You don’t deserve the benefit of my tears

20 04 2009

The oddest feeling overcame me on April the 15th.  It had nothing to do with it being Tax Day or Patriot’s Day or the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic or the anniversary of the death of Lincoln or da Vinci’s birthday or anything else of public notice or merit.  The jury is still out on whether transiting Mercury entering my sixth house or transiting Saturn retrograding across my tenth house had an impact on that morning.

But precisely at 6:50 that morning I had a strange feeling overcome me and a moment of clarity I haven’t felt in ages took over my being.  I had just finished my breakfast of the day, which was a not so glorious prepackaged fruit and walnut salad of sorts from McDonalds and as I threw the plastic container and overly squishy red grapes into the trash I thought I should pack my belongings.  At work that is.  I looked around the office from my seat and felt so awkward and restless and anxious all at once.  So I went out for a smoke and still felt the same when I walked in again.

I took out my one banker’s box which has traversed the globe and career paths with me and for the past three years had served as my footrest while with my company and I began packing.

At first it was the I-could-not-bear-to-leave-behind personal items; followed by grabbing a secondary box and the award plaques and trophies and other odds and ends collected at that desk by me for the past three years.  Another box became the resting place for varieties of disks and papers and pens and supplies that I somehow felt the need to bring to work instead of spending from the company budget to purchase for myself.  All that remained by 7:30 were my monitors and scanners and other large equipment that seemed senseless to relocate on such a drastic whim.

I grabbed another cigarette and went outside with the phone to call one of our managers, to tell him what I had done.  I felt so much calmer and at ease and I explained to him that I had just packed up all of my shit into a nice pile of boxes under my desk.  ‘Why would you do that’ and ‘you should stop worrying’ and ‘think positive, you’ll be fine’ were his comforting proverbs of the morning.

About a year and a half ago or so, all of us admins were placed under alert via a conference call that our position was fading.  Fading seems such a mild terminology for the axe fall – but in hindsight it was more of a gradual fade than a swift blow.  The company was moving in a new direction that looked very unsettling on paper.

Within six months, that paper was crumpled and replaced a few times over and the generic message was that this was just another of their great ideas that would never come to fruition.

Another six months after that was the first ripple of concern in the pond of uncertainty, but have no fear was the message reiterated time and again to yours truly.

Then about three months ago, those ripples became tidal waves and no longer would the comforting words quell my concerns.  It started off with little things that irked me.

For example, my position earned no bonus, yet for the past two years my local manager had split his bonus check with me – in his words, it was a way of thanking me for helping him earn it.  And he stated that as long as I continued to do a good job, I would continue to receive my share.  But the fourth quarter bonus was not shared and I ached to find a way to ask about it.  It wasn’t for desire of the money, but to determine if I had in some way failed to do a good job.  Alas, I could not think of any means of gaining clarification on the issue without coming across as having my hand extended for money in some greedy fashion so I never asked.

Then slowly each of my duties were awarded to someone else.  Could I please train this person or that on how I did this mundane task or this skilled duty?  I laugh now, but I actually made a pictorial guide book of instructions.  But I did note, numerous times aloud, how I was slowly being left with little to do but my reports.  I was consoled however.

See, with the ousting of my position came a new role being introduced to the company – a role for which I was perfect – or so everyone around me stated.  Better pay, better challenges, better duties and all around just better.  And I would interview for this position and have no fear as it was almost as though the job was custom made for a person of my aptitude.  It would focus on reporting and analysis and remove the HR aspect from my work.  The latter was actually not all that pleasing to me, as I rather enjoy the details of personnel work, but no matter.

Across the countryside though, admins were dropping like marble busts from their pillars in the midst of a quake and it was not a pretty sight to witness.  There were words spoken and looks exchanged and private chatters being held and I stood tall, considering it beneath me to be involved in their vengeful angst.  But the fact that not one admin had cut the mustard, so to speak, and been awarded the new role they too had interviewed for in their own territory ate at my nerves.

To add a flavor of humour to the mix, I began comforting myself with fortune cookie bliss.  One day the cookie’s slip of fate stated ‘A Good Position and A Comfortable Salary Will Be Yours’.  Another week’s cookie decreed ‘You Will Have Full Contentment By Summer’s End’.  Yet another prophesized ‘You Will Meet An Important Person Who Will Help You Advance Professionally’.  And the best was ‘Worry Not As The Position You Aim For Is Already Yours’.  Some might think I just eat too much Chinese take out, and I would be inclined to agree after the ego killing fortune of ‘You Will Get What You Want Through Your Charming Personality’.  But, the latter aside, I set each fortune under the desk blotter mat and stared at each for reassurance each day when the jitters of the ongoings around me took over.

Each person who knew me in our company repeatedly stated that I had nothing to fear and I brushed aside all my nervousness outwardly.  But internally each day was filled with nail biting fear and worry.

Then came the day of the accident.  Well more candidly, the day after the accident.  We were to have a huge unveiling of the new paper plan of the company and if you thought you might have a future with the company, you had best attend.  Moments after the accident my daughter actually called my manager to tell him I had been in an accident and taken to the emergency room.  But late that night after being released, when I came home to read my work email, there was only one and it was from my manager – ‘Don’t be late tomorrow’ was all it said.

So in agonizing pain and no pain killers and a broken down vehicle I made the two hour trek up to the meeting location.  Only once during the meeting did I ask quietly if I could stand up and walk about as the pain was too much and he instructed me to go stand in a corner like some outcast child if I needed to walk, but do not leave the room.  I spent the following three hours crying quietly while biting my lip and fearing the worst.  I ate my catered sandwich alone and went outside to let the tears fall freely and endured the comedic jabs of ‘hurry up slowpoke’ and ‘hob-a-long’ as we went back in for part two.  The entire day was hurtful emotionally as well as physically and I had no one to console me for either.

After the accident, everything changed and continued to do as such. Taking time off to get well seemed to be a far off option and the day here or half day there that I had chosen to escape from work and attend a doctor’s appointment left me feeling as though I were personally driving stakes into the heart of my career.  The options were heavy to weigh – my health or my job.  I chose the former.

And my choice seemed to result in the outcome of the latter.

On conference calls I was no longer allotted my speaking time, much less acknowledged.  My self imposed reports were seemingly looked upon as wasteful efforts, unlike before.  And the words of encouragement over the coming decisions were no longer spoken at all.

The day of the interview arrived without much adieu but I gloriously prepared my portfolio, complete with samples of my reports and analysis and letters of commendation from all ranks of co-workers and managers in the company.  I felt I answered their questions well, but I also felt as though the questions were merely ceremonial – like the axe had already fallen and I was merely taking part in the re-enactment of the scene for the benefit of covering one’s ass.

The second interview was far worse.  I had avoid taking medicine that morning but had taken it the night before for sound sleep.  I felt disoriented and it showed in the lack of forethought of my answers.  They were honest answers to mundane questions, but a better interviewer would have elaborated on fantastical tales to meet the expectations of the interviewee.  I fumbled there and presented only truth as it was with no tinsel or finery.

So after packing my desk that brisk Wednesday morne, I sat back feeling comforted by my actions, but likewise appalled at the drastic measures I had taken.  Fortunately I worked alone in the office, with no one to witness my empty walls and shelves.

Then at 11:45 I stood outside on the phone and witnessed a car pulling into the parking lot toting management and HR from the regional office and I took a deep breathe and excused myself from the caller by stating the firing squad had arrived.

By noon they had asked me into the dark office at the end of the hall and I solemnly hobbled in.  They patted away at tears that were seemingly imaginary and sniffled a bit for effect as they gave me their verdict.

It was immediate.

I should pack right away.

I told them I had already packed that morning and I noted the curious glances and sideways looks.  Had someone spilt the beans – how did I know?  I decided it wasn’t worth stating and said no worries, I just knew and I made my way down to my desk and pulled out the boxes as they looked on.

Did I need a tissue?

I wanted to ask if they really thought I would reward them with my tears, but instead I simply said no.

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