Opinion – 6/27/2006

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Panolian: OPINIONS – Billy Davis

From the 6/27/06 issue of The Panolian :                 

Force behind the ‘force reduction’ has found new status:
     ‘no longer with us’

After a two-year wait, the story I had been anticipating came my way via e-mail last week: my former Big Boss at The Commercial Appeal was no longer employed at the daily newspaper in Memphis.

A call yesterday to a Commercial Appeal operator confirmed that Big Boss "is no longer with us," which sounds like a corporate phrase borrowed from Stalin’s henchmen.

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According to the e-mail, Big Boss resigned after she was given the choice of quitting or being fired. She supposedly "wept like a newborn" at the news.

I can relate. I cried, too, when she got rid of me more than two years ago, though I think I only sniffled at the news that I was part of a "force reduction."

The Commercial Appeal has been continually laying off its employees for at least three years, cutting off again and again the arms and legs that enable it to operate and turn a profit.

My turn came the week before Thanksgiving, just under my three-year mark, with a phone call to "come downstairs to human resources."

And then I knew it was over.

I sat in my little Dilbert cubicle staring at the phone. My first thought was, God, give me the strength. It was not a rote prayer. It was plea for help.

Down in the human resources office, a security guard and good friend, Robbie, locked eyes with me. His job is to escort those "no longer with us" out the door.

I was ushered into an office where the newspaper’s attorney sat across from me behind his big desk. Big Boss sat next to me, on my left.

Mr. Attorney spoke the words "force reduction" and mentioned something about a reassurance that my work history played no bearing on the aforementioned "force reduction."

And then he tried to shake my hand, telling me, "Good luck." I didn’t return the favor.

Big Boss said nothing.

Days and weeks later, I started to wonder if Big Boss had picked me for a "force reduction" after I asked for a pay raise, a request that was supposedly allowed. I had written some good stories for a yearly publication called Living Here, an across-the-board pay raise was a year behind schedule, and besides, what did I have to lose by asking?

When I get my hands on The Commercial Appeal here at The Panolian office, my daily routine has been to read the Dilbert cartoon and search the names of the directors for Big Boss.

I read Dilbert because the cartoon reminds me of the corporate hamster wheel that I endured and escaped. You know why I kept scanning that list of directors.

When Big Boss’s name was no longer there, I expected to feel an overwhelming sense of vindication, but it never came.

In fact, I discovered a little bit of pity.

I came back home to family and friends, bringing with me a wonderful wife and best friend. I returned to the newspaper where I have been writing off and on since the summer of 1990, when I was barely 15 and didn’t know a cutline from a county supervisor.

Thank you for the help, Big Boss.

I hope your landing is as soft as mine.


Billy Davis can be reached billyd@panolian.com or by writing to P. O. Box 1616, Batesville, MS 38696.)


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