New Jersey Adventure
This is an extract from my book Albatross, about which you can read more via the navigation bar on the left.
There is in Stirling, on the borders of the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands, a firm hight IT-MacS, owned by the Begg-Lorimer family. The top person in the firm is Carole, and her main deputy is her husband, William, commonly called Bill. Their son Gavin runs their Stateside operations out of Athens in Georgia, often spending weeks at a time away from there to administer the arrival of new employees and their initial assignments. I understand that the firm gets some kind of subsidy from the Scottish Office.
IT-MacS hires IT professionals in Britain and rents them to U.S. firms, notably the Prudential Insurance Company in New Jersey, via an intermediary firm whose name I forget but whose principal hights Darrel. The contract is so arranged that the employees do not need U.S. residence rights and do not pay any income tax, either U.S. or home, because the salary gets paid partly as “expenses” and partly into an account in the Isle of Man. The firm provides apartments, one for two employees to share.
I saw an ad for IT-MacS in either Computer Weekly or the Guardian. The firm advertises mainly in the Scotsman. I telephoned for the application form, got it, filled it in, sent it in with a U.S.-oriented CV, and was very rapidly telephoned back by Bill. On 1996.07.10 I went for interview by Bill in Glasgow, when the firm’s modus operandi was outlined to me. I pointed out that as a U.S. permanent resident I was legally obliged to file an income tax return every year, and had been doing so even during the five years when I was in the U.S. just enough not to lose my status. It was agreed that my salary, after deductions, would get paid into my U.S. bank account. There was a difficulty with my status at the time, and I showed Bill the special visa in my passport. He assured me that there would be no difficulty about it. I was left with the contract documents to read overnight(the firm had arranged a hotel room for me). The next morning we exchanged contracts on the understanding that I would fly to my new post in New Jersey on 1996.07.16, the following Tuesday.
Over that very busy weekend I was phoned several times by Carole, who was kept up to date on my packing arrangements(I was abandoning my digs in Stourbridge), in particular with my plan to send quite a bit by surface freight, despite which I would still probably have excess baggage. She also approved of my plan to spend Monday/Tuesday night with my brother in Lancing, not frightfully far from Gatwick.
On Monday I did travel to Lancing, making the horrendous discovery that Kings Cross Thameslink has no lifts, and on Tuesday by taxi to Gatwick, where, because of a sign I had made, I was found by the other two programmers in the shipment. When time came for check-in, problems did arise about my status. I telephoned Carole to discuss matters, and she telephoned around quite a lot. I was able to keep her informed also of a delay in the flight, and of the need for one of the other programmers to pay for the third’s excess baggage. At length Carole discovered that the reason my Green Card(which would have obviated the need for the technique Bill thought suitable) had not arrived was something postal. I phoned my wife in Los Angeles to confirm a detail of that. Eventually the other programmers left on the flight to Newark, while I was directed by Carole to a lodging in Horsham. The next day, following instructions, I took the Gatwick Express to the U.S. Embassy and got a letter of transmission to make up for the missing Green Card. I spent one more night in Horsham and on 1996.07.18, Thursday, at Carole’s instructions, assured that Gavin would be waiting for me at my destination airport, took the interairport bus to Heathrow and Air France. The latter had to get back to American Express, IT-MacS’s travel agent, about my excess baggage.
Something went wrong with the Air France plane for Paris, so I was transferred, with many others, to a BA flight. Unfortunately, as I discovered once at Paris CDG, my baggage was not transferred, so it missed the flight to New York JFK. This was actually just as well, because Gavin was not there to meet me. After waving my sign around quite a lot, and having Gavin paged, I proceeded independently to Somerville. If I had been a little more awake, I might have remembered the new Subway line near the airport, built since my last visit to the Big Apple, but I used a more expensive route. I got to the apartment, to find things in reasonable order, and my flatmate in reasonably good humor despite my early-morning arrival. When morning came he told me that Gavin had been told I would be further delayed. When Gavin came, after my flatmate had gone to work(I was hanging around with a towel around me), he said he had expected me on a later flight but had nevertheless been at the airport at the time of my arrival. He professed not to understand how he could have missed my sign. He gave me preliminary instructions, mainly to wait for Darrel’s phone call as to what to do on Monday. Gavin gives the impression of a sullen rotter, but, as is my wont, I charitably canceled this impression in my mind. A mistake. My luggage arrived on Friday/Saturday night.
On Sunday, just as I came back from church, Carole phoned and accused me of quarreling with Gavin, my flatmate, and Darrel. She threatened to fire me. The incident she mentioned with my flatmate was quite fictitious, and the others were too vague to respond to. She accused me of “attitude” for having the excess baggage. I managed to calm her down. I got the idea, which I still hold, that Gavin had taken a spite against me as a result of his failure to go to the airport, and was making trouble.
I worked Monday to Friday quite successfully at Prudential in Florham Park. I made visible progress on my assignment and my direct supervisor on Friday gave me instructions about Monday’s work. During the week I spoke with Bill, who had gone to Athens, about my tax status. He was about to discuss it with the accountant in New York. Apparently I was the first employee, not excluding Gavin, to be U.S.-taxed.
On 1996.07.26, Friday, I handed my timesheet to Gary, the programmer entrusted with faxing them to Stirling. Later I met Gavin leaving my apartment and checked with him that he had been inside, because he had some mail there. He confirmed that he had been and told me that the Pru did not want me back on Monday because I had “been doing press-ups under someone’s desk”. He would see me about it later, either that evening or the next day. There was no discussion. I had indeed twice during the week remembered to do the physiotherapy prescribed for my bad back, but under a desk in a room where I was the only person working. I do not know who saw through the doorway and complained. I very much doubt that it was any of my immediate colleagues.
That night, instead of telling me my new assignment, Gavin got drunk(that is hearsay). The next day I stayed in so he could find me, but only got in touch with him because I sought him out at a neighbouring apartment when I heard he was there. He told me that I was not being reassigned, because of what I had done, especially after the other problems, which he did not specify(airport?). Again, there was no discussion.
On Sunday night, after I had started plans for new accommodation and a new job, Gavin phoned to say that I should be all ready packed because he and his father were coming at 08:30 the next morning to get me to the airport for a plane on Monday night. I said I had been thinking of looking for a job locally. He said that that was entirely up to me but that they needed the apartment.
At 1996.07.29 – 08:50, Bill and Gavin not having appeared, I left the apartment to visit the church, the newspapers, the Job Service, some potential employers and a lawyer. I left open on the kitchen table the state booklet about renting with ringed in red the paragraph about self-help evictions never being allowable in New Jersey, just in case they got any ideas. The lawyer, of the county legal services(not the county counsel), confirmed that they would have to give me two days written notice before seeking a court order, and that only after issue of a court order could my goods lawfully be removed from the apartment. At 15:20 I found the apartment stripped, at least of my possessions, and a note in the door with Gavin’s telephone number. I went back to the lawyer, swore some affidavits, and heard him telephone Gavin and Bill, who got very annoyed with the lawyer ’s interpretation of the law(pretty obvious from the state booklet), and tried to insist that I should go to Scotland. It appeared that they had already surrendered their own lease on the apartment, presumably so that I would in case of reoccupation have to argue with the prime landlord rather than with them. The lawyer persuaded them to deliver my goods to the law office porch, which they with bad grace did(I later discovered that the list of people to be informed of my death was missing). I phoned the church for immediate aid in finding a place to stay overnight, although I had a legal right to go back to the apartment, because I did not want two balked thugs after me. The lawyer later said he could not blame me for not going back to the apartment, given Bill and Gavin’s nastiness and “attitude”.
At the time of writing I have not been paid my expenses(submitted to Gavin shortly after my arrival) or my salary for the week’s work. Nor have I been compensated, as in principle I should be, for either the unjust dismissal or the illegal eviction.
John A. Wills 1996.08.15