Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Back at work after my first involuntary day off in ten years. That's not a good feeling.

My little geotechnical company is definately shivering against the cold winds of the Great Recession. Better off than some because our overhead is lower and our accounts payable smaller. Worse than others because our skillset is less diversified and our line of credit lower.

What's that they say about how a recession is when your neighbor loses his job and a depression is when you lose yours?


Compounding this is my work history. MY first employer was a lovely man who couldn't manage to run a business more complicated than a pushcart. We would staff up like mad during good times and lay off like an Italian infantry battalion retiring under fire during bad. It was not uncommon for us to be asked to take unpaid days off just so we could make payroll during slow months.

Perhaps the worst example of this I remember is some time in the late 1990s. Two of us staff people were in the field working a job up in the Sandy River valley near Marmot. It was the end of the day, we had a problem that needed the project manager's input, and so we called back to our shop - a vividly remember standing out in the pasture with the old-fashioned "brick" cell phone to my ear. We each had a company cell, and in succession we both failed to get the office number, receiving instead some sort of recorded message about calling the GTE Mobilnet business office at 503-such-and-such.

Cursing the damn cell company and their crappy coverage we piled into the company rig and headed back to Portland. As luck would have it we got into the office just as our company accountant/office manager had stopped off at the front desk on her way out. We both whined loudly about the damn phone service until we noticed her look.

"Ummm...actually, guys, it wasn't a problem with the phones." she said in an undertone. We just looked at her.

"We...we didn't pay our phone bill last month. Or this month." she continued, a look on her face like someone admitting that one of her parents had been jailed for unnatural acts with farm animals. "They turned our phones off today."

Jim and I just looked at each other, appalled. I looked back at the office manager.

"Is there anything else I should know about?" I asked hesitantly. She looked around to see if anyone else in the office was listening before replying.

"You, unh, you didn't use the gas card, did you..?"

So you can understand - times like these give me a very familiar, very sick, uneasy feeling. Because when your neighbor loses his job...


Red Sand said...

It's not a comfortable time, is it? I hope against all hopes that it doesn't get any worse, although what I'm reading suggests...

One thing I look to as an asset right now is the social networks we've built. I suspect they will become even more invaluable.

FDChief said...

RS: Like fallout shelters and seatbelts, hopefully we'll never know.