On Friday, March 18 at 4:30 p.m., the human resources assistant approached my desk and asked if I had time to see the COO. I replied, “Actually, no I’m afraid I don’t.” Then I explained that I needed to leave immediately in order to be on time for my date. She asked me if I had a phone number and when I told her that I did, she nodded and walked away.
What I hadn’t told her was that the last time I had seen my friend Andrew was when we graduated from university over two decades ago. I didn’t want to risk being so late he would think I had not bothered to show up. Because I didn’t have a telephone at my desk, I would have to use the one in the conference room. Since I had no intention of leaving a message, I put on my coat and grabbed my purse – I wanted to be prepared to walk out the door if I had to. I dialed: Andrew answered! I explained I was detained at work; it shouldn’t take long; would he be willing to wait? He answered “Yes.”
I had an inkling of what the COO wanted to see me about – the company I worked for had done a batch of layoffs the day before, and we had been informed in a department meeting that there may be more. After going to his office, he did indeed confirm my suspicions. It was a business decision. The company hoped they could bring all of us back. It was called a temporary layoff, but that’s not the way it felt. But dealing with the emotional fallout would have to wait.
Lay Off Person Leaves the Building
At this point I probably should have cut my losses and left everything behind (postcards of my hometown; Kinder Surprise trinkets, figurines and stuff from trade shows I inherited from co-workers; and magazines and product catalogues). I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded if I had returned Monday to claim my things, but I wasn’t willing to take the chance.
Anyway, due to hubris, stubbornness or a string of comedy of errors, I arrived at the meeting place laden down like a pack mule with three plastic bags filled to just this shy of bursting. Immediately after we greeted one another, he took two of them from me. I didn’t want to explain to Andrew just yet what happened because I hoped to prevent it from becoming the focus of the whole evening.
It was a good decision. Once we decided on a restaurant, we settled down to some serious catching up. As we moved back and forth between his life and mine, backwards in time from the present to then, my fears that we would have nothing to say to one another vanished. Since we had last seen one another, Andrew had been on an incredible journey and the fact that he was willing to share it with a “stranger” astonished me.
I didn’t reveal my state of unemployment – hence my pack mule status – until dessert. As heads up for what was about to happen, I timed it perfectly. Preparing to leave, I picked up one of the bags incorrectly and all of the little Kinder Surprises, along with their other tiny friends, leaped gleefully out of their prison, skittering along the hardwood floor until they were tantalizingly out of reach underneath the table. Andrew didn’t hesitate – he moved the chair closest to him out of the way and shifted the table slightly to expose the escapees; then bent down and calmly began picking them up. I was so mortified that it took me several seconds to join him. I was still apologizing by the time we had descended the stairs to the street.
Life is Like That
Up to this point, three bags full aside, I felt that I had presented myself fairly well – I was smartly dressed; articulated my thoughts concisely; and my hair decided to behave. My little escaping trinkets told an entirely different story.