WHO IS CHATANUGA?

Who is Chatanuga?

One of my dreams       I'm originally from Bucyrus, Ohio, a dinky little town where there isn't much to do. The biggest thrills there are during the summers when all of the kids in town go lapping (cruising) up and down Sandusky Avenue and basically clog up the streets and parking lots.

Wynford High School       I graduated in 1992 from Wynford High School, a small 400-student school (at the time) that sits out amoungst the corn fields west of town.

Food Town logo       During the following three summers, I worked at Food Town Supermarkets in Bucyrus.

      From the fall of 1992 through August 1996, I lived in Tiffin, Ohio, where I attended Heidelberg College. Tiffin was a little bigger than Bucyrus, but it was still filled with the same small town type of atmosphere.

      During the spring semester of my junior year at Heidelberg, I rushed Alpha Phi Tau, the coolest fraternity on campus. While I wasn't able to pledge, it was one of the coolest and more memorable times at Heidelberg.

      I graduated in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. I continued living and working on campus that summer.

      Then in August of 1996, I moved to Bowling Green, Ohio, which is a much larger town to me than Tiffin and Bucyrus ever were, and started taking graduate classes at Bowling Green State University.

      In March 1998, I had an incredible (and then disappointing) job interview.

      Norfolk Southern, a railroad company that I'd long admired since I was a kid, had me flown from Toledo down to their Atlanta offices. Arriving down there in the middle of the afternoon, I was given a tour of the city, taken out to dinner along with the six other candidates, and then my hotel accomodations were paid for. The next morning was the interviews followed by lunch and then my flight home.

      It was an exciting experience since I'd never travelled so far before and since I'd never been on a jet before, although I still have a slight fear of flying.

      I believed that I was seeing my dreams come true. I would be getting a good position with a company that I'd wanted to work at for years.

      A month later, I got a rejection letter back, thanking me for allowing them to interview me in South Bend, Indiana.

      Needless to say, that hurt.

      Unfortunately, I wasn't able to graduate from BGSU, and in June 1998, I ended up moving back home with my parents, which was an experience.

Landoll's, Inc. logo       On August 10, 1998, I started working at Landoll's, Inc. in Ashland, Ohio. My official title was "Help Desk Support", which was mainly hardware and software support. It also started a fun time of having a one-hour drive to work every morning and then an hour drive home in the evenings. While I enjoy driving, I didn't enjoy the drive between Bucyrus and Ashland.

      That following September, I traded in my mom's 1986 Pontiac 6000LE and got a 1997 Pontiac Grand Am. I love driving it and enjoy driving it so much more than the last car, which didn't handle as well and was just getting worn out. My drive to and from work became much more fun.

      I ended up moving to Ashland in mid-October 1998 after living with my parents again for four and a half months. Right after the move, I had major car trouble with my Grand Am. The "Check Engine" light wouldn't go off, and the car kept chugging and dying on me. I took it back to the Bucyrus dealership where I got it, and they replaced the sparkplugs. The car seemed alright until a week later when it happened again. The Bucyrus dealership got me in to a Pontiac dealership in Galion where they fixed two cylinders, changed the spark plugs (again!), and some other things. The car seemed alright, but a week later, the same thing happened again. At that point, I was screaming "lemon", but unfortunately, that only applied to new cars under 18,000 miles. I got it into the Bucyrus dealership again, and they had to replace the fuel pump cover. Apparently, my car had missed a recall, and the malfunctioning fuel pump cover was sending the wrong oil pressure into the engine. While they had it fixed that time (finally!), the engine coolant light wouldn't turn off! They gave me the third loaner car back, but they forgot to put the license plate back in the back window. A nice Ashland police officer was kind enough to tell me that after checking the VIN to make sure I wasn't driving a stolen car. They did finally get everything running right, and I'm almost 100% comfortable driving my car again.

      On February 19th, 1999, the unthinkable happened. I was laid off from work at Landoll's. Before I had started working for the company, it had been sold. When the new owners began auditing Landoll's, they discovered that there were discrepancies in the accounting books. People had been adjusting the numbers to make the company look profitable when it was actually losing money. As a result, I, along with about 100 other employees, was having to pay for somebody else's dishonesty.

      After the layoff, I was put into a stressful situation with trying to find work, my unemployment being delayed, and trying to figure out where the money to pay bills is going to come from. I began sending out my resume quite a bit.

      In late September 1999, I signed a contract with Lyford Networks in Columbus. On October 1st, I started my contract as a Web Design and Technology Consultant designing webpages online from home.

      After being laid off for more than 200 days, contacting 81 companies, making 261 contacts, going through 11 interviews, and receiving only 14 rejection letters/phone calls, my hard work had paid off.

      Or so I thought.

      About midway through the month of October, I realized that the opportunity I had with Lyford Networks was too good to be true. My computer developed software problems that slowed my progress on the amount of work assigned to me. I also realized that my computer would not be fast enough to handle the volume of work that I was being assigned by my supervisor. I then found out that I was not going to be getting paid what was promised in my contract. And, to top it all off, all that they wanted me to work on was porn sites, which to me was an insult to the hard work that I've put into expanding and improving my web design skills. It also got me to the point where I was feeling sick just having to look at some of the stuff.

      With mounting expenses only adding to my stress, I took an entire afternoon just trying to figure out what to do.

      I realized that the best solution would be for me to move back to my parents' house in Bucyrus. While I hated the thought of moving again and not seeing my friends in Ashland every day, I realized that I would be able to find some kind of work back home while keeping my eyes open for better opportunities, get my financial situation back on track, get my internet business going, and get my life straightened back out. I would also be able to work on my model railroad layout again, fixing problems that had plagued it in the past.

      On Saturday, November 13, 1999, I was completely moved out of my apartment in Ashland, and I was well back into the job-hunting process.

      On December 9th, I got a surprise. My old position was available again at Landoll's. I e-mailed my resumé ´o the human resources department as well as to my former boss and my former supervisor. The news wasn't good though. The company had decided behind closed doors what the policy would be for hiring back the laid off employees. By mid-January, I hadn't heard anything back. It was evident that my job was being given to somebody else. That hurt worse than the initial layoff.

      Unfortunately, things were still rough at home. In August 1999, my grandparents had moved into a rest home in Bucyrus, and on May 4, 2000, Grandpa passed away after being in the hospital for about five days. That evening, Abby, one of our dogs, started getting sick. The next morning, Pokey, our parakeet, started getting sick as well. That Sunday afternoon, Mom started getting sick, too. The following morning, we lost Pokey. Over the next week or two, Abby got back to normal, as did Mom.

      The thing that really hurt during that time was how I was treated by a company I was supposed to have been interviewed by for a job. It's one of several cases where I had gotten a runaround in my job hunt:

  1. Usually when I sent a company my resume by mail or e-mail, I'd never hear from them again.

  2. If I did hear from them, it was usually only a postcard stating that they've received my resume or a letter telling me that I've been rejected.

  3. If I followed up on a contact (either after an interview or just sending out my resume by calling or writing an employer, I either never heard anything again or got rejected.

  4. None of the places that rejected me ever said anything about why I was being rejected. They'd only say that I didn't fit their exact needs or that they'd selected a better candidate.

  5. One place that I sent my resume to sent me a rejection letter back, thanking me for an interview that never occurred.

  6. In late spring in 1999, I had an interview with a company in Lewis Center, Ohio, for a couple different positions. My interviewer was a Heidelberg graduate as well and mentioned that he was always trying to help out other alumni. After two interviews with the company, he phoned me and left a message. I was being turned down because I fell short in "a couple of areas". They never told me which.

  7. In the summer of 1999, I had an interview with an employer in Ashland. I was excited since it was a local employer. My interviewer said that the only thing that concerned her was that my previous employers had said that I was "kind of shy". I didn't mention that I'd had a rocky family background since I didn't want it to seem as though I was playing on her sympathy. I was turned down with the shortest rejection letter I'd ever received. I'm still wondering if it's because of my "shyness".

  8. In March, I had an interview with a company in Westerville, Ohio, for a web designer position. I got there and filled out the application. Afterwards, I was taken into a conference room and met with a guy who told me that it was only a screening interview. He wouldn't tell me anything specific about the job nor would he tell me anything about benefits or salary, claiming that the HR department would do that if I was called back. He then told me that he wouldn't be reviewing my application until the next day since he didn't like reviewing applications on the same day as the interview. The interview was over in less than ten minutes. The following morning (less than 25 hours after the interview), I received a rejection letter from the company in the mail. The woman who signed it thanked me for talking with her and gave me the last name of "Morgan". I've since heard that the company in late July was under investigation by the Ohio Attorney General's office. In September, they closed their doors and put all of their employees out on the street with no unemployment benefits or anything. Needless to say, I'm extremely thankful I didn't get hired there.

  9. I had an interview with a county office in Bucyrus, and I was scheduled for a followup interview. On the day of the second interview, the office contacted me to reschedule me since something had come up for them. The second day for the second interview came, and they called to reschedule me again. On the third day, they called and told me not to bother coming in. They'd already selected another candidate.

  10. One company in Mansfield, Ohio, had contacted me after getting my resume off Monster.com. I was the only person they were even considering (at the time). They were excited about my work experience, that I was relatively local, and how I could start right away. They told me that they would be contacting me in a couple weeks (before Easter) to give anybody else that might come along a chance for the position. I have yet to hear from them again, even though I called them twice and left messages both times.

  11. On Wednesday, May 3, 2000, I was contacted by another Mansfield company who was interested in me. They talked to me on the phone for a good 10-15 minutes or so and scheduled me for an interview the afternoon of the following day. That following morning, Grandpa passed away. After Mom had called me from the hospital and I'd contacted Dad, I called the company to let my interviewer know that I wouldn't be able to make the interview, told them what happened, and told them that I was still interested in the position and would like to reschedule. I had to leave a message with somebody since my interviewer wasn't there yet. I never heard back from them that day. The next day (Friday, the 5th), I called again and had to leave a message with somebody since my interviewer was on another line. I have yet to hear from them. Even though there's a possibility that there could be other factors involved, the fact that they never contacted me again, simply because my grandpa passed away, is inexcuseable to me. If that is how they treat people outside the company, I don't want to work there.

      On Thursday, July 6, 2000, I had an interview with Universal Digital Communications in Mansfield. After the interview was over, I was asked to wait in the lobby for a few minutes. My interviewers then called me back into the office and went over the position with me again, asking if I was still interested. When I told them I was, they said it was mine! I started on Monday, the 10th. My job entailed setting up DSL connections for area businesses, supporting our company's internal network, and supporting about 60 other employees with their technical issues.

      So, after contacting 265 companies, sending out 381 copies of my resume, getting only 31 interviews (9 of which I had yet to hear from again), and receiving 45 rejections, things were finally turning around for me!

      The last I heard, Landoll's was going to be laying off another 170 employees by December 2000. They are also no longer printing books. They've since been sold to another company

      By the spring of 2001, my life was definitely on track. My credit cards were paid off. My car was paid off and the title, registration, and insurance were transferred to me. And I was looking at getting a place of my own so that I could be closer to work.

      On Saturday, July 7, 2001, I was moved into a townhouse in Mansfield, just under five minutes from work.

      My life was finally under control. Or so I thought.

      On Tuesday, October 9, 2001, I was fired from my job at UDC on false claims of poor job performance. I was extremely devastated. My supervisor didn't agree with the company's decision, but with the way the company was run, he was unable to do anything. Looking back, he, as well as several of my friends agree that it was a case of discrimination against me.

      Once again, my life was thrown in a loop, but fortunately, it didn't last long.

      On Tuesday, December 4th, I started my job with Shonac Corporation, the parent company of DSW Shoe Warehouse, as a PC analyst in Columbus. On Saturday, September 28, 2002, I finally moved into a townhouse in Hilliard, a western suburb of Columbus. The move cut my drive to less than half of what it was before.

      As far as things go with UDC, they are digging themselves deeper into the ground. In April 2002, they had 80+ people working there. Since then, they have downsized to about 18 people. About a third quit, a third were fired, and another third were laid off. Five of the fired employees have filed a lawsuit against the company for discrimination. Had I known back then what I know now about the corruption in that company, I would have taken legal action as well.

      Not long after the move, Shonac Corporation was renamed to DSW and became part of Retail Ventures, Inc., which also own Value City Department Stores and Filene's Basement.

      In March 2005, DSW made a major discovery. Somebody had gotten into the store in Tampa, Florida by sitting in their vehicle with a wireless laptop and was able to get into about 100 other stores, stealing about 1.6 million credit card numbers. The sad thing was that DSW had known since 1999 that their stores' wireless connections were unsecure and had also allowed the stores to communicate with anonymous FTP. The reaction from management in my department was to not change any passwords (even though somebody knew how to get in) and not to tell anybody (they were planning on covering it up). But, the news was eventually made public, and RVI began getting major security audits.

      When I'd started with the company in 2001, I'd loved my job, but as time went on, things seemed to go downhill. Granted, it wasn't all bad, but I'd have to liken it to an out of control roller coaster rapidly swinging from the good highs to the bad lows.

      Then, at the end of February 2006, I was fired with no warnings whatsoever. I was accused of "spending too much time on the internet". When I told my manager and his boss that there was no way that I was online with the times they were accusing me of (they even said I'd been on sites that I hadn't been on for days on the days they were saying), they refused to show me any of their proof and said that people had been complaining about me. When I said that I'd never heard any real complaints in the four years and three months that I'd been there, they then said that they didn't need to give me any warnings and then pulled another excuse for their firing me. This went on for a good half hour with my manager's boss literally yelling at me while I was staying calm about the whole thing.

      Their reasoning for firing me, however, wasn't the true reason. In June 2004, I'd found porn while working on a PC at work. I'd reported it to my manager, but his manager did nothing. In May 2005, the same issue arose with the same user/PC. I went to HR and told them about how it was ignored before and that if they didn't do anything this time, they would be hearing from my attorney as I don't go to work to look at porn. The user was fired, and my manager's boss got into trouble for ignoring the porn issue.

      So, why did he wait so long to fire me if it was retaliation? It's simple. He couldn't fire me right afterwards as it would be obvious retaliation. Two months afterwards, the other PC tech who I worked with at DSW announced that he was leaving the company in a month. The company refused to hire anybody before he left because they considered it "expanding the department". We got a new tech in to replace him soon after he left and got him up to speed on everything, but then, one of the PC techs at the Value City offices announced that he was leaving. Again, they waited until after he left to start searching for a replacement. By the time February 2006 came around, the second new tech was also up to speed on everything. At that point, they could afford to get rid of me.

      There were other issues going on at the time of my firing that are worth noting:



      Fortunately, this time, I was only out of work for seven weeks, and in April, I started my new job as a Response Center Coordinator with Huntington Banks. While my starting salary was a little below what I was making before, the job is nowhere near as stressful as my last one, and I'm a lot more relaxed now than I ever was at RVI.

      I did talk to an attorney about what happened with RVI. He agreed that what happened was out of retaliation from my last manager's boss. However, my case wouldn't hold together if it were to go to court. There weren't really any damages since I did get unemployment compensation, I wasn't out of work for long, and I was given my yearly bonus that I would have been given two months after I was fired. While my termination was wrong, with Ohio's current "at will" employment laws, it was perfectly legal. Also, because I never reported the sexual harassment from my manager, the company wasn't liable, only my harasser who I wouldn't have gotten any compensation from.

      Anyways, I'm moving on from the whole thing.

      I am working on starting my own custom-built PC business and have been getting all the registration forms and fees out of the way and looking to get a business loan. A friend of mine was working on the business with me as my business partner. However, for some reason he has decided not to contact me at all since the summer of 2006, leaving me to work on the business on my own.

      I've also been keeping busy with my model railroad layout, both in planning the scenery, working on the car-forwarding operations, tuning up the locomotives and cars, and just having fun running trains.

      I'm also currently looking at adopting a kitten or two to keep me company at home. I've always been a dog person, but cats have grown on me as well after visiting a friend of mine in North Carolina who has some cats. Plus, since I'm renting my townhouse, a cat would be better to have than a dog in terms of not having to let it out and in terms of noise.


Kevin L. Wagner

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