I am surprised to learn that many people don’t like working remotely. A lot of them say they feel lonely and isolated. They have trouble getting up at a normal hour, or sticking to a routine. They need coworkers nearby to bounce ideas off of. The physical distance might mean that they are out of the loop more than their coworkers in the office. They may have trouble separating their home life from their work life. Often, their spouses and kids assume that, since they’re home, they must be free to run errands or play Scrabble or whatever. Since work is always only a few steps away, they might be seduced into working too much.
I am somewhat sympathetic to the being-out-of-the-loop thing, and the blurring of work life and home life, due to one being only a step away from the other. Other than that, I think they’re nuts. I love working from home so, so, much. I’ve been doing just that for five or six weeks now, and oh my god I am ecstatic. I have hit the fucking job jackpot.
Now, picking up where I left off. The Canadian company reimbursed me for my hotel stay. The final tally is that I’m out about 100 bucks, due to Fedex charges and so on, but I’m not complaining, because I got a passport out of the deal. Uncle Sam doesn’t give them away for free. My overall costs were less than if I’d gotten one on my own.
The process has not been without tribulations, however. For one thing, this all feels so ... virtual.
There are two guys at the contracting company that I deal with a lot. I’ve talked to them both on the phone a handful of times, and we’ve exchanged a lot of emails. I’ve never met either of them face-to-face, and I likely never will. Unfortunately, they are not the best communicators, so I sometimes feel like I’m left hanging.
Many times I’ve thought that this can’t possibly be real. It has often felt like they are simply going to stop answering my emails, and that will be that. It has been difficult for me to feel like this is a real thing that I can count on. But I’ve now passed two two-week pay periods, and I’ve gotten paid in full both times. It’s hard to argue with that.
My biggest crisis of faith happened about a week ago. My Canadian boss was being really unreasonable. He tends to dream up grand, implausible ideas that are far too abstract and fuzzy to ever survive in the real world. On this particular occasion, he really outdid himself. He dreamed up something that I know perfectly well I could not implement in a million years, and I told him so. This caused him to angrily insist that as a matter of fact, I was indeed going to write just such a thing. The more I tried to reason with him, the angrier he got.
If this had happened two months ago, I would have told him to shove his grand idea directly up his Canadian asshole, and never spoken to him again. Alas, since then, I have committed myself to spending a certain amount of money per month to keep my little girl in school. I can’t just screw around and take six months to find another job, the way I have been doing recently. So I swallowed my pride and shut the hell up. But I immediately set to work finding my way out of the ridiculous mess I suddenly found myself in.
I sent off two emails. The first was to my handlers at the contracting company, telling them the sad, sordid tale of how the Canadian dude had just insisted that I pull an impossible miracle out of my butt. I didn’t say it in so many words, because I was waiting to see what their reaction would be, but I implied I was finished with that guy, and that I wanted to work on something else. The second email was to the guy in San Francisco that had offered me a job earlier, that was originally supposed to start on the same day that I started working for the Canadians. After that, I hit up my usual job-hunting sites, trying to find something local in Nashville, or more contracting work.
Strike one: The San Francisco guy never wrote back. I am a little surprised. He seemed pretty enthusiastic about working with me. Did it hurt his ego that I turned him down the first time, despite the fact that he specifically asked me to get in touch when I was free? Who knows.
I was expecting the worst from the guys at the contracting company. They seemed really stoked about this deal with the Canadians. I assumed they would tell me that I just need to buck up and do whatever was expected of me. I was pleasantly surprised. I can sum up their reaction like this: “If you’re not happy working for the Canadians, we’ll find something else for you to do.” Holy crap, totally the right answer! After hearing that, knowing that I have an out if I need it, the situation with the Canadians seemed not nearly so dire. I resolved to keep my head down and try to reason my way out of it. Soon enough, the boss’ ridiculous idea moseyed off into the sunset, the way most of them do. Score.
So now here I am, crisis averted, but still working for the Canadians. It’s more than a little frustrating. They can’t seem to decide what it is they want to do. They’ve had several short-lived, ill-fated ideas. I’ve had to throw away a lot of work I’ve done for them. I know it shouldn’t matter, as long as I’m getting paid, but it’s frustrating, never being allowed to complete anything. And I didn’t get to test the contracting company, to see if they would have succeeded in getting me into something else in a timely fashion. That would be valuable information to have, if I later find myself ready to quit, yet again.
So just for grins, I’ve asked the contracting company to give me a second part-time assignment that I could do in five or ten hours a week. This will accomplish several goals for me. I can build up my savings faster, so I’ll have some cushion in case I have to quit the Canadians. I can test my relationship with the contracting company, to see if we’re getting along as well as I hope we are, and to confirm for myself that they really do have work in the queue. And I can (hopefully) complete something for a change, in contrast to the constant futzing around that the Canadians are putting me through. I’ve heard back from the contracting company, and they say they’ve got the perfect thing for me. Further bulletins as events warrant.
Holy crap. I feel like I am in charge of my working life for the first time in ... decades? I have options. I can make things happen.
The last time I felt this secure was when I moved to Miami. The telecom business was booming. I had a good relationship with a prominent switch manufacturer. They could get me work all day long, and twice on Sunday. Sadly, that field dried up in a very short span of time. Deregulation swept through second- and third-world countries practically overnight. Government-controlled telecom monopolies throughout Africa, South and Central America, and Asia were dismantled left and right. I had been working for companies that took advantage of the huge price disparity between cheap U.S. long distance and the unholy crap available in the rest of the world. Those sorts of employers are now extinct. I’m pretty sure that the switch manufacturer I was so tight with has completely exited the market. So I was faced with yet another big career change.
I still don’t feel so secure that I can exit my cave and go out into the big wide world as a full-fledged human being, blinking into the light. But if the contracting company keeps holding up their end of the bargain and stuffing those big fat checks into my account every two weeks, then it’s just a matter of time.