Down and Out in Palm Beach County

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WEST PALM BEACH, FL — Recently about 100 or so people I worked with were “excessed,” in one day.

Being “excessed,” — and no, that’s not what our former employers called it, but with the door thrown open to 100 with only an urging not to let it hit us on the way out, what else would you call it — is different from being fired or laid off, marginally, in terms of surficial pride. It also is different from just up and quitting one day, as none of us can claim full credit for the idea of leaving at the end of one day, and forgoing health insurance, pension, a life plan, and something that passed for purpose each day, never coming back.

Being excessed as we were certainly spared each of us from further imagining the humiliation of being escorted to the parking lot by security (and I feel certain that each one of us did imagine that, as it was pretty well drawn out for us), let alone the eventuality. But being excessed is, as a recent phrase-du-temps put it, what it is. And that is being told, with a modest bribe to leave quietly, that the company you work for doesn’t need what you do anymore, doesn’t want it, would pay to be without it. Which in turn might lead one to wonder if it was ever worth anything.

It also makes one wonder if there still is time to do things that are needed, wanted, important, and even if not, if life could be more rewarding and more fun that it was when we thought we were doing something important.

Which is the other reason why most of us left quietly, and then why many of us, when invited to lunch as a group by people we did business with, accepted — free lunch, being wanted, etc.

I say so because that is why I accepted the invitation, but had the good luck to be wanted elsewhere, and offered free dinner, which is even more tempting.

Those who showed took turns standing up to say what they are doing now, which wasn’t much, according to a friend of mine who went. My friend found the experience depressing. I wonder if that was only because it was public.

Not doing much is something people spend a lot of money to come to Palm Beach County to do. I have found it beats the daylights out of hyperventilating because the line was busy, the computer crashed, my boss, who has no life, said something sneeringly — to me! — or all the other things I used to do when I thought what I did was a necessary part of things.

Maybe it was. It isn’t anymore. Many of my former colleagues just finished stints of hard work for the Obama campaign. And now that that’s over, maybe there is something else necessary to be done. But until there is, I take pride in my colleagues who chose, however fearfully to stop pretending that getting to work at 9 each day gave us substance.

While some of us, and more, as the economy continues to succumb to eight years of torture, will suffer bad, hard, painful losses, being down and out in Palm Beach County is, in itself, not the end of things.

And for those of us who fell jumped or were pushed, it can’t help but be a beginning.

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