The corporate dustbowl

So why would I quit a job that paid well, offered good benefits, and leave behind family and friends to move across the country and return to school? And why would Dave support, even encourage these actions?

Simply, to escape the developing corporate dustbowl. I worked for DuPont, headquartered in Wilmington, DE for over 7 years. My time there was eye-opening and I got an eyeful of corporate culture. (One of the funniest moments – HR telling me to give them the exact date my maternity leave would start. Sure. Easy.) My frustrations grew, but when the opportunity to enroll in the UC Davis Master Brewers Program arrived a year early, I hemmed and hawed over accepting.

Dave asked a poignant question: ‘You are miserable there. How are you going to feel spending the next year working there, knowing you passed on a chance to leave?’ So I accepted and we started to make preparations to leave. Right after we went to Firefly and took 3 weeks to travel the country in 2015.

So, where is the corporate dustbowl? Beginning slowly with sizeable layoffs in 2008 (contractors, support staff), 2010 (exempt employees), the dustbowl hit hard in 2015. Ellen Kullman (DuPont CEO) won a proxy batte against activist investor, Nelson Peltz, but layoff rumors were rampant after the win. Dismal 2Q and 3Q numbers all but guarentee layoffs. Ellen’s unexpected ‘retirement’ and appointment of Ed Breen, fat cutter extrodinare, had the rumor mill estimating 25% of departments would be let go.

And then in early December, the Dow-DuPont merger was announced. In early December the layoffs began. 50% of one department, 90% of another, an entire department shut down. The company is dying. To make matters worse, despite company claims of environmental stewardship and highest ethical behavior as core values, investigative articles report about the willful illegal disposal of toxic chemicals.

Finally, Central Research and Development (CR&D) is gutted. 60 to 70% of groups are gone. All to save $2 billion to distribute to the shareholders. From a group that returns $9 billion in revenue. This is the new quarterly capitialism, squeezing every penny of short term value out of company regardless of the long-term effects, which are outlined in this article. In short, the company’s future is being destroyed (no CR&D, no new products) to provide investors short-term returns.

Now, this is not a claim that there wasn’t waste; waste was rampant. However, gutting the scientists and support staff while leaving in place the business personnel making the poor choices of products to pursue will not decrease waste.

And so the corporate dustbowl has begun and is not limited to DuPont. The question is, how long before the effects are felt and can we ever recover from it?

-JM

Moving Mishaps to the 5th Degree

How does selling a house and packing up all of one’s belongings relate to wandervogel? Not having a house to maintain generates a large amount of free time. It is also the beginning of the adventure – a key part in fact. It illustrates the power of the Delaware vortex, where residents fall into three major categories: born, raised, never left; came to University of DE and never left; or left and returned. How carefully planned logistics are destroyed. We were determined to leave, but the vortex is strong.

Our house was on the market for approximately 90 days; Dave’s fellow realestate agents were confident we would be under contract within 10 days. However, we sat on the market despite a steady stream of interest, the house was always the bridesmaid for a variety of reasons (not secluded enough, don’t like the neighborhood, too small). We reluctantly accepted that we weren’t going to leave Delaware clean; we would have to maintain the house in show condition while we were in California. And nothing would be packed up in order to maintain show condition.

Then, on the second night of Chanakauh, approximately 3 weeks ahead of our departure from Delaware, we had an offer, by the fourth night, we were under contract. The purge and pack had been underway but was now thrown into high gear. But things did not come easy. Oh no. What follows is what happened during our move.

Monday (12/14): We were trying to leave to head to upstate NY to stay with Jess’ family for the holidays before leaving for California and all the inspections are scheduled for that day: well, spetic and home. To accomodate the inspectors, the fence gates must be left open. The result is three dogs and a toddler, are underfoot. Dogs are quivering with nervous excitement, Alex is not amused by Cars and wants to be held and held only by Mama. Packing has descended into chaos where stuff, unsorted and unorganized, is thrown into the partially organized RV and trailer. Sort and organize later is the motto!

Why the rush? The buyer and the home inspector are arriving at 1:30 and we want to leave by noon to ensure there is no overlap.

There’s a knock on the door at 11:30. The dogs begin barking, Alex is wailing because it is lunch time and he is starting to get tired ahead of his noon nap. Jess steps out onto the front porch, shutting the door on chaos and causing Alex to wail louder. A man introduces himself as Ryan and Jess assumes he is the septic guy. Ryan quickly dispels this assumption and identifies himself as the buyer and had a few questions regarding the house. Jess, despite the choice words flowing through her head, manages to plaster on a smile and answer them. Ryan wants to speak with Dave, who is throwing items into the trailer and verbalizes Jess’ internal commetary when informed of the situation.

Shortly after Ryan left, his real estate agent calls to inform us that inspection has been moved up, the inspector is on his way, and that her client wanted to stop by and ask us questions about the house. Better late than never telling us what is going to happen at our house. We determined the good enough stage has been achieved. House is locked, and we roll out 12:30.

Sunday (12/20): We (Dave and Jess) leave Alex and the dogs under the fantastic care of Mimi and Grandpa and return to Delaware. The plan is to finish packing up the few (just a few things, really) remaining things in the house and then supervise movers loading the 35 foot gooseneck cargo trailer that we purchased and then haul the trailer to NY with Jess’ Dad’s truck. We are going to be on the road Monday afternoon at the latest. Easy peasy.

We arrive in Delaware around noon and work for 12 hours packing up the house and only stopped because we were exhausted. A feeling of dread had set in because looking at all that had to go into the trailer it seems an impossible feat. The trailer wouldn’t hold half of our household. Fools, we are fools!

Monday (12/21): The movers show up early and take stock of what we need loaded. They are confident that they can get everything in with room to spare. We take a deep breath, step back, and let the movers work their magic. The trailer is loaded within 4 hours, and with room to spare. People often view the job of movers as just brawn, and no brains, but there is a science behind packing a trailer right. Esuring the load is balanced, making sure nothing will shift, and fitting odd shaped pieces in requires a sharp mind and a keen eye. The movers were worth every penny paid. That said, looking around at the odds and ends that still needed to be packed, we quickly realized we would not be leaving Delaware on Monday. Our friends and neighbors, Bob and Margie, let us crash in their spare room for the night.

Tuesday (12/22): We finished packing the trailer, organized donation items for the VVA to pick up, and got the house broom clean. All that is left to do is hook up the trailer and drive away. Except we can’t get the hitch and receiver to line up. Maritial communication was quickly deteriorating and a change is instituted. Jess goes from providing guidance to driving and Dave goes from driving to providing guidance. Maritial communication quickly turns hostile when Jess places the truck in drive, and, with her foot firmly on the brake, experiences the truck accelerating forward. Accusations are made of not knowing the difference between the brake and gas pedals, which results in another driver switch. Dave promptly puts the truck in reverse, and with his foot clearly on brake, the truck accelrates into the trailer.

Visual inspection demonstrates that no physical damage has been done to the truck or trailer. It is noted that brake fluid is leaking from the area of the master cylinder. We frantically call the Chevy dealer, which seems to be logical. The dealer is pretty confident they ‘should’ be able to handle the repair if only we can wait for December 29th. This is the first opening they have in the schedule and is when we are scheduled to arrive in Florida on our cross country trip. The receptionist will not budge even after Jess tells her to name a price, any price, to speed up the process. A call to the local independent repair shop, Campenella’s, results in sucess. They can get us in the next day and send their tow truck to take the pick up to the shop. We go back to Bob and Margie’s, to do laundry since we only packed for two days, and wait.

Wednesday (12/23): The truck is finished around 3 pm! The issue: corroded brake line failed. We manage to hook the trailer up on the first go! We decide that our struggles from the previous day were the universe watching out for us and preventing us from driving  the trailer away with a brake line that was soon to fail. As we pull out, the truck needs to cross part of the neighbnor’s yard before we can make the swing. Perhaps now is a good time to mention is pissing down rain and has been doing so since late Monday.

Dave cuts wheel to make the left turn out of our driveway and a loud pop, followed by a tinkling noise is heard. The trailer head is too long for the short bed truck and we have blown out the rear window of the truck. We can’t pull this trailer as planned since right angle turns are impossible to excecute with out further damaging the truck. We decide to return the trailer to the driveway, redneck engineer a garbage bag rear window, and return to NY. We’ll worry about finding someone to haul the trailer later.

With all the rain, the ground is saturated and extremely soft. The truck is now stuck in neighbors yard. Fortunately, our other neighbor Carl has truck capable of pulling the rear of our truck back to solid ground. All the remains is to maneauver the trailer back into the driveway. We quickly discover that the front tires, key for direction, will only slide on the sloppy ground, and, despite many efforts and materials to help the tires regain traction, defeat is admitted and we call for a tow. First State Towing, the third company called, was actually able to send two trucks out.

Rupert and Lonnie from First State Towing were amazing and were able to use a rollback truck to return the trailer to the driveway, all while the rain fell harder. While they were working on that, with the truck now free of the trailer, Jess took the truck to Bob and Margie’s garage to engineer a more permanent fix to the broken window using plastic tote lids, garbage bags, and duck tape. With the truck weather tight and the trailer in the driveway, the return trip to upstate NY began at 8:30 pm; Jess in her car and Dave in the pick up. A dinner and a coffee stop later, we rolled into the farm at 1:30 am Christmas  Eve morning.

Saturday (12/26): We received a text from the moving company informing us one of our checks was stolen by their employee. We rush to call our bank to close our account – and curse the fact that we still have three outstanding checks that have yet to clear. We are afraid to find out what goes wrong next.

Abby: Our planned impulse purchase

Dave and I fondly recalled summer vacations of our youth traveling across country with our families in a RV or truck/trailer combination. These memories are likely fond because we were not in charge of logistics or driving.

In the hope of having Alex fondly remember trips as a family, we talked about purhcasing an RV on and off for several months. We were concerned that if we purchased an RV our usage would be minimal because we didn’t take many trips. It was also possible that we didn’t take many trips because we lacked the tools (the RV) to make it easy to get away. Thus deciding the only way to solve this chicken or the egg type question, we decided that we would purchase a RV.

Dave dove into the internet to research options available to us with our criteria: diesel engine, easy to drive, smaller to allow access to most locations, and reliable. The result: the Winnebago View, layout H, 2006 model year. At 24 feet, the View is only 4 feet longer than a Suburban and allows us to camp anywhere short of tent only sites. Built on a Sprinter chasis, it should be easy to drive so the responsibility can be shared between Jess and Dave. And most importantly, the 2006 model year meant someone else had already taken the depreciation hit and the average price fell into our range.

Decision made, we settled in to wait for right View to cross our paths, fully expecting the process to take at least 6 months and require a fly and drive obtain the vehicle. Ever optimistic, Dave impulsively checked the ads on Craigslist. Within a week, Dave found a 2007 View H located only 90 minutes away in Rehoboth, DE. Contact with the seller was promising so we decided to take Alex (then 3 months old) on a road trip to check out the View. Worst case scenario, the RV would be horrific and we would have to go to Dogfish Head Brewpub for lunch. It is unbelieveable the trials we were willing to subject ourselves to in order to purchase an RV.

Upon arriving at the seller’s house, we discovered the RV was in great condition. Dave had his internet researched list of pitfalls to avoid in purchasing an RV. The price, after minor negotiation, was right. The hardest part of the transaction was the Delaware DMV and the ever changing list of paperwork requirements necessary to complete the transaction, all dependent on the representative.

Abby, short for abenteuer (adventure in German, a nod to the Mercedes chaise), officially entered our family a couple of weeks later in August of 2015. She quickly demonstrated that we didn’t take trips due to a lack of interest

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