“Lord have mercy,” was all I could think when it happened. What could it be this time? This could take five minutes or two hours. It’s almost lunchtime and I need to pee–but if I make a pit stop, she might grill me again for not getting there fast enough. I guess being in a meeting isn’t a good excuse. I am literally giving up basic human functions for work. Where did my life go wrong?
Technology is great. It keeps us mindlessly distracted from remembering how gray the cubicle walls surrounding us actually are, and how even prisoners get windows in jail cells. Just when you think the baby photos on Facebook are the worst thing to happen to the Internet, you get it. The email. The essence of laziness and the sincerity of paranoia: “Please see me.”
Like I have a choice? I can’t reply, “Sorry, busy doing my job.” No, I have to drop whatever I’m doing to meet your schedule’s needs. Could you be any less specific? Do you have another stack of decade old reports for me to sift through, or did you somehow hear about that guy who was smoking weed at my apartment this weekend? It was medicinal, swear.
Immediately, I rip the headphones out of my ears and rise from my chair. I feel like a prisoner who is about to walk the Green Mile, coupled with the fear and anticipation of a speeding driver who has cocaine in the trunk and a few beers in him as he gets pulled over by the red and blue lights of a police car. I pray the authorities will be kind and just, rather than harsh and strict. My fate is no longer in my hands.
As I leave my cubicle and walk down the hallway, I gaze out of the windows at the sunny, warm spring day and think of a time of innocence: the days of recess and nap time. Worries were nonexistent and my supervisors gave me stickers. Sometimes even gold stars.
Turning the corner to my right marks the final leg of the journey. I can see the fake wooden door from here and my heart beats slowly and loudly as if I had a body buried under my floorboards in an Edgar Allen Poe story. I pat my left pocket to make sure I have a pen and glance down to ensure my fly is up.
Her door is closed and I stand there momentarily, staring up into the overhead florescent lights. “What a waste of my time,” I think. “I could be doing actual work right now. Or, you know, refreshing my Twitter feed.”
I square up to the boss’s door and in tune with my heartbeat, I knock twice and close my eyes. “Come in,” the oddly masculine voice reverberates through the door. It consumes my ears and soul simultaneously.
Gripping the cold, steel handle, I stand up straight, lift my head, take a deep breath, and think to myself, “Deny ‘til you die.”
“You wanted to see me?”
The voice that replies to my reasonable request is so cold it sends a shiver down my veins in a way ice fishers must feel when they slip in the depths of the Arctic waters. The chill of inevitable doom grips me much harder than fear of consequence. I am done for, and we both know it.
Sitting down in the cheap, rounded chair finished in stained fabric in an office of bare white walls actually brings me solace rather than the feeling of entrapment. Who does she think she is? What gives her the right? So what if I snuck out of work early five times last week? I dare you to embark on a power trip.
With a renewed air of smug confidence, I sit up straight and display my best IDGAF face. Send me to HR again. Make me rewrite that stack of reports. Do your worst.
But what comes next is a shock. The unexpected happens. The odds ever against my favor, odds worse than correctly filling out an NCAA bracket, are defeated by lone chance. She looks me dead in the eyes and smiles.
“I just wanted to say you did a good job with the last stack of reports. We were all impressed.”
Like an angel, I sprout wings and soar, my head so high in the clouds. I had overcome all odds. I became undefeatable. I had conquered this woman–professionally, of course. Only one thing can ground my confidence, and that thing happens just as I turn my back on the beast to leave the arena as victor.
“Also, I’m going to need you to work late Friday. Since you did such a good job, we’re going to make you lead reports analyst. I hope you didn’t have any plans.”