Archive for June, 2013


Eight Days

Someone got fired today. Specifically, it was the person who worked right across from me, in the same tiny office.

For someone I only knew for eight days, I’m surprisingly sad about this. It’s funny how much you can get to know about someone in a short span of time. She was a 40 year old mother of two boys. Married to Brian. Went to fashion school, dropped out, and then worked at Bell Canada for a time. Lost her job there, then retrained as a legal assistant and has been jumping from law firm to law firm for the last few years. Job market is shitty, so all she’s been able to find lately are mat leave and temp jobs. She coaches her son’s baseball team. She’s epileptic. Sicilian parents. Hates spicy foods. Big Leafs fan. And plenty of other things that I can’t think of off the top of my head.

I’m not saying we were going to be Best Friends Forever or anything, but we were getting along really well, and she was helping to make an interesting-yet-horribly-depressing job more enjoyable. See, she was really the only person that I found I could speak to about my job in any detail. As much as I come home and want to tell my family or my girlfriend about the events of the day, no one really wants to hear about women having their reproductive organs butchered. It doesn’t exactly brighten anyone’s mood. But my coworker was used to this sort of thing, and we could vent to each about whatever shitty story we were dealing with.

And then at lunch today the boss called her in, started yelling, and then got really calm. And by the time I returned to the office, the pictures that her kids had drawn for her that she kept around her desk were gone, and that was that. I’ll probably never see her again.

I’d never known anyone to get fired before. Back at the Mporium no one was ever fired. Once you got a job there you generally had it for as long as you wanted it. One guy was asked not to return for the following year, but no one ever had their employment suddenly terminated. It’s a weird feeling. I’m going to go back in there on Tuesday, and maybe someone else will be sitting at that desk, or maybe it’ll be vacant.

Obviously, my sadness about her departure is nothing compared to what she must be going through right now. I texted her in the aftermath and asked if she was okay, and her response was “not really”. I haven’t heard much from her since. She had to go home today and tell her husband and kids that she lost her job. I can’t think of very many things more humbling than that.

If there’s a lesson here, I think it’s that you have to enjoy the time you have with people. At 12:00 that day I thought I was sitting with someone who I’d be spending 8 hours per day with for six weeks, and getting to know fairly well. And by 1:00 I knew she was gone.  People disappear way too easily.

I’ll give her space for a day or two, but I want to drop her a line after that and see how she’s doing. I hope she finds another job soon.

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Cold Calculus

Last Wednesday I started work at a law firm that handles medical malpractice suits. Basically, they sue doctors who have fucked up.

I thought I would be doing monkey work – photocopying, shredding, getting coffee for the lawyers, etc. Instead they’ve got me going over the files of a case that wrapped up last year, making sure that everything is scanned into the computer. The case in question involved a gynecologist who butchered, for lack of a better word, 99 women. He’d scare them into getting unnecessary hysterectomies by telling them they might have cancer even though there was no evidence of any cancer – just a cyst, or another abnormality that would have resolved on its own or with conservative treatments such as antibiotics. He treated surgery as an option of first resort, and rarely if ever presented his patients with any alternatives. Really fucked up, right? And it’s not like this was happening in a third world country or a rural backwater town – this was happening right in Toronto. Okay, Scarborough, which perhaps makes more sense. But still.

The other thing I’m learning about is the cold calculus of the legal system. For example, if a doctor ended up killing your kid due to negligence, you would be absolutely crushed. But the best the legal system could do is get you about $30,000 as compensation – approximately the same amount a woman might be expected to get if a doctor’s negligence cost her one of her breasts. Now, I love breasts as much as anyone. They’re one of my favourite things in the world. But as great as they are, I can’t imagine that very many mothers would rather lose their child than a breast. The logic behind this is that a child doesn’t contribute to the family financially in any way, and is in fact a drain on a household’s resources. There’s no lost income that needs to be recouped – it’s just emotional damage, and apparently that isn’t worth very much.

Although this sneak peak at the sorts of things that happen in this world has been jarring, I can say with certainty that I’d rather be on the “good” team than on the team that’s trying to defend the faceless insurance companies and save them money by denying deserving people of some form of compensation. My soul wouldn’t be able to handle that.

The Return To Queen’s

A few weeks can change a lot. When I left Toronto, I had come to terms with the fact that I would probably be spending the next three years in Ottawa. And now I’m going to Queen’s.

Kind of funny the way it happened. I said that I just wanted to enjoy my trip and not think about school while I was overseas. Then Queen’s accepted me 48 hours into my trip and forced me to think about school.

I grappled with the decision between Ottawa and Queen’s for a few days, but I didn’t lose much sleep over it. I knew deep down that Queen’s was the best school for me, regardless of what happened four years ago. In terms of its program, in terms of its career prospects, in terms of its opportunities for international exchanges… Queen’s wins on just about every front. The spectre of what happened four years ago was the one thing that made it difficult for me to make this decision. I mean, how could a decision that was so wrong four years ago be the correct one today?

This is where I’m glad I have this blog. Looking back at all the vitriol I tossed at Queen’s back then, 90% of it was directed towards the other students there. For whatever reason, I just never clicked with the other people on my floor that year. There are good people and bad people everywhere you go though. Had I lived with the group I met on Floor 12 at Queen’s, I’d never have left the school. Conversely, had I lived with the group I met at Queen’s in Chestnut, I would have disliked it just as much. So really, it would be foolish for me to avoid going to Queen’s because of what happened four years ago. Grad school is an entirely different beast.

To put it simply, I’m more confident about picking Queen’s this time around than I was in 2009. Let’s hope that counts for something.