opinion

Just Passing Through?

Tom Hymes
I haven't posted up anything since late last year. Okay, it's only been a month, but it feels like 2009's been here for a while, like it's already kind of dragging. I mean, I've already got 2009 fatigue; what's that all about? And everything's moving too fast and at the same time nothing is moving at all. People seem paralyzed at warp speed. Time is blurring in stasis. Feh...

And then there was the Vegas interlude. I went, of course, as I have for 10 years, but this time I did not go to AEE, which was odd. The annual ritual, as deadly boring as it has become, still holds just enough showbiz appeal to keep me interested. But the truth is I had no work reason to go, so I cut my trip short and only went to Internext, where I did have work reasons to be, but even then not for the whole time.

In a sense, I felt like I was passing through.

A lot of former employees are feeling similar sensations these days. The extent of personnel dislocation (a term I would never use in polite company) in the industry is not officially tracked, of course; there are the usual signs to go by, like who has fallen off the show or board circuit, but these signals can be deceiving. Lots of people reach a stage and simply fall out of public sight, but still toil away, in touch with whomever they need to be. Others really are gone.

Same thing with companies. One day they are pitching their products and services, and the next they vanish. Sometimes, employees find out after the fact. That's been happening more often than anyone would care to mention, and there is something quite unsettling about the practice.

But then, in times like these, when an almost visceral panic takes hold within even the well-positioned companies, civilized behavior (i.e. professionalism) is often discarded. I wonder whether some of these employers are truly aware of what they are doing, how their actions affect people, and how or whether they intend to explain their behavior once the "crisis" has passed. In an ADD-addled industry such as ours, however, I suppose such questions are moot.

Mind you, it's not the fact that hard choices have to made; it's how they are made. Too many believe there is no distinction.

Indeed, as we speak there is a well-known company that cannot decide whether to fire its staff or its 1099s - or both or neither or some or all - and is going back and forth like a yo-yo, keeping everyone guessing and subject to all the attendant mood swings. That surprise and indecision are the order of the day must be excruciatingly palpable to those on the inside; from a distance, it is simply appalling.

There’s also something very sad about watching entrenched industry insiders fretting about whether or not they’ll have a job tomorrow. Some of them won’t. These people will have to find new jobs in adult, or accept they have just been passing through.

I feel their pain. I'm hurting, too. But neither am I panicked. I can't afford to be, and besides, exciting plans are afoot. I've decided that I need to stick around and that there is, now more than ever, interesting work to be done and more than a little money to be made.