Thursday, November 20, 2008

For Everything There is a Season

Today marks the end of an era for me. It was my last day working at the Big Corporation.

Late last year, the Big Corporation had announced it was selling the division I work for to another company.

But between the legal logistics and the tax implications, it took a long time for the sale to go through. And because our division's functions were so intertwined with the Big Corporation's, the act of separating our businesses was like a brain surgeon trying to remove the intricately entwined tentacles of a brain tumor from a brain. But today the surgery was complete.

Tomorrow is moving day, and starting Monday the whole group of us will be working in another building about 5 miles away, for another company that I'll just call the Rather Big Corporation.

This was the last day that I went to the office I have been working at for nearly 30 years.

When I started working in this location, it was actually for a Somewhat Smaller Corporation. During the 30 years I was there, the company went through several mergers and buyouts, and finally was swallowed up by the Big Corporation. But the whole time, I was still in the same office building, with many of the same people.

I was only 25 when I started working here. It was my first - and only - job at a "real" company. When I graduated from college with my degree in Communications I was still immature for my age, and not very confident. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. After a couple of low-paying jobs at local businesses, I finally realized that if I ever wanted to move out of my parents' house and live on my own that I needed a job that paid more.

The one thing I was really confident about was my typing ability - and when I saw a job listed in the paper for a typist at the Somewhat Smaller Corporation, I applied, and got the job. I became a typist in the company's typing pool.

Yes, back then they had actual typing pools - a whole group of women in one room, typing away. It was like something out of Mad Men. People would come down from Upstairs and drop off handwritten documents to be typed and the supervisors would give them out to us one piece at a time. Each job would come with a time written on it - 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 60 minutes. I prided myself on being able to beat the time estimate.

Back then we didn't have a Xerox machine. If someone had to "cc" six or seven people, we used that special thin paper called onionskin, with carbon paper in between each sheet. It is hard to imagine that it was that primitive back then, but it was.

The "typing pool" was actually called the "Word Processing Center," because there were two - yes, two - word processing machines, which were used for form letters. But gradually all the old electric typewriters and IBM Selectrics were replaced with word processors. And of course the company did get copy machines, and the onionskins and carbon paper went the way of the dinosaurs.

I actually enjoyed this job immensely. I came in each day, was given work, finished the work, and left. There was nothing left on my desk waiting for me the next day, nothing hanging over my head, no guilt that I hadn't finished something.

However, after a few years of this, I did feel it was time to move on. By then I had met DH and he encouraged me to apply for an entry-level market research job that had been posted internally. I'd never had any training in this field but by then had more confidence and figured I could do the job. I got the job, and the rest, as they say, was history.

Thanks to the Big Corporation, I've had an actual career, and I have to say, to paraphrase what Garret Morris used to say about baseball on Saturday Night Live, the Big Corporation has been very, very good to me.

In the nearly 30 years I worked at this company, I made many great friends, learned skills I didn't even know existed - or which didn't exist yet - when I was in college, and let's face it, made a better living than I had ever expected to, based on my first two jobs! I was promoted several times, and had six or seven (I've lost track) immediate bosses. I've seen CEOs, presidents, vice presidents and directors come and go. I bowled on the company bowling league for 14 years. I joined Toastmasters and learned to actually enjoy speaking in public.

Thirty years is a long time. During that time, I met and married DH, we traveled to various countries, bought our house, made new friends, and joined a neighborhood association. I earned a certificate in Historic Preservation at a nearby college, and became a board member on the town historic district review board.

On a sadder note, during this time my grandmother died, DH's grandmothers both died, my father died, and we also lost several friends.

Many of the people I worked with are no longer at the Big Corporation. Some were laid off during the years I worked there, others left of their own accord; some retired, and a few, whose faces haunt me still, died too young.

For awhile after the sale of our division was announced, the enormity of the change did not really affect me. We were still in the same building, after all. Nothing had changed yet. We were busy getting acquainted with the new company and working on the transition.

But today, it was time. All the files were packed and my cubicle was empty. I turned in my badge and my parking tag to the security desk, and walked out for the last time as an employee. On Monday, life will go on at the Big Corporation, but one corner of the building will be empty.

Sure, I may be back sometimes to have lunch with friends. But it won't be the same. An era has ended and it has to be acknowledged. I started working in this building as a young woman of 25, and am leaving as a middle-aged woman of 55. A lot of water has passed under the bridge.

14 comments:

Tengrain said...

That was really a very moving post.

I cannot imagine being at the same job for so long - it must make the parting that much more difficult.

Best wishes,

Tengrain

Fran said...

Wow! I hope you snagged some historic momentos.
Lots of years & memories there.
You are going to have to really pay attention when you head to work next, or you will be heading to the old place on auto pilot!

Good luck with the new endeavor.

travelingman said...

I guess I kind of know how you feel. I worked for the same company for 12 years, was promoted three separate times and our division was finally sold to a competitor. It was really hard to adjust to the change. After three years I am still there and I am in the process of my second promotion.

What do I miss most? Working for a small family owned company and I miss my assistant...she was awesome. While the new company has brought new opportunities and all it is still hard at the end of the day.

My heart goes out to you...keep your head up.

Randal Graves said...

I've only been at my current job for about half that, so I can only imagine all the accumulated memories - and stuff! - of 30 years and then that period reaching the end.

Christopher said...

You worked for the same company for 30 years?

That's unheard of today. They must really treat you well and pay you a good salary.

I don't think I can know anyone who stayed at the same company that so long.

DCup said...

Wow, Maui, that really is a great post about your work life. Like many of the others commenting, I can't imagine working for the same place for so long, but I'm always happy to know those people where I work who have been around a long time. Their historical knowledge of the organization is always valuable and interesting to me.

I wish you all the best as things change for you.

Mauigirl said...

Tengrain, thanks, it will be a big change but at least I'm still working with the same group of people I've been with for the past two years, so that helps.

Fran, yes, I do have some keepsakes, most of which are from the "Somewhat Smaller Corporation." And I will indeed have to be very careful on Monday not to go to the old building - the route is the same up until a certain point!

Randal, luckily they moved us to a different part of the old building a few months ago so I got rid of a lot of "stuff" then - but I still had 7 boxloads of accumulated stuff to pack!

Christopher, at a certain point the accumilated vacation is impossible to duplicate at a different company so it isn't worth it to leave! Vacation being my primary motivation to stay at a company! DH also has been at the same company for forever - even longer than I have - it was his first job out of college!

DCup, thanks for the good wishes. And yes, I think the Big Corporation will probably miss some of the historical knowledge that several of us are taking with us - since we all originally worked at the Somewhat Smaller Corporation and have a lot of history that we keep in our heads!

Mauigirl said...

Oops, "accumulated," not "accumilated." My typing skills seem to be deteriorating with age...

Alicia Morgan said...

Wow, Mauigirl - you do realize that you are part of an era that is past - the age of job security! When I was starting what would be my 'career' in music, in my teens, I knew I was choosing a career path with absolutely no job security whatsoever, and my family was very concerned about me and how I would manage without a guaranteed job path, since everyone else I knew was pointed in that direction.

But part of having a need for a creative career is the kind of personality that thrives on change and uncertainty and feels trapped by the idea of being locked into the same thing for any amount of time.

Turns out I was ahead of my time. And I'm sure glad to have that kind of mentality now - I'm going to need it!

That being said, I have all kinds of admiration for people like you that are able to stick to something and make it work. My mom worked for 35 years for the State of Florida as a social worker. I'm so proud of her for doing that stressful, thankless, underpaid and overworked job, because she tried to make the world a better place in her own way, and she did. But a month of that for me would have driven me stark raving mad. It takes all of us with our different talents and proclivities to make the world go round!

Mauigirl said...

Travelingman, I just realized I didn't respond to your comment - I know what you mean, working for a smaller company is a much warmer experience. That is why, in some ways, being sold to a smaller company is actually an improvement. After the Somewhat Smaller Corporation was swallowed by the Big Corporation it wasn't the same anymore. The future situation may actually be an improvement.

Alicia, I know, it is unusual for anyone to work at the same place for so long these days. I tend to like the stability of working for the same company - and at least I had a lot of different experiences within that company so it didn't get boring for me. But I have reached the point where I am ready to do something different so we'll see how long I continue in the corporate world. I envy you your freedom!

D.K. Raed said...

It's sad, but also very exciting. 30-yrs! Mazal Tov!

I only worked for a "big corporation" once, very early in my career. After that, it was all small-time, including the last 25-yrs working for myself (can't get much smaller than that!).

ps, I still miss my IBM Selectric!

odessa said...

oh, what a sweet and touching story. 30 years is a long time. thank you for sharing it with us.

Mauigirl said...

Hi DK, working for oneself sounds great to me. I hope to do that one of these days. I loved IBM Selectrics. DH's office was getting rid of one and I told him to bring it home. I have to admit I haven't used it though!

Odessa, thanks, glad you lliked it. So far the new location is great so my nostalgia is rapidly fading.

Spartacus said...

Wow... it's amazing how my career mirrors yours in many respects. Thanks for the crystal ball into my future. I can see myself feeling as you do once I pack up and move on... or have it packed up for me. Good luck.