On towards eight last evening, my former editorial assistant, call her Cathy (not her real name), swung by the magazine. I was still there, swamped with work, trying to get two stories out my computer and into final pages, so she just sat in my office, hiding out while she waited for her friend, who is the only assistant editor left on staff. All the other editorial assistants and assistant editors have now been laid off; they were let go, I suspect, to balance the picking off of older workers nearing retirement age (that's a pretty incendiary statement, I know it). We have interns and temps to do the assisting now, but mostly we do our own admin work, chasing down invoices when they get lost in accounting for the umpteenth time, and crafting careful emails to incensed writers whose work has long been completed and whose rent or phone or credit card bills are coming due.
Cathy was let go in the last round of layoffs a year ago. She had been on staff two short years, and she truly was the best. Great work ethic, a quick study, good-hearted, full of initiative, organized, wry and witty. It was easy and enjoyable working with her. Yesterday, as she sat across from me, both of us not talking much as I tapped on my computer keyboard, but the two of us exchanging comfortable chatter in intermittent bursts, I had the strange sense that she was family, like a niece or a cousin, a young person I would go out of my way to help in whatever way she might need. She's doing well, actually. She found a good job with a publishing house just a couple of months after being laid off, and they seem to appreciate her there.
It was good to see her. It was good to remember that there is life after being laid off. Just in case I'm one of the next ones to be picked off.