Monday, May 18, 2009

Terminated (A True Story About A Friend)


My brother could see the panic in my eyes. I was unable to speak. I was unable to breathe. My life, as I had once known it, was now over. It all was happening in a split second and there was nothing I could to stop the voice on the other end of the phone. My dealership, and that of my brother, were being terminated by Chrysler.

I was able to put the call on speakerphone so my brother could hear the sentence being pronounced. The words droned on, but all meaning was lost except for the one essential. How do you tell someone they are no longer needed? Wasn't there something that could be said to give me hope, to make me feel like I had value? Where was my gold watch?

I was glad my father and my grandmother weren't here to witness the death of a dream. I recall my grandmother, well into her 90s, still showing up at our office every day and doing whatever it was that she did. This was not our business. It was our home and our part of the fabric of something much larger than us. It was memories of good times and bad, of joys and sorrows. It was everyone who had toiled on our behalf. Everyone who shook our hand along the way. Everyone who contributed, everyone who was a part of something real and something important. Now, in a flash, it was gone.

I wanted to cry. I knew the tears would flow in many homes this evening. I was about to hear from one of my children who now said he would not return to college but would be dropping out of school to get a job. I would soon be talking with bankruptcy lawyers who wanted my money but could offer little by way of hope in exchange. It would be endless nights and endless conversations. There would be nothing that could distract me. From now on, for the foreseeable future, survival was all that would be permitted to permeate into my brain.

I know there are thousands who got this phone call. I know there are hundreds of thousands who are struggling to make sense of any of this. How could we, who have only done right over the years, find ourselves abandoned and alone? Our government will not be an instrument to assure our continued existence, but will help precipitate our quick demise. I know I should have some faith in the system, but I have no idea how I can find it.

We are in the wrong place at the very wrong time. Our story will be written in the history books and it will be a paragraph in the larger issue of greed and deregulation. We will be lost in a maze of fingerpointing and recrimination. We will be the nameless and faceless victims. We have committed no crime, but the punishment will be meted out. We are in the way, and we are being steamrolled.

I tried to catch my breath. I could see in my brother every emotion that was coursing through me. Where had the last 40 years of work in this industry gone? Not only could I not see the next 40 years, I couldn't even see how I could get to tomorrow.

Mercifully, finally, there was no voice on the other end of the phone. My head dropped and my hands covered my eyes. All of a sudden, I was exhausted. I wanted to say something to my brother but my voice had been silenced. I shuffled some papers that lay on my desk but they were no longer of any consequence. Outside this door, there were people who were going to have to be told. I didn't want to get out of my seat. A world of unpleasantness was waiting. If I didn't move, maybe none of it would find me.

They talk about the 5 stages of reaction when something really horrible happens in your life. I know this is the first stage. I don't want to even contemplate the others. I believe we as a group deserved more than this. I know that my brother and I feel that we have given every fiber of our beings to do something that would make our parents, grandparents, our families, our communities and the company proud. Now I wonder, for what purpose? They have taken everything away in one phone call. They did it because they could. Shame on them.


Anonymous said...

Shame on them is right. You and your brother don't deserve this, but you will survive even though it won't be easy. Your parents and grandparents navigated through rough seas too. All the dealers should get together and file a suit against Chrysler. Power in numbers. I have faith that justice will prevail in the end, fasten your seatbelt for a rough ride....and remember you are not alone, there are many in the boat with you.....

Robert said...

I am sure the sentiment expressed is greatly appreciated.

This is a period of rough rides for many and we hope that the ride becomes smoother and easier in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Shame on them, right?. Well maybe not so fast. I remember all those years of buying American made cars that never stood up to the guarantee they promised. The failing of the engines,the falling off of the mufflers,the lousy workmanship in general. How about the salesman who told you what a great deal you were getting. How you were paying just a $100 above dealers cost, and he would even show you the inventory sheet.Yea right. Hard to believe while the owners lived in their million dollar homes at the same time telling us how hard it is to make a living selling cars!!. It is their fault, dealership owners, as much as the manufactures themselves, for sitting back, not listening to the American people for a better,safer,more economical vehicle. But most of all, for not recognizing the foreign car explosion.So be thankful for what you had. What someone else had created and passed along to you. But be ashamed that you failed them, your parents and your grandparents,for not continuing their dream. That's usually what happens when your just handed something.All those years of making money hand over fist for decades and never getting your hands dirty. Selling cars at $100 over inventory, but getting thousands from the manufactures. We are sorry for your misfortune, BUT WE NOT STUPID! So nows it time to join the ranks of the real world, and work for a living.

Robert said...

This was a story about personal anguish, not a discussion of the merits of the automobile industry as a whole.

It is a tough world for a lot of people these days, and hopefully the future will hold better times for us all.