Finding laughs in layoff


POSTED: Sunday, August 09, 2009

Whatever you call it—laid off, downsized, reduction-in-forced, eliminated, outsourced, discharged, fired or there's-the-door—it's no laughing matter.

Unless you're Larry Solomon, and you've also had some years to think about it.

“;I thought I had it made,”; said Solomon. “;I was working for a major corporation and was on cloud nine when I realized my changes were resulting in a profit. There was no reason to suspect anything but a promotion, or at least a big bonus.”;

Careful what you wish for. Although this was in the go-go '90s, computer specialist Solomon had organized his department so well that they were able to operate without him. One day, he was secure in his work, and the next, the work was secure without him. Solomon was downsized right out the door.

“;Unemployment is the lowest point in anyone's life,”; said Solomon, who was living in Los Angeles. “;You feel that no one thinks of you as having any worth. You can't buy a car, finance that new home you want or refinance the home you're in to lower the payments. If you are single, well, get used to it. No one of the opposite sex is going to be interested for anything meaningful. Of course, nonmeaningful can be rewarding.”;


Solomon tried a variety of temp jobs, some of which he found rewarding, one in particular paying more than he made in his original work. He and the wife decided to return to Hawaii, where he's gainfully employed in the human resources department at Pearl Harbor. But the period of his life when he was scrambling for work stuck with him, and Solomon recently published a funny memoir of that time, called “;Wrongsized.”;

“;My first nationally published article was in Reader's Digest,”; said Solomon. “;I think the category was something like 'Laughter is the Best Medicine.' Science has proven that laughter has therapeutic effects. I know from personal experience that humor helps. It sure saved my butt a few times in grade school when I was able to make the schoolyard bully laugh rather than beat ... me.”;

LEST you think Solomon is just your average office joker, he has written gags professionally for years, including material for “;Laugh-In,”; “;The Smothers Brothers,”; “;The Dean Martin Show”; and a huge pile of radio commercials and material for disc jockeys.

At the time, though, he had time on his hands.

“;I was out of work. I couldn't buy a job in Hawaii. My wife reminded me that I had written comedy before and I should just take time off and write. It was more for cathartic effect than anything. I did. No reason not to, my benefits were running out. Our financial manager, Bernie Madoff, drained the retirement fund.





        » By Larry Solomon

» Outskirts Press, softcover, 178 pages, $13.95




“;I finally was offered a job in Southern California for a ton of money. I dropped the book idea for cold, hard, cash. 'Wrongsized' was actually conceived in 1995. I tried forever to get someone interested in the project, but to no avail. I put 'Wrongsized' on the back burner.

“;Last fall, I looked at what was happening with the economy and unemployment in general. I decided to go ahead with publishing 'Wrongsized' via the self-publishing route. I did a lot of rewriting, such as calling the president Obama rather than Truman (OK, maybe Bush or Clinton) and other edits.”;

He admits that he has a control issue solved by self-publishing. People who have been put out on the ice floes generally do.

“;Control is a big thing for me. My publisher gives me absolute control over the future of 'Wrongsized.' In return, though, I have to do all my PR and other things a traditional publisher would do. I foresee the end of the traditional publishing model in favor of print on demand.”;

Although Solomon hasn't been a temp for quite a while, the experiences stuck with him.

“;I would recommend it to anyone looking for a job in their area. The two experiences I had with temp work brought me a yearlong gig at $50K more than I was making before I got the dreaded pink slip, and a subsequent civil service job that pays the bills.

“;You do make a lot of contacts that may be useful in future endeavors. I have the ultimate respect for temp workers. The way things are going now, temping may be the wave of the future.”;

THE BOOK is getting good feedback.

“;I have a lot of five-star reviews on Amazon.com and other sites. I have done four radio interviews so far, including one in Canada, the rest on the East Coast,”; said Solomon. “;I had a request for a CBS morning show in Denver, but since they wanted me to pay my own airfare, I passed.

“;I'm sending out feelers to the major networks to talk to me about doing a sitcom. So far no bites, but these thing take time. I don't have any contacts in show-biz anymore, so I'm starting from ground zero—know an agent?”;

Solomon can't resist making notes for a possible book about the civil service. In the meantime, “;Wrongsized”; is available locally at Barnes & Noble at Ala Moana and Jelly's in Kakaako.

“;There are a few hundred Web sites that carry 'Wrongsized,' with Amazon.com being the most popular. My own Web site, http://outskirtspress.com/Wrongsized, has links.”;

Now that everything is working properly—cross your fingers and toes—what are the levels of acceptance when you're out of work?

“;Acceptance? I go through all the stages of grief,”; laughed Solomon. “;I usually decide it's someone else's fault, as I'm perfect!”;