The Downsized Employee
The Downsized Employee woke up the first business day after the downsizing somewhat disappointed to be angry at no one. The Downsized Employee stayed in bed a full fourteen minutes longer than she really wanted to while considering the emotional fuel that might sustain a final task. On Sunday the Downsized Employee had woken up angry at the middle manager whose idea of a heads-up was not replying to two email requests she'd sent a couple weeks earlier asking for a key fob to the office. On Saturday the Downsized Employee had risen at 7 a.m. with a hangover and an uncharacteristic cache of fury directed at her ex-boyfriend, who had been a shithead, but really, had he ever once humored any of her long-repressed desires for stability or security, no, and that brings us to the underlying slight. The Downsized Employee could summon no rage toward the boss who canned her, because her boss had never given her any reason to believe he would treat her anything other than as a disposable commodity.For this reason the Downsized Employee felt somewhat foolish considering the many hours her mind had spent re-enacting the flashpoints and foreshadowings in what had been, really, an utterly unremarkably bad relationship with her boss. The Downsized Employee's Boss was not reconsidering his decision to Downsize the Downsized Employee. The Downsized Employee's Boss had downsized some 18 employees along with her, some of whom had been re-hired in different capacities. Did the fact that Downsized Employee received no such opportunity have to do with the fact that "The" Downsized Employee had been an unusually vociferous voice of dissent? It was possible. When the Downsized Employee had started at the company to co-launch a new website her boss decreed should position itself to compete with a supremely inane website for celebrity photos and gossip overseen by a dogmatically shallow celebrity tabloid reporter, the Downsized Employee filled with righteous indignation and said she would rather quit or hell, die than do any such thing. The Downsized Employee proceeded to co-produce a website she saw as being the precise opposite of that and co-usher said new website to prominence and widespread popularity by offering to the public what she saw as an antidote to the easy, sloppy superficial bullshit. Oh sure, it was easy for the Downsized Employee's Boss to say, "Come on, it is not like you are offering the Paris Review," but it was far harder, she felt, to actually show up every day and bother trying to reconcile the dumbed-down, image-based internet habits of the American public with what she knew - okay, she did not know, but for sanity's sake she had to believe - to be a deeper, harder-to-satisfy longer-term hunger for content that would be more challenging, more nourishing, more unique or in any case actually funny. The Downsized Employee's Boss generally only ever exhibited contempt for employees who made concerted attempts to reconcile those things. But the Downsized Employee understood this. She had watched previously Downsized Employees stubbornly cling to some rituals and pieties and time-consuming traditions that she personally appreciated but knew had sadly prevented their intellectual gifts from reaching their well-deserved wider audience. The Downsized Employee's Boss had taught her a few things in that regard: don't get clever with a headline, numbers and photos are more important than words, etc. etc. the important thing was always to strive for balance. But there remained a fundamental difference of opinion as to where that balance was. The Downsized Employee felt that the Downsized Employee's Boss's customers craved - and deserved - a slightly smarter, more skeptical product than her boss desired to give them. The Downsized Employee felt silly bringing it up again, but the Downsized Employee had been notably instructed by her boss to write a post about an "exclusive" on the Drudge Report claiming that the staff of the Oprah Winfrey show was "bitterly divided" over whether to have Sarah Palin on her show, even as Winfrey had a year earlier publicly decided to host no political candidates on her show until the election as a consequence of her endorsement of Barack Obama. The Downsized Employee had felt this "exclusive" to be a fabrication concocted by cynical Republican operatives eager to paint all liberal females as craven elitist hypocrites whose intolerant sorority of Accepted Feminists coldly dismiss any woman who tries to embrace True Christian American Values. The Downsized Employee's Boss felt that the Downsized Employee was wrong, that the takeaway of the story ought to be that "Sarah Palin Sells," period, and the Downsized Employee felt that sure, of course, she sells, but could "She Sells" be the end of the story?
Because she SELLS. 40 million people watched her give that pitbull eBay plane speech! She's on all the magazine covers! She's even been getting you guys to click! Barack Obama isn't the only "rock star" in this campaign, the AP declared this morning. No, because this little hockey mama who knows how to get things done (like book banning!) is like the Carrie Underwood meets Kelly Clarkson meets Amy Grant meets Kid Rock of politics! But here's the real question: is America tuning in because, for Chrissakes, it's all working? Or is America tuning in because so many Americans are sitting staring mouths agape at the television sets they are too stunned to turn off, phrases like "fuzzy math" and "soft bigotry of low expectations" ringing in ears, thinking to themselves, Oh my holy community organizer in Heaven above, what if this is working???
This was a "tangent," the Downsized Employee's boss told her via IM*, an irrelevant and unnecessary overthought. Of course, within a matter of hours the Downsized Employee's contention that the whole basis for the post was bullshit would be proven correct, and within a matter of weeks the Downsized Employee's suggestion that some Americans might have found themselves betrayed by the cynical market-tested phony populism of the Right since they fell for the President with whom they'd feel most comfortable grabbing a beer eight year ago would be acknowledged by none other than said phony populism's old progenitor Peggy Noonan, who wrote Friday of Palin:
I find obnoxious the political game in which if you expressed doubts about the vice presidential nominee, or criticized her, you were treated as if you were knocking the real America-small towns, sound values. "It's time that normal Joe Six-Pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency," Mrs. Palin told talk-show host Hugh Hewitt. This left me trying to imagine Abe Lincoln saying he represents "backwoods types," or FDR announcing that the fading New York aristocracy deserves another moment in the sun. I'm not sure the McCain campaign is aware of it-it's possible they are-but this is subtly divisive. As for the dismissal of conservative critics of Mrs. Palin as "Georgetown cocktail party types" (that was Mr. McCain), well, my goodness. That is the authentic sound of the aggression, and phony populism, of the Bush White House. Good move. That ended well.
The Downsized Employee might say the same of all short-term sales-driven market-tested business decisions, but The Downsized Employee had done that numerous times before, most recently in a rather involved, tangent-filled 1500 word post on the Coming Depression she was sure her boss did not expect would get more than seventy thousand page views. The Downsized Employee certainly did not, which is why she had so vociferously complained when the Boss had installed a compensation system by which she would be awarded a bonus tied to her page view growth that the Boss had offered her a fixed non-adjustable-rate salary just to silence her whining. The Downsized Employee felt bad (and sheepish) bringing this up on a day the aggregate consequence of the aggregate of all that foolhardy short-term decision-making would be so awe-inspiringly apparent. The Downsized Employee does not want to give her old customers the sense she thinks she is so important. The Downsized Employee just wanted one final chance to remind them that she thinks some things are important, and it is much more than "what sells right now," but that she blames the "What Sells Right Now" mentality for her Downsizing, because the Downsized Employee would have gladly taken a pay cut, but she does not believe the Boss who Downsized her realized that, and she could no more expect the Boss who downsized her to realize that than she could herself start a multimillion dollar 150-employee media company.