Lost Arts studio

A lot of the fiber arts I enjoy are things like tatting, netmaking, chair caning, and even weaving, where people will come up to me when I demonstrate and solemnly tell me, "That's a lost art."

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Location: SW Outer Nowhere, Michigan, United States

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a chicken. (With apologies to Peter Steiner.)

07 September 2006

9/11 (and 9/12) Reminiscences

Now that it's September, I've been thinking about 9/11.

On 9/11, our son was two. My husband was a full-time stay-at-home dad. I was working full-time in corporate America, in an office furniture industry suffering from the popping of the dot-com bubble.

That particular day, my husband was working a man-day at one of the National Guard posts in Michigan. My mother was watching our son, her only grandchild. I was sitting at a computer all day, maintaining a database.

My cube neighbor's mother called her at work to tell her a plane had hit one of the World Trade towers. Radios went on, internet news websites were called up. Somebody even turned on a television in one cubicle.

I went out at noon to eat my lunch in the beautiful fall weather. All the air traffic was grounded. There was not a jet contrail in the sky anywhere. (We live under the Detroit to Chicago flyway. There are always jet contrails up there.)

I think I had brought some tatting with me, and after I ate my sandwich, I worked on it. It was sane, normal.

I went home and found condolences from internet acquaintances in Sweden, Australia, Germany, all over the world, over what had happened.

The next morning, I walked across the parking lot with my cubicle neighbor & friend, J., and we talked about the news on the way in. I put down my coffee and changed into dress shoes. (It was a big parking lot.) I was leaning down to turn on my PC, when the manager, the guy who rarely spoke to the likes of me, came in and said, "Would you come with me, please?"

Uh-oh. I knew this couldn't be good. People had been downsized all around me all summer. I brought my coffee along, and made small talk about the previous day as we walked to Human Resources, and a little conference room with an HR rep. The box of tissues on the table did not give me confidence, so I was not too surprised to hear that the industry had not been doing well, and unfortunately, mine was one of the positions that was being downsized.

However, 9/11 had just happened yesterday. I was alive, and I knew where all of my immediate relatives were and their states of health. The big boss excused himself as quickly as he could, and the HR rep went over severance, COBRA, unemployment.

I learned that I would have the day off with pay, and about two hours to clear my personal belongings out of the cube and say my good-byes. For a brief instant, I felt worried and responsible about the conversion project I had been working on, as a company that had just been bought was switched to our system. Then I said something to myself that I would repeat over and over: "They downsized me. That is no longer my problem."

I went back to my cube. J. said, "Oh, I'm so sorry!" One of the supervisor-level bosses came in and tried to be sympathetic. I began deleting personal emails and files off my computer, and I sent emails telling a few people that my job was no more. I peeled baby pictures off my cube walls, loaded a box or two onto my office chair, and wheeled it into the lobby. I walked out and got my car from the far reaches of the parking lot, and parked right up front, in the visitor's spot, that would normally have gotten me a reprimand from Security, to transfer the boxes.

I didn't know what we were going to do, now that the full-time wage-earner of our household was unemployed. Fortunately what did happen was that two weeks later my husband got hired for one of the many jobs he had applied for in the previous nine months.

But since the country was in an uproar, he worked gate duty and whatever else was needed at Fort Custer for those two weeks.

It was a turbulent time in our lives. On the one hand, it was hard to be really upset about losing a job when the day before so many people had lost their lives. On the other hand, decidedly non-domestic me had been thrown overnight into the role of stay-at-home mom. Meanwhile, my much more domestic husband had been catapulted into the wage-earner role.

Five years later, I don't miss corporate America a bit. (Well, except for the dental plan.) But it's probably time to venture back out into part-time work now that our son is in school all day.



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