Saturday, January 14, 2023

Night Falls on Wireless Advocates

In his novel The Last Battle, CS Lewis concludes his Chronicles of Narnia with a dark ending and a glorious new beginning. It has a chapter called "Night Falls on Narnia," in which most of the humans from England that we have met throughout the series are gathered around a door looking through it to the dying land of Narnia. The great Lion Aslan has just called to the giant Father Time, way off in the distance, who blows his massive horn. Stars come shooting out of the sky, and walk through the door as living beings. The inhabitants of Narnia and the surrounding countries come racing up to the door, and with one look at Aslan, either flee in terror or come through to marvel at the wonders around them. Waters rise, and the sun devours the moon. Father Time then squeezes the sun out, and all is blackness and water and ice on the other side of the door. Aslan tells High King Peter to shut the door and lock it, which he does. Queen Lucy and King Tirian mourn the country they have loved and ruled at different times in Narnia's history.

While I don't want to carry the analogy too far, a major part of my life over the past 5+ years has come to an end, and night is falling on Wireless Advocates. While it's nowhere near the apocalyptic end that the old Narnia had in The Last Battle, it has been very tough to watch and experience. Over 1800 employees around the country found out at the beginning of last month that their jobs had abruptly ended. We at national headquarters were given 60 days notice, per the WARN Act, and we were to be employed through February 5. Yesterday, around 65 of us (I forget the exact number, but it was in the 60s) were summoned to a meeting called by the receiver assigned to help liquidate WA's assets. They informed us that they had determined that we were not protected by the WARN Act, and they had decided to let us go. (They are double checking with the King County courts to verify this is appropriate, and they have a contingency plan in the event the courts disagree. Seattle is the county seat of King County.) It caught everyone, including management, by surprise. Wireless Advocates' executives disagreed strongly with their decision and fought it, but the receiver had the final say.

Over the past day that I have had to process this shocking development, close down business affairs, sleep on it, consider where to go from here, I have gone through a lot of emotions. While I always like to remain optimistic, this was a severe blow. There have been tears. I have felt a gamut of emotions, including sadness, anger, fear, and as I continue to process, hope. I do not fault Wireless Advocates, or even Costco, for what has gone down. I appreciate how supportive our management and executive team has been through all of this, and I still could not have asked for a better employer over the past years. They have fought for us, and done everything in their power to make this as painless as possible (though, admittedly, there's only so much they can do). I continue to be amazed and eternally grateful for how helpful and supportive everyone has been, even after many of them lost their own jobs, to help.

To help dispel some rumors I have seen flying around the internet, one article I read stated that Costco was "blindsided" by Wireless Advocates when WA announced they were closing. It was actually Costco's decision not to renew their contract with us. I don't fault Costco for that, as I'm sure they had their reasons, but I definitely don't think WA deserves all the negative press they have been receiving. My theory is that individual Costcos had no warning, so were indeed just as shocked as everyone else to find the WA kiosks were closed. But this decision came from Costco, not WA. Due to declining demand due to COVID and less demand for 5G than expected, WA decided to end their relationship with military bases. There was blindsiding happening, but it was not Wireless Advocates blindsiding Costco. In the interest of remaining as positive as possible, I am not here to point the finger.

I'm not sure how many are left at the national headquarters, but there are a few people remaining who will continue to work on closing down the business.

Yesterday afternoon, I worked on closing things down on my side, filing for unemployment, and preparing for job searching in earnest. I have sent resumes over the past couple weeks, but that has been in addition to responsibilities at work and other things. Like Lucy and Tirian, I am mourning for the home I have known over the past few years.

Back to The Last Battle. The Friends of Narnia are in mourning. As Tirian eloquently puts it, "It were no virtue, but great discourtesy, if we did not mourn." But as they are joined by more friends, including the talking dogs, the Calormene Emeth (Calormen is a country south of Narnia), the eagle Farsight, the donkey Puzzle, the unicorn Jewel, and more, they are repeatedly encouraged to "Come further up and further in!" Flying high overhead, Farsight the Eagle discovers that, though they just witnessed the old Narnia's end, they are now in a much larger and grander version of Narnia. Everyone runs faster than they realized they could and marvels how they aren't tiring out, and at the wonders of the new world around them. A few years ago I painted one of my favorite scenes in the book, when they reach Caldron Pool and find themselves, much to everyone's shock, swimming up the waterfall!

Further Up and Further In!
Steven Sauke, 2012
Acrylic on canvas

They eventually find themselves in the garden where Polly and Digory flew with their friend Fledge the winged horse so many years ago (in The Magician's Nephew). There they are greeted by one of Narnia's greatest heroes, Reepicheep the Mouse. Tirian meets his late father once again, and they see everyone they once knew. Over a nearby lookout, Lucy and her old friend Tumnus the Faun see a new London on a cloud and her late parents waving to them. The final chapter is called "Farewell to Shadowlands." Though I'm not generally big on spoilers, the book ends thus:

“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are–as you used to call it in the Shadowlands–dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

While I am thankfully not dead, Wireless Advocates will soon be. In many ways it already is. Now begins a new adventure. I choose to anticipate the future with wonder, looking forward to it with joy and run with all my might to discover what amazing adventure is about to start.

To all my amazing former colleagues, I say, FURTHER UP AND FURTHER IN! Let's do this thing! We haven't scratched the surface of the amazing adventure that is coming! How will Chapter One of your Great Story begin?

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