Monday, January 14, 2008

Hanging On The Santa Cross

There is a strange cultural phenomenon here in the South. When a person dies in an auto accident, the family or friends of the victim will put a wooden cross memorial at the site of the incident. These crosses dot the Alabama highways and are a accepted as an expression of public personal grief even as they ugly up the roadsides.

This year I saw one that filled me with dark fascination. Someone decorated the wooden monument with a holly bough and a Santa hat. Imagine that: a Santa Cross.

I've been interviewing people for jobs at our company. This is new for me. I didn't expect to become the manager of product development eight months after accepting the job, but one who takes chances the way I have in my career doesn't always predict the path ahead. I know why I left but that doesn't mean I had a good plan if any. Uncertainty can be pleasant or unpleasant. I manage it. I enjoy it. Risk is acceptable regardless of what I have to lose because when I manage it, there is a thrill to that. No matter how nasty people or circumstances are, one can make do and better themselves.

Something I notice is just how dissatisfied some are with their current employer, yet how reticent they are to take a new job when offered until they get the opinions of the very people they are leaving if they take a new job. Perhaps we want approval or applause or maybe we just don't have enough confidence to believe we can control the circumstances wherever we land. I understand that.

Yet I don't understand when someone is so uncertain that they will endure another season in a freezing hell over taking a chance that they might have to manage uncertainty. We can talk about having to take care of our families, our responsibilities, but eventually we have to take care of business, we have to manage uncertainty.

Sitting here watching a miles long flight of birds flying Southeast, content in the cold, and otherwise looking for grain, maybe that is the way most people manage the winters of discomfort and discontent.

Others put up a Santa Cross.

I understand both. I just don't want to hang on one and wait for the wind to turn warm again. Better to fly.


John Cowan said...

I think that most people feel, justifiably or not, that their present job provides at least some security, that they are valued at least enough that they will not be simply dismissed without warning. By contrast, jumping to a new job feels like shuffling along on a tightrope over an abyss with sharp rocks at the bottom, having no training whatsoever.

This, I think, is an effect of the fact that most people today are poor, however high their incomes in historical terms: they don't have enough wealth to keep them going for more than a paycheck or so, and so suffer a constant anxiety (which in times of stress becomes a bone-chilling fear) of being out on the streets, freezing, starving, sick with no treatment, ruined forever. Taking a chance means taking a chance of -- that.

Income inequality in this country is now at levels we haven't seen since the 1890s. Wealth inequality, which was never as smoothed out, is at record highs. The U.S. truly is the world's largest banana republic, but its people don't yet know it.

Len Bullard said...

Sad but so, John. We are slippin' and slidin' on the peel offs of the ownership society. Looking at the CitiBank meltdown and other indicators, it ain't exactly looking good.

On the other hand, I spent about 50k to get out of my last job and didn't regret it. I didn't know where I would end up just that I could afford a job hunt more than a murder.

So all of us have to cut costs. I'm trying to imagine going into a car dealership and asking them to show my their new 'Tatas'. Ok, I can do that too.

John Cowan said...

Unless you are dealing with a female sales agent, I suppose.

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