Something has to change – Part 1
August 28th, 2009. I quit.
I’d never walked away from a job before. I’ve moved onto different opportunities that were better, and I’ve been laid off a couple of times. But I’ve never actually just left a job. I remember the day well, and I remember it being an incredibly difficult and gut wrenching phone call that I needed to make, but just hadn’t really wanted to. But it needed to happen, and so I called my boss and told him that I just couldn’t live like this anymore. And I quit.
I had been working as the sales manager for a company that was running out of money. They had brought me on board to run their sales team, and I was pretty good at it. Our sales picked up considerably, but our receivables went into the dump as the real estate market in Southern California tanked, and deals began falling through right and left. That left a large portion of the sales we made uncollected, and our debt began to rise. But the company had some solid investors that were comfortable dumping money into the concept given the volume of sales that we’d generated. That was until some of the money was found being skimmed off the top to pay for “business expenses” incurred, like our President’s house payment, and his SUV, and the like. You know…”necessary stuff.” The investors turned off the faucets, and the company went into a nosedive.
As the months went on, and the company was more and more in the red, people got cut. Not by the company letting them go, or laying them off….oh no…but just by not paying them. When they quit, they weren’t replaced. When they filed grievances with the labor board, they were met with opposition by the company that said that their performance was “unsatisfactory” and that “they were a detriment to their position.” Also, it’s tough to argue that you were a salaried employee when you’re sent a 1099. This scared the employees from leaving their jobs as they wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment, forcing us to continue working for free essentially until we could find another job.
I hated that the company was putting these people in these spots, but my situation was giving me a regular paycheck, and I needed it to live. Then in October 2008, things went wrong and my paycheck bounced. A corrected check was issued, but the checks began coming irregularly for the next few months…and then not at all. My expenses went 10 months without a reimbursement. I would go 6 weeks without a check, then 10 weeks. And then finally after about 90 days without one, I quit. I think I was justified. The company claimed that they just had no money. I later found out about the President and his expenses being paid by the company, despite his claims of “not taking a paycheck in months.” It was crushing to the rest of us who received nothing from the company. I would have GLADLY not taken a paycheck to have my bills paid though….that’s kinda what they do. So I walked away.
The timing was about the same time that Traci was going through some major medical problems with her legs. She was going weekly down to Kasier to be sedated so that they could attend to the wounds on her lower legs. The Graft vs. Host disease had eaten away the flesh on both of her legs, and left just exposed nerves from below her knees down to her ankles on both legs. In order to get near her legs, they had to knock her out to remove the dressings on the wounds, just so that they could change them and clean them, and it was once a week, every week. The doctors even talked about possible amputation at the time. It was a terrible time. The job situation didn’t help either. I was paralyzed. And I needed a change. I needed a break from the work obligation, and it was necessary to leave.
The good news was that my Unemployment claim went uncontested, and for the first time in about a year, I had a regular paycheck that was coming through from the California EDD. It was amazing being able to pay my bills with that tiny check, but really that was all I needed was the regular income, and I could budget with it, and make things work.
About that time, I found online poker. It was something that I could do on the side that I enjoyed and I could write on the side for some under the table pennies here and there. And playing small stakes games took my mind away from all the other crap that was happening in life.
Fast forward about a year and Traci’s health began improving steadily. The wounds on her legs began healing and she gained more independence. We obtained a van with a wheelchair lift and it came equipped with hand controls that once we taught her how to use them, she was driving again. And I was freed up a little more. It allowed me to make 3 trips to Las Vegas for the WSOP last summer, and got me to the point of actually looking to find another job. I’d hoped to land something in the poker industry while I was there, but there really wasn’t anything that I could find.
I’d been out of work for nearly a year at this point, and trying to get back into something seemed impossible. Despite sending out roughly 20 resumes a day, and applying to a great number of positions through Monster.com, CareerBuilder, and CraigsList, I couldn’t find a job that wanted to pay me anything other than commission only. I wasn’t willing to do that. I was going to hold out for a paycheck.
It’s now been nearly 18 months since I left my job, and I haven’t worked at all since. Unemployment will likely run out anytime, although I’m hopeful that I’ll have 1 more extension prior to the World Series of Poker this year. That would carry me through to a position that I can hopefully land for some media outlet there. But even that has been tough. I haven’t received a definite “yes” or “no” from any of the outlets that I’ve chatted with, and I have no guarantee that there will be any money for in covering poker this summer. I’d also have to leave my family for a period of about 6 weeks, which I’m not exactly enthusiastic about.
This has become longer than I expected….I’m going to end this as part 1, and talk about the upcoming days in another post.