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“How was your first week of unemployment?” John asks Erick over Friday Happy Hour drinks at Larrabee’s in West Hollywood.
Larrabee’s was a tradition that started several months ago between Erick and John, his managing editor up until last week when Erick was laid off. A client had come into town to meet the team working his account. Suspecting Erick was gay, the client asked where they could all go for drinks.
Suspecting that the client was suspecting he was gay and trying to confirm, Erick suggested Larrabee’s. He’d never been there but had been meaning to check it out for some time. Knowing John was gay, the client invited him to join them.
That was a Tuesday. At the time, it was karaoke night at Larrabee’s. After two drinks, Erick impressed the client with a brave but tragic rendition of “River Deep, Mountain High”. The three of them returned two days later for the client’s last night in town and were served by a hulking bartender with an Alaskan chest.
When the bartender informed them that he’d be working the following night as well, Erick and John returned. The two of them returned the following Friday….and the one after that. A tradition had been born. They subsequently became very good friends with the bartender and they named him Kevin because he looked like one.
“It’s strange,” Erick replies.
Erick has been unemployed before, but this was his first layoff.
After five years working with Christine Taylor – two at SoCal Advertising (his first job in LA) and another three years at her own spinoff agency, Erick was finally promoted to Account Executive and managed his first A-to-Z client campaign. It was well-planned and well-executed, but fell well below expectations.
The client made a special emergency trip to the agency for a de-briefing of the largely failed campaign. Erick had to quickly put together a recap to present to the client. The meeting was brutal and the client’s feedback was harsh. Erick was blamed. Christine tried to interject several times, but she was shut down. There wasn’t much she could say anyway because many of the client’s points were rather valid, even if they didn’t necessarily equate to any wrongdoing on Erick’s part. But the client insisted that Christine take action.
By action, they meant termination. Since the account was almost one-third of her billings, she couldn’t exactly tell them no but she certainly wasn’t going to let Erick go since she handpicked him to join her when she broke away from SoCal with this account in hand.
As a compromise, he was taken off their business, but she had nothing to give him to take its place. He was tasked with following up on new business leads – many of which were dead ends or not worth the company’s time.
Perhaps he felt slighted. Perhaps he felt embarrassed. Perhaps his ego was bruised. Perhaps it caused him to question what he was doing with his life. Whatever the reason, it was unclear to himself or anyone else why he ultimately gave his notice. Christine spent an hour and a half she couldn’t really spare trying to convince him to stay. Since it was a Friday, she asked him to think about it over the long Memorial Day weekend.
Erick spoke to everyone he could think of who had an opinion he would listen to regardless as to what it was -- his father, his mother, his best friend Cameron, his former supervisor Simon Johnson, his Office Mancrush Emeritus Joseph Allen and a few other longtime colleagues.
Erick walked into Christine’s office on Monday and sat down. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. Christine saw the look in his eye. His decision had been made. “I’ll put in the paperwork,” she said sadly.
Erick’s last day was two weeks later and the company not only took him to lunch but threw him a going away party at Q’s in West LA. The next day, he started driving back to New Jersey. It was his first cross-country trip. He found a three-month sublease in Brooklyn with a guy who was similarly looking for one in Los Angeles.
By September, Erick was ready to come back – as signified by his daily viewings of the LA-set indie comedy The Broken Hearts Club.
“Omigod, look what I’ve done to you!” Christine lamented when she walked into a westside Walgreens. To her surprise, Erick was working behind the counter. He had recently returned to LA and, in need of a job, started working there until he could figure out what to do next.
Erick walked from behind the counter to give her a hug. “I’m fine, Christine,” he assured her.
“I’ll make a call. Do you want to come back to CTA?”
Erick smiled. “I’m good. I’m not even sure I want to go back into advertising. I’ve been thinking of doing something else.”
“Like what? It’s in your blood. And you loved it.”
“I did love it, but now I need new blood.”
Christine pulled out a business card. “Let’s have lunch this week.”
Christine gives him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Now where are the Q-Tips?”
After that lunch, Christine, ever a woman of her word (or perhaps because she felt bad that Erick left in the first place and was now working at Walgreens – not that there’s anything wrong with that), put him up for a job with a company that syndicates content to upstart websites.
Several months later, that job led to another marketing position with one of the company’s clients -- in Massachusetts. Though it was a one-year contract position, Erick was not interested in trying to look for another job. With all permissions granted, he accepted.
Erick did well with that company the first year and was quickly re-upped for a second. Then things started to get rocky as tensions arose between him and his direct supervisor. There were several meetings between him and her that ultimately proved to be a waste of time as Erick felt he was being underutilized and she felt that much of the work he was hired to do could be better handled by someone in a lower position.
With his supervisor’s trust in him waning, Erick was given less and less work to do. With less and less work to do, he was starting to miss LA – once again evidenced by repeated viewings of the LA-set The Broken Hearts Club.
When his supervisor asked him to help stuff envelopes while an intern was placed in charge of tasks that he felt he should be doing, Erick began counting down the days left on his contract. He considered breaking it but he’d already left one job already.
As his contract was ending, neither side even considered the possibility of a third year. The job was over, but they sent him on his merry way with a festive going away party that most of the company attended.
“It’s just a matter of giving the people what they want,” Erick joked as they raised a toast wishing him the best of luck back in California.
After another cross-country drive, Erick returned to Los Angeles – again. Unlike the last return where he more or less fell back into his life, this was more of a new beginning. He had given up his apartment. His best friend and former roommate Cameron had moved back East. Though he still had other friends, he had missed two years of their lives and they had missed two years of his.
He still didn’t want to go back into advertising. And given the fact that he had been out of that industry for several years already, it was unlikely he even could.
Erick considered going back to Walgreens but no one he knew was still working there. The company he previously worked for folded as much of that work went in-house. He looked into Rite-Aid, Target and CVS but he wanted more. So he held out for more. He posted resumes on every job site and sent inquiries to every website that was similar to the one he worked for in Massachusetts.
It was considered unwise to some who considered any income to be good income, but Erick’s gamble ultimately paid off when, almost six months after his return, he was contacted by Lefty magazine for a coordinator position in their promotions department.
It would be different from anything he’d done before and a bit of a step down from what he had been doing previously, but he accepted the job.
“..and here I am again. Two years later. Unemployed with no idea what to do next,” he says to John.
“Start with learning how to answer a question,” John responds. “I just asked how your first week of unemployment went, I didn’t ask for your history of it.”
Erick turns slowly and gives John a glare. John smiles and starts laughing. He looks into Erick’s empty glass. “You need another drink.”
“Here you go, Miss E,” Ken says as he takes away the empty glass and places a fresh vodka cranberry in front of Erick.
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