Saturday, June 13, 2009

How the bad economy scored me a half-day at work (and what I did with it)

It's been almost a year since we first realized that our company was suffering along with the economy. Well, at least since we the employees realized it... Management may have known for awhile - you know, seen the writing on the walls as it were. But in July of last year our company saw lay-offs.

And then it was quiet. Employees whispered fearful theories and listened intently at the weekly company meetings. We had fewer clients, fewer workers and our morale was lower.

I never heard "everything is going to be just fine, we'll pull it together". It was more like one fateful day we stopped getting snacks and drinks provided for us and we hunkered down to weather the economic storm.

But eventually our company was acquired by another larger company that has been around since 1896 and was at one point in history, a household name. We lost our CEO, Vice president, CFO and a good chunk of our sales force. It was a substantial change but in the end I think we all had a sense that maybe, juuuust maybe, we'd be able to ride the bad economy out and make it to the other side.

As a then 24, now 25 year old I have to say I was naively along for the ride. Yes, I need my job, but the severity of the situation really wouldn't have hit me until I lost it. This is all to say that the entire year at a marketing company enduring the woes of the current economic climate ultimately culminated in me being able to have a half day at work on Friday. Because as part of our final act as a recently acquired company, we are moving offices. The movers showed up at about 1:30 on Friday afternoon.

Seriously, it was the most directly beneficial situation for me throughout the entire year and I have to say that I thought about those extra afternoon hours and planned around them more than any unemployment threat.

So with my afternoon off I convinced Jon to go see Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian in IMAX with me. Ordinarily we download all of our movies - going to the theater is just SO expensive these days. It's one of the few things about which I can say "In my day it cost four bucks, insane how they rob you, the thieves."

But I work with Fandango occasionally and had gift cards good for two tickets so the movies would be close to free. Of course IMAX was extra but I could pony up the ten bucks with the $30 discount on tickets.

So after going to the wrong movie theater - proving that once again we are mere tourists in our own city - we crossed the street to the Metreon. I offered up the Fandango gift cards to the kid behind the counter who looked confused by them. "Oh, they're just Visas" I told him, as my Rep had assured me. The kid swiped the first one and said condescendingly "Aaand that one doesn't work." Swiped the next card: "Aaand neither does that one. Your total is $38.00."

Thirty eight dollars to see a movie? What does IMAX really mean anyway? The actors better reach out from the screen and slap me in the face, but okay kid, we'll still pay. I assume my debit card will work just fine.

We made our way up three or four floors. Again, "In my day it was Adam's family pinball and two racing games if you were lucky." But the Metreon is like a shopping center, food court, arcade wonderland that also happens to have an IMAX movie theater and another 16 theaters to boot.

We bought one thing of popcorn and a coke and it set us back the equivalent of my monthly student loan payment. We entered the movie theater and there were maybe 25 other people there and about a million available seats. The movie started a few minutes later and it was immediately obvious that IMAX simply meant really BIG and obscenely LOUD.

But not loud enough to block the chatter of the people that sat right next to us in the virtually empty theater. I could have overlooked the close proximity but the man in the family was translating the entire movie to his mother who either did not speak English or had an incredibly short attention span.

The movie was good though and it ended just as I was ready to be out of the big dark room. We made our way down the various levels with that quintessential post-movie-theater grog, a little more entertained, a little more broke and a little more grateful for the silver lining of the bad economy: A Friday afternoon hall pass.