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Greg Clarkin Headshot

Happy Halloween. You're Fired.

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Alamy
Alamy

I used to like Halloween when I was a kid. I mean, except for the small sharp objects people put in the apples. But it was the 70s, and it seemed like that was just the way things were back then.

Now Halloween means one thing. Layoffs. It's become National Layoff Day. It's like Corporate America got together and said, "Let's pick a day at the end of the year to cut some cost centers loose so the rest of us can go on floating in mediocrity."

I went to my first layoff on Halloween. Halloween was on a Sunday that year, so we did it a couple of days before. No company would call you in on a Sunday just to fire you, right?

It was for a struggling cable network that was being shut down. The Young Executive on the Rise -- there's always a YER that delivers the news -- assembled everyone in the newsroom and pulled the plug. He mumbled something about the "linear network" ceasing operations. That sparked a dozen variations of the following conversation.

"Are we part of the linear network?"

"What's a linear network?"

"It has something to do with lines, right?"

"I thought we were in TV."

"Hey, where did he go?"

Yes, by the time we stopped scratching our heads about what a "linear network" was, and whether or not we were part of it, the Young Executive on the Rise was gone. It was as effective as him telling us we were all fired, yelling, "Hey, look over there," and then taking off.

I landed on my feet with a spot on a nice weekly syndicated show. Then the Great Financial/Housing/We're Still In It Crisis hit, which conveniently occurred at the end of summer and bingo -- Halloween Layoff Numero Dos.

The large, faceless corporation that had strayed into television with my little syndicated show decided to use the crisis as the reason to run fleeing from the business. I got the call on Halloween morning on my way in. It came from the young production assistant.

Rachel: There's a meeting. Murphy wants to see all of us.

Me: Who's Murphy?

Rachel: The president of the division in charge of the show.

Me: Oh, crap.

Rachel: Silence.

Me: This can't be good.

Rachel: Goodbye.

(Note: The names have been changed to protect the innocent (Rachel) and the heartless executive (Murphy). I'm sure there was a Rachel, and a Murphy, somewhere in the building, but they weren't involved. At least I don't think so. )

A short while later, there we were, sitting around a conference room table. The show was over. Gone. Kaput. Plug pulled. Any questions? Murphy asked.

"Why?" we asked.

A long, thoughtful nod from Murphy that I'm certain he had practiced.

"It's Halloween."

You try trick-or-treating with your kids after that meeting. Other parents are going house-to-house sipping an adult beverage and there you are, knocking 'em back like you're at an Eagles game.

Back inside Murphy was in fine Young Executive on the Rise form.

"Will we still have dental benefits?" Rachel asked.

"You'll have to talk to Esmeralda in Human Resources."

Outside the door, a shadow loomed.

"Who's the large man at the door?" I asked.

"Thor," Murphy said.

"Is he with Human Resources, too?"

"No, Security. He'll stand over you while you clean out your desks. We don't want you taking anything that doesn't belong to you."

"Wow."

"He's also there in an effort to make this uncomfortable moment even more uncomfortable, and hopefully drive you from the building even faster," he said.

Murphy looked around the table. There was a glimmer in his eye. He was on his way up. We were on our way out.

"Okay, that's all I have time for," he said. "I have to get ready for next year's layoffs. Only 365 days until Halloween, you know."

Greg Clarkin is a mystery writer and former broadcast news reporter. His first novel is "Cold Open." Check out his website, or contact him on Facebook or LinkedIn.