Time Flies and New Pillows

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The CassBeth Messenger is a column that addresses the concerns of me, walt. The topics include technology, life, family, business, kids,  wife, politics, money, aliens, movies, and anything else that I chose to write about. Hopefully you will find it interesting, like I do...

Time Flies and New Pillows

Dec 21, 1998
By Walt

It was two weeks ago since I was at the keyboard, scrolling out my inner most thoughts about nothing in particular. As I recall it was a deep article about motivations. After working well into the night on that master piece of literature I was greeted with new pillows in bed. Let me tell you, I was shocked. I was with my 3 bed pillows for 7 maybe 10 years. They had grown to understand my special needs. They contoured to my head and let me drift into sleep land effortlessly. They would occasionally greet me from hard days at work and rest upon my painful forehead, relieving the tension and pain of the day. I miss those pillows.

These new pillows really stink. My wife says they are feather pillows, but I don't believe her. They are like rocks. These things just don't bend and forget about punching them with a fist to make that perfect hole for my head to fit into and drift into Mr. sand box land. These new pillows greeted me after I completed my great article about Bill Clinton, Nixon, the impeachment, John Denver, the Carpenters, black souls and "What is Different About Today". The point is that my head hurt and I really wanted to go to sleep. I was looking forward to my pillows. I actually thought about them wrapping around my head and gently soothing my throbbing brain until I could fall asleep. But alas they were gone. So I spent half the night awake, thinking, tossing, turning, but not sleeping. I actually had some great ideas for the next article, but I can't remember what they were. I guess I did not get enough sleep and so the grey matter just blanked everything out that night.

I probably wanted to talk about the Internet. I may have wanted to talk about the Clinton impeachment. Perhaps I wanted to talk about the latest downsizing at work. Speaking of work. A few months ago the company that chooses to give me my hard-earned dollars, which allow me to buy my daily bread, went public a few months ago. A thing from the rusting hulk of the cold war machine. It was spun off from a beast that went gobbling up all kinds of defense companies in the early 90's. This lean and mean machine would attempt to address continuing defense needs, but at a lower level, mezzanine I think is the official word, and dabble in commercial possibilities. Sounds like fun.

Well anyway, us employees had the opportunity to buy the stock as part of the initial public offering, IPO. We bought some, about 1/4 of what we originally planned to buy. I actually transferred 401K money into the company in anticipation of the IPO. Then I found out we could not use 401K money. Oh well. So we decided to use money we had in some bank accounts, about 1/2 of what was in the 401K in the company. About 2 days before the IPO a company letter came down stating that we would have to hold the shares for 3 or 6 months; I forget which. The point is, we could not sell for a period of time. Anyway, I cut that in half, because, well I did not trust these guys. The company then just chose to give people about 3/4 of what they asked for in terms of shares. Turns out I should have begged borrowed and stole all the cash I could get my hands on. The thing doubled in price in 6 months. The question was when to sell.

I wanted to sell next year to reduce the tax burden for this year; Nice goal. Problem is the company announced that it was asking for voluntary layoffs and well things were not as rosy as they thought. About the same time we all went to company sponsored ethics training. We all had to sign papers that we were officially ethesized. Now that I was a straight arrow, I came home one day and posed the following question to my 16 and 13 year old girls. I said, "guys, do think it is moral and ethical to hold stock in a company that has a layoff but is not losing money?" They looked at each other, somewhat bewildered. I continued, "I think a company should not lay people off unless they show a loss for 4 consecutive quarters, especially since interest rates are so low. With low interest rates you could carry people, families, for a while till the problem is corrected." I continued, "Now this does not apply to small companies or mom and pop shops, this is for fortune 500 types like this company. They have enormous assets and a billion bucks a year, gross, should be able to deal with something like a small payroll issue." They looked at me and kind of agreed. I am sure I said other great and wondrous things, but that is about the main point. Except for the last statement. I said, "you know, it could go up to $150 bucks a share." They said, "It could?" I said, "yes". "Well maybe we shouldn't sell", was their reply.

That Monday I sold the whole collection of junk. Mind you, the stock has not increased in price, and in fact I sold it at a peak. I feel good about my decision. Funny, I mention this to people at work and they look bewildered. They all, to a tee, mention, well you probably can't own any stock in any company, because they all layoff people. I usually reply that I don't know about the workings of the other companies. But I do know about the workings of this company, and I think it is wrong to shift the cost of an artificial missed profit, which by the way is there, to families who are not equipped to handle such burdens. They continue to look bewildered, kind of like a small animal on a dark road, attempting to commingle with objects emitting  bright lights as they whiz buy in a thunderous roar.

So as the revolution continues in Washington, I wonder where our economy, ethics, stock market, companies, families, and all the other stuff out there will leave us in 2005? I read in Business Week today that downsizing is greater than last year. They had some interesting numbers. I know when I witnessed the downsizings a few years ago, witch hunts were the approach. I wonder what the approach to selecting the downsized today is. I hope I don't find out. All I can say is time flies and it takes years to break in new pillows.

Next Time Planet Earth
Walt

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