A Short Story
My father had to deal with “being let go” in 1965. I had to
deal with “being let go” in 2001. The corporate culture may have looked
different but it is only a variation on the same theme; losing your job. In
today’s corporate culture, the system can be more digital and more hi-tech, but
people are the same.
One of the reasons we compartmentalize the personal and professional selves is for protection. If we lose our job, we don’t want the whole person to experience the rejection, failure and loss. It’s enough for the professional self to handle, let alone the personal self to have to deal with. But that is not how it works. When we lose our job, the whole self is impacted upon. We need to replace compartmentalization with flexibility and adaptation. The loss involves many things, but not necessarily a loss of identity.
Cast in a shadow, molded by circumstances, he felt as if his identity was thin enough to pass through the branches of the tree. The child’s bicycle brushed his coat to stop and to regain his orientation.
How long had he been walking around anyway? An hour, two, three? Hard to tell. The sky was getting darker. “Is it that late?” he wondered.
“OK..” now he knows which neighborhood he had turned onto. Strange how he had chosen Mrs. Derrick's street. “Must be a craving for her chocolate pecan pie.” Jack took a deep breath in through his nostrils as if he could still smell that pie. Slowly he retraced his steps and found his way back to the streetcar.
The street was bustling with the after work crowd making its way unconsciously to the various destinations of its members. Jack still had his destination but, as of tomorrow, he would no longer hold the same point of departure. “What a cliché!” he laughed to himself. After 32 years, a pat on the shoulder and a complimentary cardboard storage box to collect his “things”.
“HR will mail you all the documents. If you have any questions, contact Lynn and by the way, we’re organizing a 'thank-you lunch'. We’ll let you know." Thirty-two year and not one windmill was slain. Wounded? “Yes! That should give me some satisfaction, yet, right now…” Nothing seemed to mean much.
As he walked into his apartment things seemed different. Everything was as he had left it that morning but, somehow, even the air felt altered. Jack spent the night in his armchair watching the darkness move towards light. Once his apartment was filled with the morning, he got up, took a shower, dressed in his jeans and sweatshirt and made his way to the corner diner for his favorite breakfast.
As he approached the counter for his newspaper, a confused look came over Nick’s face. “Jack, it’s not the week-end. What brings you here on a weekday?”
“Does that mean I’ve just increased my business?”
“Maybe…well, for today anyway.”
As the two men were talking, Harry walks in, sits at the table near the window, unfolds his newspaper and shouts out to Nick, “The usual.” Harry continues shouting, “Hey Nick, check out this story…Jack is that you? It’s not the week-end yet, what are you doing here?”
Without looking around, Jack answers, “Early retirement.”
“Oh…well…you listen too then. They had this upset in boxing last night in Vegas and….” Harry’s voice trails off and Jack pays for breakfast.
With his paper tucked under his arm, Jack made his way to the park. Sitting on the bench on this warm spring day made him doze off. In his dream, Jack finds himself in a forest of windmills. Jack could see that some windmills were in arrogantly perfect condition, some showed more wear, while a few were actually damaged. He tried to move but the windmills seemed to encroach on him more with each movement he made. Feeling despair and fatigue, Jack slumped down to the ground. An agitation surged through him. Struggling to get to his feet, he found himself encircled by mirrors.
“Don’t look away!” he heard. “Don’t look away!”
The sound was piercing his ears. Look? Look where…at the image in the mirror? But who was that?
He was startled from his sleep by a child’s cry. There on the park bench, next to him was a woman with a baby.
The screen read: You have 4 new messages.
Message 1: “Hi Jack. I couldn’t believe it. Hope you’re OK. Please call me as soon as you can.”Message erased. Next message