A year ago in March, my life was a totally different place. Going skydiving prepared me to face the turbulent first quarter of 2011.
Christmas Weekend 2010 - After spending the last 4 months fighting for my job for refusing to adjust the reports I created to show false numbers, I severed my ties with the machine. I was blocked from a promotion, put on a written warning for a nonexistent attendance policy, and demoted to an entry level position. After spending the last 6 years of my life building databases, spreadsheets, etc to monitor, track, and report on various projects involving mortgage and insurance tracking operations, I decided I could find a better start elsewhere.
The morning after I submitted my written 2 week's notice (for the 4th time at this company) I walked into the building at 7:00am, turned my computer on, got my morning coffee from the break room, and sat down at my desk. Immediately, an IM popped up from my boss asking to see me. I casually shuffled through my drawers and checked the 2 plastic shopping bags I packed the night before in anticipation of this moment.
Rhonda, an AVP in charge of tracking operations for 7 sites spanning 3 countries for at the time the largest bank in the US serving 12 of the largest mortgage lenders, was a stern woman. She dressed like a librarian with a rich husband. Her makeup, nails, jewelry, outfit, hair, shoes, purse, etc were coordinated, stylish, organized, and well groomed at all times. Rhonda was a stoic and proper woman, known throughout the company to be a very strict stickler to the rules who will put in however many hours are necessary to complete a project. Many people were afraid of her, but being a big buff of science and instruction manuals, I am always well aware of the rules of my surroundings.
I served the last 4 years of my career working directly under Rhonda as her project specialist. Anytime she needed an impossible project completed because one of her managers dropped the ball, I was there to pick up the scattered pieces and save the project. This meant being able to come in whenever I could in the morning so long as I never missed a meeting. The flipside was that I worked 12 hour Saturdays, stayed 8 hours later than everyone on the night before holiday weekends, and never missed a deadline, no matter how many government, client, or regulator changes were enacted.
What Rhonda loved about me was that I never failed to obey company orders, but was also never afraid to voice my opinion. I was not a yes man, and she consulted with me on various projects related to the business as well as getting opinions from each other on various personal issues. I've seen behind a lot of curtains throughout my career, so I gave this morning's meeting my full attention, something she's only previously experienced through the results of my work. I walked into Rhonda's office, lightly shut the door, and sat down, setting a notepad on her desk and sipping my coffee.
"What's up?" I asked politely.
She replied hesitantly, "I've discussed your notice with my boss, and we've decided..."
"You're letting me go."
"Yes, which will be effective immediately. I'm going to escort you to your desk to grab whatever you have an immediate need for. Do you need a bag?"
"I'm good. Let's go."
We left her office and walked to my desk in polite silence. When we got to my desk, I opened my bottom drawer and removed the 2 shopping bags I had prepared in my left hand, picked up my coat and coffee mug in my right, and nodded to Rhonda that I was ready to go.
"You know I've always respected you," I said as we walked toward the front door.
"I know," she replied.
"Which is why I want to let you know in advance that I'm going after you for the bullshit way this ended. It's unacceptable to me."
"I know. I appreciate that. I need your badge," she stated softly as we reached the front lobby. I looked down to see I stood on the tile while she stood on carpet, pointing at the badgeholder hanging from a lanyard around my neck. Our badges were used as keycards to access various points in the building. Mine was quite valuable, as it had access to various restricted areas throughout the campus.
"My hands are full," I replied, thrusting my pelvis forward. "You'll have to grab it for me."
Rhonda sighed and reached to take the lanyard off my neck.
"Actually that's mine. The only part that's yours is the badge itself."
She reached into the plastic pouch and retrieved the badge.
"Good luck, Brian."
January 5, 2011 - This was my official last day with the bank, although I spent the last 2 weeks enjoying the holidays with my family and friends while arguing with the bank's HR department to get my written warning removed. A few days after I walked away from Rhonda, I received a call from the EVP in charge of the department I was originally going to be promoted to. He let me know I can be hired into his department for a higher pay than I could have transferred with anyway, so it worked out. I just had to get that written warning removed or I would not be eligible for rehire.
Things weren't going well for the HR rep. She broke company policy, letting Rhonda and several other managers I named in my complaints know I opened the cases. In turn, on January 5th I was notified by former colleagues that a bomb threat had been called in to my old workplace. An entire corporate bank processing center of 5 buildings and over 2000 employees was shut down and evacuated, with the exception of 2 floors of one building: Which, ironically encompassed the people who worked directly with me. Two hours later a Swat team began chasing a crazed gunman through the mall across the street from the banking center. The mall was full of the evacuated bank employees.
At the same time, police officers have surrounded my old workplace, bringing bomb sniffing dogs and robots throughout the parking lot and through each floor of each structure, including the parking garage, dumpsters, benches, bushes, etc throughout the campus. Employees were individually brought into rooms filled with corporate security guards, members of site management, and 2 police officers. As they left the room, they were escorted to their desk, and out of the building, where they were allowed to leave. Once they left the bank property, any employee that knew me immediately called me to give me detailed information about what was happening, which I began recording on my Facebook profile page.
I began piecing together the events and found that the managers I named in my HR case called the bank's corporate security to report a bomb threat, naming me specifically as a disgruntled ex employee. By the time the police department surrounded my home that night (over 12 hours after the incident was alleged to have happened), I had spoken with dozens of employees and pieced together everything. I had a cool head and invited them into my home, giving them specific access on my counter to my laptop, desktop, and cell phone, along with phone and internet records for the last 30 days.
The police interrogated me for hours in my living room. In the end they had no evidence to support the bank's assertion without me providing an admission of guilt, which I refused to do as I had done nothing wrong, and they left, dropping all charges. Before leaving my house, the "bad cop" grabbed me by the shoulder and said, "Just know the bank's watching you. We're watching you. You've made some powerful enemies tonight, son. Watch your step."
Although I avoided arrest, the tactic had effectively scared me (albeit not as intended), so I noted the effects of the entire thing. Thankfully, skydiving prepared me to keep a cool head and organize my thoughts, notes, documents, knowledge, etc the proper ways. I spent the next 3 days getting stoned and writing out, in complete detail, every bit of knowledge I could think of about everything that happened to me over the course of the last year, very much like I'm doing right now. A year ago when I did this, my last year was dedicated to my career in the banking industry, along with its abrupt, turbulent, and event-filled end. Luckily I've always been very good at remembering and documenting my experiences. That weekend, however, everything changed.
January 8th, 2011 - Only 3 days after my traumatic experience with the police, a young man named Jared Loughner shot a congresswoman named Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, AZ, only an hour and a half drive from where I lived. I watched the incident through a different perspective than everyone else. Thanks to the experience I had gone though, I didn't follow the story of Gabby and the other victims/heroes of the events. Instead I found myself drawn to the stories where Sarah Palin's rhetoric was blamed for the horrendous attack. I even found myself getting scared and sometimes in tears watching how the shooter was portrayed in the media, realizing that I'm not the only person watching this event unfold.
It's also being watched by the 2000 employees who felt victimized 3 days earlier. It's being watched by the families of those employees. I was being blocked throughout the weekend left and right. I received anonymous voicemails, emails, facebook messages, etc telling me what a piece of shit I am and what a monster I am. I've been called and told some very hateful and disgusting things in my day, but each comment still took its toll. To put it in perspective, if you ate shit every day, no amount of shit eaten in no amount of days will make you comfortable with the fact that you're eating shit every day while we're eating steaks.
I'm not the kind of person who is comfortable eating shit. I came up with a plan. In fact I found I had all the time in the world, so I came up with several plans. More importantly I documented them and tracked the progress. I learned to treat my life as my own corporation and only work for its improvement. This is where my 80's training montage would be, but instead I have to actually train, so...