You're Fired! Five Songs Based on a True Story

The woman who was seconds away from becoming my ex-boss looked at me like a math problem she'd never fucking figure out.

She asked for my security badge. Why not have me lop off a finger and toss it over? That's how much the badge and all it led to had become a part of me. Then we green-miled it to the parking lot.

That, in a nutshell, is how I got fired from my day job, the first time I'd ever been canned in 31 years of working life. Never even been laid off.

Who I worked for and what I did isn't important. Just know that my boss pulled a Takagi on me. Which is to say, she put a bullet in the head of my employment there, blew the smoke off her pistol and walked back to the office like Hans Gruber telling my concerned co-workers, "Jesse won't be joining us again... for the rest of his life."

As the office building disappeared in my rearview, my only thought was how poorly this was going to go over with Mrs. Sendejas. We'd become accustomed to buying exotic stuff, like hamburger, eggs and beer. Now what?

In the end, the things that always save me did so again -- the aforementioned Mrs. (her advice: "Eff those b's"); repeated prayers; all the scrappiness I'd developed growing up in Hiram Clarke. I had a new job before the old one ever finished paying off the vacation weeks it owed me.

And, of course, I listened to music to heal my wounded ego. I hope you never find yourself being judged by someone you don't respect, helpless as they prattle on about how poorly you perform a job they've never done; but, if you do, remember me -- I came out okay, thanks in part to these songs:

Christina Aguilera, "Beautiful" These days, every employer follows some protocol to dismiss an employee, the proverbial paper trail that unfurls like the white carpet leading to the unemployment line. By the time they actually show you the door, you've already heard a few times how worthless you are. I admit, I didn't accept this too well.

"You throw more papers at me than the Houston Chronicle," I told my boss once as I signed her writeup.

In those moments, it's tempting to turn into the crazy-eyed, Jack Nicholson of beleaguered employees, peering through the crack of your career's closing door with hatchet in hand. But, you can't go "Here's Johnny!" on your employers.

However, even if you were ratchet (Was I? Maybe. Sometimes. Not important now...), you have to defend yourself, right? Christina Aguilera's anthem of self-worth might seem out of place, but it sure reminded me that I was beautiful, no matter what those writeups said.

Z-Ro, "One Deep" During this process, expect to get crunk. If you don't, you may as well let them ride you out to pasture and shoot you before the next conference call. I listened to "One Deep" every morning during work commutes those last few weeks. If my boss was in the office, I listened to it at lunch and after work, too.

When you're in this position, it might be easy to turn on co-workers, too. After all, you secretly envy how rosy they're smelling while you reek of manure. Before long, you're letting everyone know you can do bad just bein' one deep.

Every morning, I recited 'Ro's dedication to my employers, "y'all muthafuckas ain't shit/ I promise, y'all ain't shit." Come to think of it, listening to this song may have sped up my inevitable separation.

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Beastie Boys, "Body Movin'" Near the end, your employer will dangle the promise of continued employment before you and you'll bust your ass to try to please them. Problem is, every time you jump through one hoop, another appears, then another and another, like those wiggly dots you're asked to identify during an eye exam.

You need a song to keep your ass humping during this bargaining period, and "Body Movin'" is great. Because Mike D literally is on a loop telling you to keep your body moving. Can't stop, won't stop. Look at me boss, I'm saving my job.

Not really. You're just cleaning things up for the next sap hired to sit at your desk.

Boyz II Men, "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" You're going to get depressed, once you're pink-slipped and sitting at home watching The Trisha Goddard Show. It's okay if you don't know who she is; that just means you still have a job.

You have to move on with life, but Motownphilly's finest do have a point. Turning the page on a job you've been doing for a while isn't easy. You're leaving behind people who are like family now. It's emotional. Not like Boyz II Men's burying-a-friend emotional, but still.

And why, dammit, do they have to sing this song a cappella? No instruments to distract you from the sorrowful ache in their voices, just the loneliness you feel in your living room waiting for Trisha to end and Judge Alex to begin.

Stereophonics, "More Life In a Tramps Vest" Unless you're financially stable enough to wallow in self-pity for weeks, you need to get back to work looking for work. Accept what's happened and look for someone new who can appreciate your capabilities. And, if you really did contribute to your own demise (Did I? Maybe. Not important now...) try to do a better job this time.

I'm not sure what this song is actually about -- the lyrics bring to mind produce wars between competing grocery stores. What I like about it is it's buoyant. When you're fired, you do feel a bit like a tramp. Is that really a bad thing?

You're free now to reinvent yourself, so go do that and relish in it. After all the attempts to save your job, all the worry, frustration and self-doubt, you may actually feel some relief and hope. That's what this song sounds like.


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