If you've been paying any attention at all to the news, you'll have noticed that General Motors is going though some tough times these days. Sales are way down, the stock price is as low as was last seen in the 1950s, and there's speculation that it could run out of operating cash in 2009. The company is seeking money from the US government, and there are talks going on that could result in a merger with Chrysler. Nobody seems to know what the future holds for GM except that it just won't be the same.
Most of the time at work it seems just like any other day, but there are signs of change. For example, I just got an email stating that they will be shutting down the escalators at the VEC. This is huge, it really is. Those escalators have been there probably longer than I have been alive. I first experienced them when I worked in what was then the Fisher Body Building in 1985 as a summer intern. They have this distinctive noise, and a sort of an oily smell, and for a while one of them had a little plexiglass window where you could look in and see the workings on the inside. The engineers liked to do that.
Over the years the building has been repeatedly renamed and remodeled, but the escalators remained. Periodically there would be times when we were commanded to come up with cost savings ideas for the company, and just about everyone would submit the suggestion to turn off the escalators. There are other ways to get up to the second floor, and the things seemed to be under repair about as often as they were running. Legends began to circulate about why they just wouldn't shut them down. Some thought it was in the Union agreement for the repair guys. Others speculated about some kind of accessibility law. It was what you talked about as you escorted visitors to the conference rooms. But not anymore. And GM just won't be the same.
Also, as part of a Turnaround Plan that was announced in July, a huge wave of people are leaving the company, mostly retirements. For the past few weeks I have been getting emails filled with names of people that will be leaving, and it is with some sadness that I notice the ones that have meaning to me. The first boss that I had as a jobbie out of college. The director who hired me back from Chrysler. The guy who taught me about seatbelts. My last two managers in engineering. Many people that I'd worked with in one way or another over the years, and several of the friends I've made since arriving at my current job. And on my instant messenger screen I will never again see a green dot next to the name of my pal JJS. I'm happy for all of them as they move on to their next thing, but for me, GM just won't be the same.