And then there’s Jim. Man, he’s a hard one to pin down. Getting him to slow down long enough to give me a phone call or just send me a text message, saying “Yeah, I’ll do it! Sure, go ahead, use my photo! ” on a profile of him for the blog … well, it’s tough.
Jim doesn’t let much grass grow beneath his feet. Although one of his part-time jobs in the past, on top of his regular full-time job, did involve helping people involved with landscaping. Ironic, isn’t it?
I know these things because I’ve known Jim for the better part of the 16-plus years that I’ve lived and worked in Utah. He lives in the same town as me, I’ve run into him and his wife in the neighborhood grocery store. I first met him when we both worked in the IT department at a newborn “little sister” and more local credit card company to a “big sister” national credit card company, and I was fresh out of programming school. I left the “little sister” but Jim and I were reunited a couple of years later when we both ended up working together again for the “big sister,” where we both stayed until around 2006.
Jim worked in IT, but he wasn’t totally technical. He definitely wasn’t a programmer. If he’d ever return my text message asking him what his job title was, I could tell you more about what he did. He was more of a testing analyst, working more on the user side in the testing environment. That was his regular, full-time job. He’s a very hard, dedicated worker who believes in doing a job right. I know he’d put in some extremely long hours.
For fun, he worked part-time — some nights, mostly weekends — for a national home improvement retail store. Landscaping was his specialty. It was a passion to him.
No, he did more than work for fun. He’s got a bunch of kids, and maybe all but one of them is now on their own with children of their own. Yep, Jim’s a grandpa. Though he doesn’t look like he could be. His children have been a passion for him as well, he bends over backwards for them. I know that to this day because he replied to me just long enough last weekend to let me know he couldn’t look at a message from me because he’d just gotten home from helping his daughter move into a new place. The bum!
Jim’s also passionate about the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s about as passionate about the Chiefs as I’ve been for a huge chunk of my life about the Colts. There was one season when the Colts beat the Chiefs in the NFL playoffs. To send him the message that my team had beaten his, I took my Peyton Manning jersey in to work the next Monday and draped it over the back of his chair before he got in for the day. He thought that was pretty cute.
For years after I went back to work with Jim for the “big sister,” I would bug him about getting into my fantasy football league. I knew he’d do well in it if he’d learn the tricks to the game, but for the longest time, he’d resist.
“No time, man!” he’d always say. And I definitely believed it.
I left the “big sister” when the 2006 NFL season had just started, and it seemed clear that the winds of budget cutbacks were blowing in my direction as fall approached. I think Jim finally was talked into playing fantasy football with me the season before that. He didn’t do very well at the start — he’d stack his roster too heavily with Chiefs players. Loading your fantasy team with players from your favorite real team doesn’t usually help much. But he stuck with it, and I’d give him all kinds of advice. He’d often call me at home or while I was out shopping, looking for fantasy football advice.
He ended up getting good enough at it that he won our league’s championship one year.
Shortly after I left the “big sister,” around November of 2006, I’d heard through the grapevine that the fall round of budget cuts there had claimed more victims. I’d seen some of the victims from previous cuts at lunch before then. Some of them went into totally different lines of work, like used car sales.
Jim’s name was among the list of those who’d been cut in November of 2006. The workaholic was a victim. I was shocked when I heard his name in the list.
As soon as I’d heard that he’d lost his job, after I’d moved on to a new one to escape that wrath, I called Jim on the phone and actually managed to talk to him. He was taking it well. He sounded upbeat, positive. For the most part, anyway. There was a point where I did detect a rare bit of bitterness in his voice.
It was when he said, “The ironic thing is that I ended up training the guy who ended up doing my job.”
I’d been hearing that all too frequently by that time. It just seemed so cold, so unfeeling, so … heartless.
At some point, Jim lost his part-time job as well. But he has a wife who worked at the same home improvement retailer, so that would help their situation.
If my memory serves correctly, Jim was out of work for well over a year before he managed to get a full-time job at his old home improvement employer, at a much lower rate of pay than what he was used to before with the “big sister.” After a while, even there, his job was cut and he went through several more months of unemployment.
I’d check in with him on the phone occasionally in that time, and he’d talk about the tips he was picking up along the way on how to find a job, how to beef up his resume, etc. I offered to critique his resume myself, anything I could do to help the guy. I felt for him in his situation. It was a bit close to home. I tried to imagine myself in his position, and it made me shudder.
But, again, Jim’s been a very busy, energetic guy as long as I’ve known him. And he’s come back. I believe he’s doing something in the clothing business these days. He’s busy again. I know this because it’s so hard to get him to reply to messages these days, the bum.
He went through a very long stretch where he had nothing but career searching in his life. I’d love to know what went through his mind, deep down, in that time. But he’s pretty much kept it to himself. He’d mostly say things like, “We’re doing okay!” Very upbeat. In a way, I’ve tried to emulate his positive attitude in my own experience over the past month-plus. I’m sure there was plenty of fear there inside of him, I do think he said that much to me at small points in time.
However, much like the Chiefs in the 2010 season, he’s managed to bounce back and be a winner.
One thing that Jim did a lot of in the time we worked together was to come over to my cubicle and borrow a music CD or two. I turned him on to some jazz-fusion from French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty that he loved, it just blew him away, so much so that the CD case of the artist’s “greatest hits” broke so Jim bought me a brand new copy, despite me telling him that he didn’t have to.
Jim went through a pretty long, rough patch in his life, up to the better part of two years. But he’s managed to land in a “new country,” through his own “individual choice.”
I would encourage anyone who knows people in similar circumstances — long-term jobless either now or in the recent past, aggressively searching in order to turn their lives around — to get in touch with me so I can share their stories as well. I’ll get into the causes of their unemployment, and — as I’ve shared so intimately in my own posts — the feelings that go on inside of them as they face their individual struggles.
If you know of anyone, send me a message on Facebook here.
This nation needs to start thinking about putting politics aside for good and start solving the problems for real.