A HALF-DECAYED IRONING BOARD cover compelled me to walk to my local five-and-dime for a replacement. Coupons in our town savings mailer sweetened the deal: 15% off, which, combined with a stroll to the store instead of a drive, helped me stack monetary and gas savings. Keeping the spending local, rather than pouring it into a big-box store whose profits are counted out of state, also had appeal. This trip was dipped in win.
I combined this run with a drop-off of books at the library and a stop at the dry cleaners — another key coupon-use center — with some work shirts. Once at the five-and-dime, I wandered the ware-crammed aisles for a spell, eventually triangulating on the housewares via the kitchen goods. A display of various board covers awaited, as did someone who recognized me.
A woman in her fifties said, "I know you." I couldn't place her — a friend of my mother's? Local restaurant owner? Someone from a doctor's office? — so I let her continue. "We used to work together. I left [the company] in December."
I still didn't recognize her, not having memorized all the office names and faces by that point, but her citation of last-year's layoffs was recognition enough. She said she'd heard about the company's most recent play — the move of jobs to Central City — and added a depressing detail I hadn't heard: Those who did move out there would have their salaries cut to match the local market.
From my perusal of the Central City real estate guides placed in the lunchroom for those considering relocation, I had noticed a striking difference in rent and home prices. I'd suspected the new additions to my magazine staff would be paid less than the local veterans who'd left. The rents (about 50–70% what I'm paying here for the same digs; my full NJ rent would get a whole townhouse) and home prices (the bubble-inflated price of my parents' average suburban home on a quarter-acre would get a multiacre estate, an empty plot to McMansionize, or a palatial condo) listed in the guides confirmed this hunch. But somehow I didn't imagine they also would slash current salaries.
Back to my former coworker. I told her that few seemed up for the move, and that the head of one afflicted department estimated a zero-percent acceptance rate. In this light, I said, this effectively was another round of layoffs. She agreed and urged me to grab all I could. I mentioned I'd been through a layoff myself, so my current level of trust in any employer to provide long-term job security was nil, so I had been doing just that since my start. I also let her know how my new coworkers on the book all were hired in Central City, which made my retention mystifying and tenuous. She smiled and reiterated her "grab all I could" advice, adding that eventually we'd be able to lodge the remaining Tri-State Area employees in someone's house. Considering this is probably how we started up, I said, at least it would be a return to our roots. She laughed, and we parted ways.
That evening, I spent several hours reading about financial management and freelancing.