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The Gauntlet

Freedom can be refreshing

With unemployment comes opportunity

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On May 1, my position at the U of Chaos was abolished. I was called into a room and my ex-boss and the union turnip were waiting with large brown envelopes in front of them. Having gone through this with my wife a month earlier, it did not take a genius to figure out what was coming,

I think my comment was "Oh shit."

After some management platitudes about "much appreciated work" etc., etc., my ex-boss left and I walked out on the union rep as I have an allergy to hand patting.

I went up to my office, tossed my keys and cell phone on the desk and left. Not angry, not surprised, just really disappointed. I said goodbye to the only person who crossed my path. Everyone else was busy elsewhere--that's how you know that you were the last to know.

I went home and started cleaning. It's a neurotic thing I do, but it hurts no one and serves a purpose so I just go with it. Upon coming home, my wife found the entire house SARS clean and knew something was wrong.

It was a quiet evening at our house as the full implication of us both being tossed aside like so much Kleenex hit home. I didn't sleep much that night, too much self-recrimination about what I coulda-woulda-shoulda said or done, all the while realizing any other series of choices would have been as wrong or right and nothing would have materially changed.

You can imagine my surprise the next morning when my wife suggested a game of golf. I thought, "how can we afford it now?" I have to admit though, my Irish side got the better of me and I said "screw it." So off we went. We got on the course right away, paired up with a dad and his young daughter.

I have to say in all confidence that it was the best game of golf I have ever played. I had so much on my mind, I had to let it all go and played with a clear mind for once. I hit three crushing drives, the kind that are so good that you want to jump and shout, but you can't really, you have to stand there and act all cool, like this happens every day. I made a great chip shot to hole out for my first ever birdie. At the end of the round I was exhilarated, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat, so much so it was making my wife laugh.

The other man however, had beaten me fair and square by three strokes. Did I mention he had no index finger on his left hand, no thumb on his right and that his right leg below the knee was a fascinating prosthetic of alloys, cables and bungees?

After such a good game in such great company, I started to feel better. After all it could be worse, right?

We went home and I did something I haven't done since I was 12-- I took a nap.

As I lay there with my wife gently asleep in my arms, staring at the horrible, textured ceiling, I now had time to change, I started to feel alright. Practically positive despite looking at my first bout of unemployment since 1980, and I came to a realization: the fresh spring air was as delicious as ever, the mountains and my wife as beautiful. Despite how much I had enjoyed most aspects of my job and most of the people that I worked with, it was, after all, just a job. There will be others.

With that I fell asleep finally with one thought on my mind--the universe really does provide, if not gold then pearls.

Now three weeks later I have to say this: I had an interim job the following Wednesday afternoon. It's not cancer research, but it will do for now.

I often thought of the possibility of abolishment and how I would feel. I can tell you after seeing the events of the past week, I feel a lot less like Adam cast out of Eden and more like Lot escaping Sodom.

I wish those of you remaining at the U of C the very best of luck, you are truly going to need it.

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