It’s June 1st. May has just ended and none too soon. It was one of the most stressful months in recent memory. And stress is the subject of today’s post.
Janet and I arrived back in town from our wonderful trip to the Philippines at the end of April to discover that my employer had decided that despite the tens of billions of dollars in profit they earn, that 11% of the staff had to go. We had arrived Sunday night and I intended to sleep in and do some work from home when I awoke Monday afternoon. But instead I went to work bright and early to see if I still had a job.
My friend Jim messaged me via Facebook at about 6AM to say he had just received an email and wondered if I had; I hadn’t. Throughout the day and the rest of the week, the bodies began to pile up. Of course since I work for a high tech company, they can’t simply pull a Trump and say, “you’re fired!” They developed multiple categories: involuntary separations (get out – now), voluntary separations (here’s some money – now get out), and my favorite, enhanced retirement (you’re old – here’s a bunch of money – now wheel yourself out).
For the entire month everyone walked around with that look like they envied the dead. And yet I survived, at least for now. I have been joking that by the time the actions are over I will be the oldest person working there. It is no longer a joke.
But wait a minute, you ask, what does this have to do with Filipinas or even my wife, Janet. Patience, grasshopper.
Each day I would come home more beat up, worried and stressed than the last. And each day Janet would say, “Don’t worry – we’re fine. If you lose your job we will just retire now instead of next year.”
Last Thursday was the topper to my wonderful month. I was driving home from work on the freeway at 60 MPH. The modern tire air pressure warning system told me that my tire needed air. “Nice,” I thought. “When I get home I’ll add some air. What a great feature in these modern cars!” I thought that about 30 seconds before the tire decompressed – on the freeway – at 60 MPH.
As if it was something I did every day, I somehow pulled the car off to the shoulder and called roadside assistance. The tow truck arrived. I stood 100 feet behind my car, directing cars whizzing by at 70 away from us so that the tow truck operator didn’t get – you know – run over! It was actually kind of fun. It never occurred to me how lucky I was to survive the blowout. Nor did it occur to me that I was an idiot for directing freeway traffic. After all, it was a lot more exciting than work.
But the next day when I called the dealer and was told the price of the new tire, I lost it. “The tire’s a year and a half old. It has a warranty, right?”
“Yes sir, but that only covers manufacturer defects.”
‘What the hell would you call this? The thing blew at 60 MPH!”
“The tire was slashed. You must have run over something.”
“I didn’t run over anything. I was just driving on the freeway. I’m lucky to be alive.” I threw that in just to bring out some guilt; it didn’t work.
The guy repeated the price. “What is it – a Pirelli?” I yelled. “Last time I checked I drive a Ford.”
“Well that price includes $120 for the sensor?”
“The sensor? You mean the sensor that gave me a 30 second warning that the tire was going to blow?”
And when I told Janet about what happened and the expense just at a time when I might lose my job she just shrugged one of those ‘what else can you do’ sort of shrugs. She hugged me and again told me not to worry.
And it struck me that she was truly being honest in her assessment. She genuinely did not seem worried. Unlike us Americans she chooses not to worry about things she cannot control.
It’s a quality I have seen and admired in the Philippines; a ‘life is short, enjoy it now’ type of quality. It’s also a quality that some expats living in the Philippines do not admire. It drives them crazy to see people smiling despite their circumstances, despite their poverty, despite scams and corruption, and even despite slow service at Jolibees.
So bottom line is that my 28 year old wife is wiser and more mature than her geriatric husband. Like most Western men, I worry and stress. When I was younger I needed stress; it seemed like I couldn’t get going without stress. But now as old age approaches I don’t like stress.
And unlike most of my peers I am not much capable of alleviating stress through drinking. Oh sure, I like my San Miguel at dinner. But one is about it; two’s my limit. And that doesn’t allow me to get hammered enough to reduce the stress. If any of you drinkers has a suggestion about how I can increase my intake, please let me know.
I look forward to retirement for many reasons but the notion that it will reduce my stress is at the top of the list.
But still I look around the Philippines and see generally happy people and wonder – why aren’t they stressed to the max. Oh I know, there’s “high blood” in the Philippines, just like there is here. But you don’t see that “I wish I were dead” sort of strained face that many Americans go around displaying.
One more addendum. Last night, May 31st, I come home to find a letter from the IRS. They claim we owe a boatload of money. I stress and Janet says, “Don’t worry. Come sit next to me. You’ll figure it out.” And maybe I will; or pay them the boatload of money. Now where did I leave that San Miguel?