The New Reality

I’m hearing this term thrown around a lot lately at my soon-to-be former place of employment — The New Reality. It comes up in discussions about how work is going to get done once I am gone. Don’t get me wrong I know full well that I’m not an irreplaceable pillar of the workforce here but I know that I do a lot of work that is still going to need to be done once I’m gone. The thinking is this will be handled by outsourcing (we’ll see) and by others simply doing more work than they already do. Thus The New Reality.

But it’s not just here. This term is getting tossed around a lot in the wider world as well.  And perhaps has been for some time and I just haven’t noticed it until now. Like the person who works here who discussed her daughter’s work situation. This is a young woman with undergraduate and graduate degrees in music, a very smart and educated individual, and she’s working as a barista as well as doing some performance and I think giving music lessons. No full-time job, but instead a patchwork of part-time jobs. This may be what is in store for me, unfortunately.

Another movement in The New Reality is people starting their own businesses, like the one reported on in this article from the Detroit Free Press. Because even if you do have a great job with a good company there is no guarantee that your job will be there a year or six months from now, or even tomorrow for that matter.

A bit from the article:

OK, so if you accept the reality that all companies today are scrambling to control head count via software, automation, outsourcing — anything to limit the number of full-time workers with benefits — where’s an example of people adapting to that reality?

Last week, I visited Grit Design, a Web design and digital branding outfit of 15 people, mostly 30-somethings, working since March in space carved out of the Elevator Building, an old warehouse along the Detroit riverfront east of the Renaissance Center.

Almost all of them previously had swell jobs at big agencies — Ogilvy, Razorfish, Young & Rubicam — working on big-brand accounts like Ford, Disney, Cadillac, Dollar General.

I was asked last night if I would ever try to open my own business, instead of looking for a job with a company. It made me think. I guess I’d never really considered it. Mainly because I have not a clue what kind of business I would start, which might just be a sign that it’s not a good option for me. It would certainly have to be something viable in today’s market. It’s no time to be starting a labor-of-love business.

I have a friend who, after getting laid off from his long-time job, tried to start a home-restoration business. I don’t think it went well. He burned through his saving and may even be in debt now. I don’t want to end up like that. And I know, I know, you have to take risks be willing to put yourself out there and all that jazz. But there’s a time for risk and a time to exercise caution, and right now, in this economy and job market, I think more caution is warranted. Frankly, I’m just trying to weather the storm without winding up in debt. So far I’ve been able to to that.



DTE fails

This Thursday will mark five years since we had that big power outage that stretched from the East Coast into Michigan and Ohio, leaving millions without power for days. And according to this Freep article, DTE still does not perform regular tree maintenance, which could go a long way to help avoid power outages. According to the article, about a third of all power outages are cause by falling trees and tree limbs and could be largely avoided if the power companies would simply do some tree trimming, but of course they won’t, fuckers that they are.

I remember that black out. It was in 2003. And it was pretty fucking scary at the time, more so than previous blackouts because of the specter of 911 hanging still fairly fresh in the air.

I didn’t even realize that the power was out until I was stuck in traffic on Maple Road, heading to pick up my daughter from my parents house in Warren. I was low on gas, because I figured I’d fill up on the way there. Once I realized what was going on, and worried what might really be going on but which we, the public, were not being told about, I parked my car in the Wal-Mart parking lot, scooped up all the spare change in the car and a small flashlight and started walking.

Later, my wife would ask why I didn’t simply walk back home and get the bike and ride it to my parents’ house. I was mile from my house and about 10 from my folks’. I just wasn’t think. I guess I kind of panicked. It was kind of funny afterwards, but not at the time. The radio was reporting that a state of emergency had been declared in Warren. I didn’t know what the fuck that was supposed to mean. All I thought about was getting to my parents’ house. My daughter wasn’t even two yet and my parents are elderly.

Of course, had I been able to talk to my wife she might have made the bike suggestion to me, but my cell phone was not working. Creepier still was that the pay phones that I tried along my walk did not work either. So I just kept walking.

I stopped in the first party store I came to and bought a bottle of water. Passing a busy intersection, where people were stuck at the gas pumps of a gas station because when the power went out they could not pay, I saw guys selling bottles of water for a buck apiece. One lady in a minivan full of kids bought about ten dollars worth. I would have too.

Naturally, the traffic lights were out but most intersections did not have cops to direct traffic flow. So people were left to their own devices. It seemed to work pretty well, until this yuppy woman in a black SUV tried to jump through an intersection so she wouldn’t have to wait for the big truck that was passing through in front of her. She blocked the intersection and the guy in the truck was pissed. He started yelling at her through his windshield, cursing and flailing his hands. The yuppy woman in the SUV acted as if she coudl not hear the guy, as if she was unaware of what she’d done. I remember thinking that this was how riots started. I picked up my pace to get as far away from that intersection as possible.

It was weird. People were coming out of their houses to see what was going on. People in their cars rolled down their windows. People talked, sharing what news they had. You could hear radios broadcasting information from through the open car windows. But there wasn’t really that much to say, and there was this strange vibe in the air, or so it seemed to me. As if people were eying each other, keeping a watch out. For what? I don’t think anyone could really say, even if you’d asked.

It started to get dark before I got to my parents’s house. And I remember walking down side streets that were almost pitch black because there were no street lamps. I could hear people talking on their porches. That reminded me of my childhood, the way my parents would sit on the porch and talk to neighbors passing by, going for a walk. People sat on their porches when I was a kid. But that was before air conditioning was so ubiquitous (sp). I also noted how as I got closer to these people talking, they would often hush their voices. I couldn’t see them but I could sense that they were watching me.

Finally, I stopped at my dauther’s old day care, the house of a woman my family has known for years, and got a ride to my parents’.

Of coures, everyone was fine. Although my daughter was down to her last diaper. And even though at first she thought it was kind of cool that ther was no power and we had to use candles, as it grew later she wasn’t so happy about it. I couldn’t get her to sleep. Eventually, my wife showed up and we went back to our house. But after a couple of days with still no power we decided to head north to my in-law’s place in Marine City, where they had power still.

After that, though, I started thining more seriously about having an emergency kit stocked with thing we might need. I’ve gotten some of that stuff, including a Red Cross emergency kit backpack, but I could still do more, and plan to.

Every year around this time I start thinking about a story I started that was inspired by the blackout of 2003. It is about a similar blackout that happens years afterwards, and is eerily similar, almost as if the 2003 was some kind of trial run or something, or so it seems to the main characters, who admittedly has an overactive imagination.

It begins like this:

It’s getting late.

The sun is going down.

Soon it will be dark – pitch black.

And you’ll be alone it in again. With that strange hum that seems to come from the sky.

Pretty spook, eh.