a trial that only happens voluntarily.

    I’m one of those people comfortable working from home, albeit at 80% of my salary, and just survived a company-wide reorganization (already in full swing when the virus hit) with my title and responsibilities (new to me since January) intact, though I have a new manager who I’ve heard is hard to work for. Time will tell on that front, but I’ve worked before for people that nobody seemed to like and I did just fine. I have friends who have been hit a lot harder (and a governor who – bless her heart – is taking a 10% pay cut during these times as a show of solidarity.)

    Time with family has been great. Our house backs up to a bike trail and we’ve been taking rides every day that hasn’t been wet or subject to Michigan’s notoriously temperamental spring. Today it’s 60 degrees and sunny, four days ago I was brushing a quarter inch of snow off my car in the Buffalo Wild Wings parking lot after waiting 5 minutes to pick up some food, after having left my house for the 2 mile drive with no precipitation falling. The heavy use of our bikes is also providing me with a chance to learn all about basic bike maintenance and repair, which up to now I’ve never really had to bother with. I even learned what a presta valve is.

    • Jack Baruth

      It might be my spending habits you’ve criticized — Bark has two cars for two people and got all his saxophones for free from Yamaha. 🙂

      • NoID

        I’ve probably criticized you both, to be honest, but here I’m referring to my reply to Bark’s last post where I cast a critical gaze at his inferred salary requirements to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in suburban/rural Kentucky. In my intrusive , unsolicited, and mildly informed opinion it was too high, and because this information was related voluntarily on the internet I was duty bound to respond and show him the error of his ways.

        I’m still waiting for my thank you card. People pay good money for financial advice, and here I am just giving it away.

        Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I saw a black kettle over at Jalopnik that needs my attention.

    • Ronnie Schreiber

      Governor Karen may have cut her own pay 10% (she comes from a wealthy family so it’s just for appearances sake) but so far she’s resisted laying off any state employees, as if they are all essential, all of them busily working from home. Nothing to do with support from AFSCME and other public employee unions, no, not at all.

      • NoID

        She comes from a VERY wealthy family, and as governor she has several significant expenses paid on her behalf (housing, food, transportation to name a few) so 10% really is a joke, and the fact that she thinks it is notable shows just how absolutely tone deaf she is. What she should do is reduce her salary to whatever the state unemployment rate is for an out-of-work governor, which I doubt exceeds the state-allowed maximum of $362/week.

        To compare, the top dogs at the holding company which owns my corporation have forgone ALL remaining compensation for 2020. I’d have to look into the specifics, but they specifically said compensation, not salary, which I must assume includes bonuses, stock options, etc. I don’t pretend that means any real belt-tightening on their part, but at least it makes a meaningful statement.

  7. Mike O

    These comments you made have me a little concerned for you.

    “I fight off the demons of depression and worry every day, too. I renewed my prescription for Wellbutrin XL, something I’ve been reluctant to do over the years, and it seems to be helping quite a bit.

    But I don’t always feel positive about life.”

    Please hang in there and realize you are not alone! You have to keep focusing on the positive things you wrote about, your kids. I know you probably wrote this in the hopes that a little venting would help you and I hope it did. Reading it helped me, as I’m sure it will help many others who have had there lives changed by this. If you need something to distract you from the “worry every day”, please shoot me an E-Mail. I’m sure I can distract you for at least couple hours a day with needless E-Mail chatter.

  8. David Florida

    Don’t forget to pay some attention to your sleep, Mark. It’s a huge factor that many of us tend to overlook.

  9. Daniel J

    I wish you and your family the best of luck. I’ve only had to collect unemployment for about 10 weeks after I got laid off of my job of almost 12 years. I saw something coming at my work, but I wasn’t sure what it was. It was a gut punch anyways. I’m better for it though.

    The divide I see is all over the place in regards as to who wants the economy to reopen. I know personal friends who are like me, working from home, who’d still like to see the economy open. I also see service industry workers and public facing workers who are currently out of work to see the economy open sometime…oh…when there is a vaccine? I don’t know how those people are making it. Maybe some are getting more off the unemployment than they would be working? I don’t know.

    I do hope you find something you enjoy.

  10. Dave Jones

    I read your post about your children’s education and had a thought.

    I had that same thought after reading this.

    Start a private school. You KNOW it wouldn’t be hard to better the state requirements and you could probably find 30-40 families at $10k-$20k a pop who would be willing to actually have their children educated.

    Rent some cheap space, throw some paint at it, cover the state mandated minimums before 11 and spend the rest of the day on electives- phys Ed, woodworking, auto mechanics, etc.

  11. Paul M.

    That must have been a difficult write. Not easy to share that story. One thing I know, in life the only thing you can count on is change. I am a believer in faith. Things happen for a reason. And you have to look at positives as you are doing and learn.

    When I was in my mid 30s, I worked for MCI. I made the most money I made back then. But I was not happy. That made me realize I want to find something where I can contribute, even if I am not making as much. I took a pay cut in my next tech job. I worked hard and did not expect anything reward wise. People and management noticed and things worked out after that.

    Hang in there. Do not give up. You already have a lead with someone that is interested. Stay the course, and if opportunity allows and you like the job, stay with it. You will survive and thrive. Success comes to those who show persistence in life beyond all other factors. Times are tough all around (truth I have never experienced times like this), but hang in there and sooner or later we open the damn economy back up.

  12. Solo Wing Pixy

    Good on the fitness and family time. If it becomes necessary being in shape will help with job hunting and your kids in shape of their own accord is priceless. It sounds like you are doing everything right or at least as close to that as is possible.

    I am fortunate enough to be one of those edge cases in which my “essential” job is slammed and I’m netting a financial windfall. I deliver food for a locally-owned doordash clone in a college town and haven’t had a day off since this whole thing started. Of course, I have yet to receive my stimulus payment because I pay the government on tax day instead of receiving and it took the IRS two weeks to get their website functional such that I could input my information. This is annoying but not surprising and while I complain I don’t really need the money and am using it mostly to bail out friends who fell through the cracks due to things that weren’t their fault.

    That said, I’m not thrilled about this. I’m fully aware of the fact that the implications of this virus being the equal of the H2N2 virus in 1957 (my reading of the situation) are grim (no vaccine likely by fall and a much sicker and older populace) but our reaction is insane. None of our leaders on either side of the aisle have had to make a truly difficult decision or ask their constituents to truly sacrifice or endure danger in their careers. Donald Trump and Dwight D. Eisenhower were both Republicans fond of golf but that’s where their similarities end. I’m being thanked for my service for delivering peoples’ sushi.

    I’m 29 and am in reasonable enough health that I like my odds even if I’m profoundly aware of the fact that thanks to a lifetime of bad behavior my father is in worse health at age 53 (BMI~35, off and on smoking history, off and on steroid abuse, 35 years of very heavy drinking, presently medicated for hypertension that he ignored for a decade and pre-diabetic if not outright diabetic) than my maternal grandfather was at age 75. He is, understandably, terrified but that terror has yet to translate into quitting smoking, following the diet his wife is trying to put him on, and he’s drinking more. He occasionally insinuates that I’m willing to sacrifice him so that I can go to the bar (never mind that we don’t even live in the same state) but I’m not cackling with glee at the prospect of losing my father before I turn 30. Rather, the sad truth is that even before this I’ve accepted that he is unlikely to change his behavior such that he will die young. His father died at 73 from heart failure, his risk factors are worse, and people generally die as they lived.

    I was raised by one of those narcissistic sociopaths who also happened to be ex-military; my mother, father, and stepfather were all Marines. Mom and Dad were motor-T POGs but my stepfather was a Force Recon veteran of the Gulf War and she broke him and my father. I recently learned that Lynndie England of Abu Ghraib infamy has a ~15 year old son that she’s been allowed to raise as a single mother and having gotten a bit of the “enemy combatant” treatment from my own mother I am horrified by this. That said, short of an outright collapse or descent into a literal police state nothing will be as bad as what I grew up in so I am lucky.

    I am sensitive to the concerns of the vulnerable but my time and livelihood are not worth less than theirs. Die for capitalism? No, I am asking to risk my life so that I can actually live it. Ordinarily, we do this every day but are merely sheltered from that fact.

    I wish you and yours the best and thank you and Jack for this blog. It’s good reading.

  13. Thomas Kreutzer

    Mark, I have been right where you are now and I understand your feelings. Of course, much of your situation has happened because of others’ actions and current world events, but some of it happened because you shot from the hip and made some sudden changes to stay on the job. Sudden move smell like desperation and expose you to all sorts of shit.

    When your former employer changed directions, you jumped quick to a place that was less than ideal. When you recognized that you jumped to a place where your supervisor sabotaged you because she quickly realized that you had the drive, skills and abilities to push past her. Now you are on a hiring list with the promise of being the first one hired when they start hiring again. Sounds great but please don’t sit and wait for that to happen.

    Free time is a gift no working man should ever receive. It’s both a precious gift and a terrible curse. Every day is both a chance to stop and smell the roses or a new punch in the face. Don’t let your time be “free time” and don’t just fill it with “other” activities. It’s great you are making real progress on your fitness goals, but I think you know that they are just a distraction. Stay hard after looking for a job – the RIGHT job this time. No more jumping, just cold calculated moves. Keep making contacts, building your skills and seeking out new opportunities. Make that your job and you won’t be “unemployed.”

    You will eventually get everything back, and more. It’s not a faith thing, it’s a personality thing. You just aren’t the kind of person to just lay down and die. You are going to get battered by this but you are going to come through stronger. Like I said, I’ve been there. Shit happens but this will not break you.

    Not sure if you have any interest but I think you have my email if you want to talk on the side.

  14. Binksman

    “I am sensitive to the concerns of the vulnerable but my time and livelihood are not worth less than theirs. Die for capitalism? No, I am asking to risk my life so that I can actually live it. Ordinarily, we do this every day but are merely sheltered from that fact. ”

    Solo, this is going on my quote board until things get back to normal 🙂

    • Solo Wing Pixy

      Binksman, if I were able to revise that quote I would drop the “merely” from “merely sheltered” but am otherwise glad to see that someone enjoys the fruits of my liberal arts education (double majored, history and economics). I sometimes muse that I would’ve been better off getting a job at UPS straight out of high school compared to my actual path of bumbling my way through college without a plan to make use of my education but am relatively content with how things have turned out.

  15. Joe

    Bark, you’ve been through the ringer.

    I reread your experience of last year and this came to mind. Life imitates art in Miami.

    “We’ve got a Burn Notice on you.”

    They say hard times build character. You and I could sell character, and Jack? Well Jack could sell guitars and driving lessons.

    The Dr. Erickson video may give you cause for hope. That and The People are starting to protest the easy fascism of little governors and mayors. I’m looking at you DiCommio. We will get rolling soon. The mindset, will and infrastructure are in place.

    Bark, you’ve got drive, a clear head and skills. You’ll be fine.

    • Scout_Number_4

      +1 for the Burn Notice reference. “My name is Michael Westen. I used to be a spy until…..”

      Total junk food, but I did enjoy that show.

  16. Dirty Dingus McGee

    The only time I ever drew unemployment was in, I think, 1978. IIRC I received something around $100 per week, approx 50% of my weekly pay. Luckily I had a useful skill set and was back at work in a stable environment in about a month.

    I was talking with a friend of mine in a neighboring state over the weekend who told me about his 19 year old son. Kid had decided that neither college or trade school was for him, knocked up a girl (did the right thing and married her) and ended up working in a warehouse as a lift truck driver. Last month the kid was laid off along with about 100 other workers. Got his first unemployment check about 2 weeks ago and it was nearly $100 MORE than his take home pay had been.

    How the hell does that work? Was I getting hosed all those years ago, or is the government that flush with money right now? (I already know the answer to the second half of that question)

    Mark, I hate to hear that you have gotten hung out in this downturn. Sadly, I think there are legions of people that are going to be forced to modify their life style’s.I’m not an economist, and I didn’t play one on TV(obscure?) but I suspect that this economy is gonna go downhill for a good bit longer before it turns around. Our business has been hit pretty hard, heavy machinery installation and repair, as we only have 10 of 34 employees still working steady at actual paying projects/repairs. If things don’t turn around in another 4-8 weeks, we will be forced to lay off some folks, not matter how hard it will be to do. To do otherwise would bankrupt the company at some point, and then EVERYONE would be out of work.

    Tough times for everyone, hope we all survive with minimal pain.

    • Mopar4wd

      Are we flush with money right now? .

      Simple answer very few in either party care about deficit’s. Well unless they are complaining about the other party. So the real answer is the can spend as much money as they want when ever they want they just prefer not to, mainly to annoy the other party.

      In theory that will have some effects down the line but so far it hasn’t.
      Or as Alan Greenspan (normally known as a deficit hawk but who changed his tune in the last economic turn down said.

      “The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default”

      • John C.

        If there is any country, I don’t know who that would be, who is maintaining a balanced budget, it would be interesting to track the value of their currency over the next 24 months. Somebody, relatively is going to get rich.

      • Dirty Dingus McGee

        “The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default”

        True to a point I guess. But what happens when it doesn’t work anymore? For reference lets look at Venezuela or Zimbabwe. Both did that with disastrous results. Granted that neither was an economic power like the US is, but it could still happen. At that point, does the Yuan become the world standard for currency? If that happens, then we are totally screwed and become no better than the above mentioned countries.

        Again, I’m not an economist, but I did stay next door to a Holiday Inn Express recently, so……

        I figure I’m in a better position than many as I have 0 debt. No mortgage, no car loan, minor credit card use (paid off each month) and what I thought was a decent nest egg. If things go tits up, I’m in no better shape than someone who is upside down on all their debts. I don’t foresee it getting to that point, but it could.

  17. Sean

    You’re not the first higher-income, white collar worker to struggle during this time, and you certainly won’t be the last. I’ve seen multiple friends lose good jobs. This will hurt a lot of people.
    I’m fortunate to still have my job for now, but I really appreciate these posts from you. If I ever lose my job the first thing I’m going to do is reread your piece from last year about how you responded to a job loss. It’s reassuring in a way to see that this can happen to the best of us, though I know it’s tough for you. Sounds like you’re making the best of it and I’m confident you’ll get past this quickly. Good luck.

  18. Scout_Number_4

    Bark, thanks for sharing your story—I’ve been paying attention to your…output and didn’t miss the comment you made somewhere about not feeling like writing anything. Glad to see that’s changed, your perspective is almost always refreshing and it, along with Jack’s higher output here, has been a God send during this time of reduced social activity.

    I’m fortunate to be in the electrical equipment business and deemed essential. My customers are almost all doing OK to very well, orders are coming in, I’m getting paid. My company has decided to furlough everyone in sales and marketing for one week (pick your week between mid-April and the end of May) in order to avoid layoffs and be ready for…the reawakening. Mrs. Scout is an RN working very hard, but in a pretty safe environment. My kids are safe. I have nothing to complain about.

    What have I learned from the last 6-7 weeks? My personal relationships are even more valuable than I realized. Who really matters and who does not. I’ve learned that I really do enjoy my work, the interactions with colleagues and customers, solving problems, adding value. I’ll turn 54 this year, retirement is no longer something too far away to think about—I’ve suddenly realized that ending my work life won’t be as easy as I always thought it would be.

    My biggest takeaway from the year of Covid? Gratitude for all my blessings.

    We’ve never met or even spoken, sir, but I’m confident that you’re going to come out of this stronger than you’ve ever been….and I think you can see it, too.

  19. Josh Fromer

    Just curious, what does your job search look like? I’ve been laid off since mid-March and have since been dancing around searching for a new job. This is mainly because the federally enhanced unemployment I’m receiving pays for than my last gig, but also because it doesn’t look like businesses outside of Wal-Mart and Amazon are even hiring during the lockdown. Hard to imagine many, if any “non-essential” businesses are looking to expand their payroll right now.

    • Mopar4wd

      Even a number of essential business have stopped hiring. Lots of defense and other critical manufacturing have paused hiring.

      • Josh Fromer

        Correct. I’m used to working 6-7 days a week year around. Idle time doesn’t suit me, especially when there is no place to go and very little to do. I’ve been keeping myself fit and reading lots of books, but as far as getting my employment situation improved I’m at a complete loss. Very odd to say the least

    • Bark M Post author

      Honestly, there isn’t much out there. I have one potential opportunity that I applied for a couple of weeks ago, but that’s about it.

  20. VTNoah

    Bark. Sorry to hear about everything you’re going through. You’ve got the right attitude and drive and you will emerge victorious after all this. I’ll never forget the fact that you were willing to talk to me out of the blue about the Cox Acquisition and provided me with advice on how to navigate things. Glad to see you are reframing the situation as an opportunity to work on yourself and your relationship with your family. If you ever are interested in coming back to the big C, hit me up.


  21. Crancast

    Ditto on the well wishes Bark.

    An idea, nothing more. You explained why the used car market does not follow supply and demand curves better than anyone I have read. And I have recently read some garbage takes on how the current financial collapse will impact used car pricing. Perhaps you look into your crystal ball, match that up with your expertise, and pen a used car market guide and how the banks and dealerships will be forced to adjust.

    • Bark M Post author

      I find myself in a weird spot. I can’t write too much of what I know, or else nobody in the business will hire me. And I don’t have the capital to start my own software company. But maybe there’s some gray area in there that I can explore.

  22. -Nate

    Jeezo-pezzo I hated to read this Mark .

    Small comfort in the time being able to spend with your children but they’ll gain so much from it .

    Your skillset and job market is planets away from my ken but I too have been right where you’re standing, I have confidence you’ll come out the other side in good shape as you’re not lazy, stupid or the rest of the crap that so many are .


  23. Chi-One

    Much hugs and prayers from me to you. I have great confidence in you. I was once laid off, from the government! In Crook County, IL!
    After a couple years as a process server, I went back to the Feds where I had worked after getting out of the service and finished my working career there.
    Now retired, and living on govt pensions, (yeah, I’m THAT guy!). My only complaint is that I’m stuck home with the wife and I can’t see my grandsons who are 10 minutes away. First world problems.

    Look at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself what a great Dad you are. Your kids will remember this time with you long after you have forgotten.
    God speed.

  24. hank chinaski

    Great responses above, and I’ve none of my usual infantile quips to add, but best wishes.
    No way out but through.
    I suggest rucking. 43 days of Tony’s jokes can get old. There are hills in KY, right? Mountains, even.

  25. Glenn Baxter

    Good evening, Mr. Baruth

    I just retired from a 45 year career in consumer/industrial/mil-aero electronics. These companies hire big and fire big. I have been in your position about a dozen times.

    The first thing to remember is that you WILL find employment again. The problem is that you don’t know where, yet. The neat thing about capitalism is that there are thousands of people out there planning startups that will take advantage of the new reality. I was selling TVs and Stereos to department stores when, it seemed that, no one wanted to buy a TV or stereo anymore. I fell into the abyss. Then computers happened and I was riding the crest of an even better industry. This will happen again.

    This economy is not your fault. Publishing dying on the vine is not your fault. Be there to grab the next thing.


    • Jack Baruth

      Hey Glenn,

      Just want to to clarify that it was my brother (who usually works in sales and training) who wrote this. I have 99 problems at the moment but unemployment is not one of them.

  26. ltrftc

    I read your article a couple of days ago and I’ve thought about it a lot since. Life has a way of throwing obstacles and misfortune to everyone, I’m sorry that fate has decided to serve you this shit sandwich.

    I’ve reflected on how I would deal with this if I was you, and in the key areas I’d be doing what you’re doing: exercise as it’s good for physical and mental health, spending time with my kids and family, and working out what can I be doing professionally right now to turn things around (I’m guessing that by the state of the job market this might limited to being patient and reaching out to my professional network). The other areas I would be looking at is what has helped me in the past when life was tough: cutting out caffeine, alcohol, and aiming to get more sleep right now.

    I’d be reading more, for fun and for professional development. I’m in Sales, and so I would be reminding myself that I’m still the same person, with the same skills and achievements, by re-reading Rudyard Kipling’s “If”, in particular:

    If you can meet with triumph and disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;

    Take care of yourself Bark, I hope that things turn for the better for you soon.

  27. Glenn Baxter

    Ah! Well, my words still stand. Haven’t seen you on Hagerty since your Honda paint thing.


    • Jack Baruth

      We changed the website and our tech team broke a bunch of stuff. I’m still running the show there, for what it’s worth.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.