In the panic and confusion of the devastating floods that wreaked havoc on the Binghamton area during Tropical Storm Lee, I found myself being prematurely thankful that my girlfriend and I weren't too severely directly impacted by the disaster. That says nothing of my friends, my family, and tens of thousands of my neighbors, but my girlfriend Sharyn and I had it vastly easy compared to countless scores of others. Living on Binghamton's south side, we were cut off from the rest of the metro area for a few days. Shopping options were severely limited, too. And in the midst of the road closures, checking on loved ones, and attempting to transport people home from evacuation centers, Sharyn missed a few days of work, and I missed some publishing deadlines at my job, neither of which would usually constitute much panic.
We were extremely fortunate. If we had chosen a different apartment we were looking at, before we decided to sign the lease for our current residence, we'd be homeless right now. But this flood has just sent us a not-so-subtle reminder that you should never breath a final sigh of relief in the midst of a natural disaster recovery.
My girlfriend has two jobs, both of which are in call centers. One of her jobs is located in Vestal, while the other is at Synergy Solutions. If you've been reading this column for a long time, you might recall an article I wrote about Synergy Solutions last year, where a friend (not my girlfriend) had tipped me off on some shady practices the company was carrying out as its CEO ran for public office in Arizona.
When our region flooded last week, news eventually reached us that Synergy Solutions' location in Johnson City, a two-story modern office building not far from PETCO (which I also discussed in a different, more recent article) had been nearly completely submerged by the inundating river water. A video we'd seen on the news had revealed that only the roof of the building was poking out from the flooding.
Not long after we'd seen that footage, we received an automated phone message from Synergy Solutions, informing Sharyn that she would not be required to come into work this past weekend, as crews inspected the flood damage. At that point, we weren't entirely certain what would happen. We'd heard stories of other flooded buildings re-opening, some of them rather quickly, so we were hopeful she'd get to return to work soon. But we did have our concerns that they'd close up shop here permanently. They are, after all, a business, so it all boiled down to whether it would be cheaper to rebuild, or cheaper to move entirely.
As I'm sure you've probably guessed, they chose to close their office here. Shortly before I started writing this article, we received another automated phone message, this one informing us that they'd decided to shut down their operation here permanently.
I was sad that Sharyn had lost her job, and angry at the way they went about it. Obviously, I'd never expect them to suffer tremendous financial loss to better take care of their employees -- even though that's what I would do, profits be damned -- but to let their employees go in the fashion they chose was quite disturbing. Sharyn had worked at that call center for many years. Anyone who believes it would be too much to ask for the business to individually call each of its employees needs to have their head, and definitely their heart, examined.
Sharyn and I will be okay financially. Back in June I became the Chief of Staff at a quickly-rising political satire website. Between my salary and Sharyn's other job, we should be okay temporarily until she can find a new job. Christmas might not be as exciting as we were planning, but we'll make it by. However, it did serve as a jolt to the system. It's one thing to be thankful and feel blessed for not suffering as tremendously as those around you, and to know that you're secure enough to help others who need things more than you do. But it's another thing entirely to assume the worst is behind you, only to be shown that the negative, harmful impact of a natural disaster can ring out for days, weeks, or even months.