Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cutting the cord

So today we cut the cord...literally. We no longer have a landline - a standard telephone line - in our home. This has been coming for a while. We keep expanding our mobile services, relying more and more on the little hand-held device that is so addicting.

Then one day we realize that the only calls we get on the landline are solicitations - sales, charitable organizations, political canvassers...and my mother. For this we pay $45 a month?

Now that I thnk of it, my son has never had a landline since he went away to college and then moved on to real life. If he can do it, why not me?

Our phone service was bundled with cable and internet service. I was warned "That's what keeps your rate so low. If you 'unbundle,' the prices for the other services will go up." Imagine my pleasant surprise at our new rate without phone and dropping a few cable services we pay for but don't use. The bill dropped by about $80. Wow - I can think of a few other things I can do with the money!

So I called my folks and told them to please use my mobile number. Right away, dad calls the landline and notices that the voicemail is still intact. He also calls back, worried that I have forgotten and put my old landline number on the resumes I am sending out in my job search. I reassure him that I have thought of that and am okay. "Just looking out for you," he says.

So I'll pack up the phones and put them away for now. Let's see how we do with completely mobile communications. We may never go back.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Diary of an unemployed writer

Monday - first thing this morning I got the news: I've been RIF'd. Thank you, it's been fun, here's your box. No hurry. Take time to say goodbye, hugs all around, but be gone by the end of the day. I call my husband, my son. I go to lunch with a co-worker who is retiring at the end of the month. We commiserate about what to do next over wine and pasta. We laugh - drinking at lunch and back to the office! What are they going to do - fire us?

At home we sit down with the bills, analyze our income, the small severance amount, our meager savings. How long can we subsist on one income and unemployment? What bills can we trim, what extravagances can we do without? Time for an honest appraisal. I am giddy with weak gallows humor. I practice saying "Would you like fries with that?"

Unemployment, day one. Thought I would sleep in, but my internal alarm wakes me at 6 a.m. Showered and dressed (no jeans!), have breakfast while reading the paper. I can't believe we put the Sunday classifieds out with the recyclables on the tree lawn! Set up the home office, the dedicated email account. Call the outplacement company. The return call is from a former co-worker from the 1990's! It's a small world after all. They can't get me into the program until the middle of next week, so I'm on my own until then. Cancel the fitness membership - walk for free or workout for $45 a month? No brainer. Also cancel the holiday weekend at Put-in-Bay and save about $500. Looks like we'll stay home, grill some burgers, maybe paint the bathroom. Whoopie! Eating at home saves money but more work. I start straightening and cleaning - not going crazy, just doing a couple of things like mopping the kitchen floor, clearing the kitchen counters. Bake some cookies - chocolate chip/pecan.

Unemployment, day two. File for unemployment - online, while on a conference call for a volunteer organization. Everyone shares their concerns and best wishes. Start a list of each call and e-mail contact I make, with notes for following up. Update my resume - takes me forever to figure out where I saved it from the last time. Well wishes continue to pour in from colleagues, relatives. Cancel the land line phone, which we had planned to do for weeks but never got around to it. Reduce our cable TV services. Never watch it anyway. Clean some more - scrub fingerprints from door frames and light switch plates. I now know what my cat does all day...sleep in my desk chair. She insists on sharing it with me, squirming between my back and the chair back, pushing until I scoot to the edge of the chair. Well, one of us was comfortable. I struggle to print business cards and waste most of the card stock because I can't get Publisher to adjust properly. I get twenty nice cards and a stack of off-center ones that I will reserve for updating family with my new address, and maybe for dropping into "free lunch" jars at restaurants. Go to dinner with friends, using a coupon to save $5. More where that came from.

Unemployment, day three. My cat now thinks I will be here every day. It is no longer a novelty to have me around, and she is bored with me. There's a professional association luncheon today, so I dress up, taking care with hair and makeup. Except only about 20 people show up because of the holiday this weekend. Still, I pass out a bunch of the few perfect cards from last night (and get a compliment on how well-designed they are!). Get a spam e-mail for a scam headhunter web site - Google it and delete it. Apply for my first opening since losing the job. Receive career advice from half a dozen people, most of it conflicting: Target large corporations; no, target small companies; no, target non-profit organizations. Hang out your own shingle. Take on freelance work. Take some time off and relax, but don't waste any time in this economy. Hold out for the money, perks, title, whatever; no, settle for less and you can work your way back up. Leftovers for dinner - getting two meals out of last night's dinner. I hate leftovers.

Everyone marvels at how calm and self-assured I seem, but in reality, doubts linger. I hear of people out of work for years. No medical insurance for years, forgoing needed treatment for serious conditions. I start to think about looking for work teaching cooking or selling fabric and crafts...and it's only day three! Good grief!

I promise not to turn this blog into a day-by-day, blow-by-blow description of the ups and downs of job hunting. Hell, even I wouldn't read that. Three days of self-pity is enough. Let's move on.