Unemployed in Greenland

I can see the moment in my head like a film sequence. Or a script.

***

INT. Office. Morning.

ANDY walks in, shoulder bag jingling. He turns on the lights and heads to his desk. He only pauses when he sees his BOSS and the DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS (DOPS) seated in the glass fishbowl conference room.

He approaches his desk and drops his bag into this chair. SLOW REVEAL – Andy looks down and sees a FEDEX BOX, open and empty, sitting right beside his desk.

Andy takes a deep breath. His hands start to shake, but he quiets his nerves and puts on a smile just as the Boss comes out of the conference room.

BOSS: Hey, Andy, can we speak with you for a minute?

Andy nods and keeps up his fake smile. He knows what’s coming. But he straightens out his cuffs and turns around.

ANDY: Sure! How can I help?

***

After three months at my new job I, and four others at the company, including the CEO, were given walking papers. In an irony only found in life, and badly scripted films, it was the 2nd anniversary of my marriage that day and this kind of corporate turnover was exactly why I wanted out of my last job.

What lessons? First – you can build a lot of dread and suspense with common items in just the right context. Anyone who sees a moving box on their desk one morning knows what it means. There’s one of two things coming. Either you’re being let go, or someone is running an elaborate Borderlands / Se7en in joke.

“Awww. What’s in the box? What’s in the BOX???”

Second – time is a blessing. It allows you to do things, yes, but it also gives you too much room to get lost in thought. Best to keep busy. Make a schedule. Stick to it. Shave every day. But keep in the back of your mind – you are still in shock. You need to have time to cope.

Third lesson – times like this reveal a lot about folks. The moment my departure hit social media, in addition to the waves of sympathy I also received a half dozen “Call me when you’re ready! Let’s talk!” Good folks react to a problem by running towards it and saying, “How can I help?”

So what do I do? First, take a vacation. I did not take off between my final day with my previous company and joining my last one. So, I’m rectifying this. Will start working towards a job at Memorial Day.

Now? Now I focus on the small things that need doing around the house and on my Litreactor course with the inimitable Gemma Files as my teacher. I will enjoy the vacation weekend I have scheduled with my wife in a secluded part of the Chesapeake Bay. And then I will get back to the job search.

One day, the scene I just wrote out will make it into a story. Just not today. Today, I need to focus on a few other things.

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Strange Dice Not Required

I, like many table-top RPG gamers, love dice. Not as much as my wife – she is a serious collector and has a beautiful jewel case filled with the neatest dice you can imagine. In the end, though, it’s an aesthetic decision. Most of the dice we use in our game are surprisingly common. You can get six-sided dice at any gas station. And if you walk into any place that sells collectable card games, you can probably find polyhedral dice. Then, there’s on-line…

So, the connoisseur of fine dice lives in an age of plenty these days. But, then, I saw a new version of a game I’ve enjoyed playing for years is coming out.  A Beta was available so I downloaded and began reading. The first thing I saw was the fact you needed custom dice to play. Not just polyhedrals, but dice with specific symbols on the faces to resolve tasks. And if you didn’t have them, well, that’s OK. You can pay for a dice rolling app to generate the symbols for you.

This crossed a line with me. It’s one thing to get funky dice because you enjoy them, and think they add to the game. I’ve got dice with the 1’s marked as Skulls for systems where bad things happen when you roll a one. And that’s fine! You can still use dice with numbers or pips to play. It’s an aesthetic choice. Emphasis on choice. But with this new system… you don’t get a choice. You want to play – you have to buy our dice, or use our dice-rolling app. Otherwise, it’s all locked down.

It’s a symbol for so much gatekeeping in life – the world becomes pay-to-play.  It’s not enough just to have a stick and a ball. You’ve got to shell out for the full gear set if you really want to play.

And that is what really irks me. I know this world is a capitalist system. We’ve got to cover our costs, make sure everyone gets health insurance. But when you start building into the game a cost for every access point… where does it stop?