Sam, computer engineer, foreclosure survivor

Sam is laid off from his job

Sam is a professional computer engineer whose job is exported. Because so many computer jobs in the U.S. are discontinued, he can’t find work. He and his wife gradually use up their financial resources and are on the verge of losing their house to foreclosure. They get involved with a foreclosure action group at Occutopia, with remarkable results. Afterward, Sam and his partner, Bill, are responsible for acquiring solar power and Internet access for Occutopia. But for Sam, the biggest success is in the nationwide adoption of an alternative currency, which creates an growing economy outside the control of the Federal Reserve, the mega banks, and the U.S. dollar.

Part 1 of Sam’s story, excerpts from the book:

Sam and Marilee were in the basement of their house, engaging in a kind of sport, or maybe therapy. Sam was holding a porcelain dinner plate high in the air.

‘Here’s to the damn layoff consultants. I hope you guys go to hell,’ he said.

He drew back and threw the plate with all his might, smashing it against the wall. It shattered into pieces with a loud clatter. There was already a pile of broken dishes at the foot of the wall. He and his wife, Marilee, laughed boisterously. She was sitting on a bar stool with a glass of wine in hand.

‘Any more dishes?’ he asked.

She leaned over and looked in the box on the floor.

‘No, they’re all gone. I’ll hit another yard sale this week.’

‘Okay,’ he sighed. The dish-smashing therapy session was over—always a letdown.

Sam was a computer engineer who had been laid off from Illumin8 Corp, a large computer software corporation, because his job was exported to India. He had been known for creative problem solving and keeping things lively around the office. He and Marilee met at work. She was a technical writer and a fun-loving type, and they made a great pair. He was a white man with brown hair, tall and handsome, and slender in a geekish kind of way. She was a white woman with ivory skin and dark brown hair cut short, well-groomed and attractive. They looked like salaried corporate employees. They had two children, Alan and Wendy, ages 11 and 13.

Sam and Marilee lived in the historic Irvington district of Portland, in a spacious Prairie School style home built in 1910. The neighborhood had quaint homes and gardens, and tree branches arched over the streets. At one time, a streetcar line passed through the neighborhood. Sam and Marilee recently renovated the house and put in a small pool in the back yard. Everything was perfect—until Marilee got laid off, then Sam. And then, their lives began to unravel.

Smashing dishes gave them short-term relief from their problems. Sam got the idea from one of his friends from work who also had been laid off. His friend said it made him feel better. Sam thought about it for a while before he tried it. Smashing dishes was an act of violence. He had feared that it would tap an uncontrollable rage within him. What then? And anyway, he had doubted that Marilee would go along with it. If she had rejected the idea, that would have settled the matter. So he had low expectations when he talked to her about it. Surprisingly, she agreed to try it.

They went out and bought a box of old dishes at a garage sale. They came home and took them downstairs to the basement. Timidly at first, Sam threw a plate against the wall. It made a loud clatter as it hit the wall and shattered into pieces. Emotionally, nothing bad happened. He got a cool rush of giddiness with just a touch of anxiety, and broke out in a sweat. This passed quickly into a sense of exhilaration.

Then it was Marilee’s turn. She picked up a plate and threw it. It shattered into pieces. She turned to look at Sam. The look on her face was priceless—confusion that changed to wild gratification. He laughed and she laughed, too. They laughed and laughed. Then they broke more dishes. They smashed dishes in the basement while the kids were out at their extracurricular activities in the evening.

Sam and Marilee were part of a stunning 42% layoff of the Illumin8 Corp U.S. workforce. Over time, the company had cut their U.S. workforce by a total of 78%, and hired workers in the developing world. Like other layoffs, the Illumin8 Corp layoff had a cascading effect on U.S. suppliers and local economies, resulting in more layoffs. The Illumin8 Corp layoff was just one of thousands undermining the economy.

Sam felt that he had made important contributions at work and solved problems that no one else had. It was creative work—at least some of the time. But upper management evidently thought of his work as a commodity, something measured in hours and dollars, something that could be bought more cheaply elsewhere. Sam wondered how much the company saved by moving the department to India. It was definitely in the millions. Meanwhile, with all the outsourcing, the middle class in the U.S. was being hollowed out. Who did the chief execs think would buy their products?

When Sam and Marilee were laid off, they posted their resumés online and searched for jobs frantically. In the high-tech field, it was an absolute necessity to keep up with the latest developments. When Sam was working, he and his co-workers spend about a fourth of their time discussing new technology and getting up to speed on it. In a couple of months of not being in the workplace, Sam would already be falling behind. Downskilled.

–End of excerpt.

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