Frank’s bottom lip quivered like a fat worm on a fishing hook, and his face reddened as if he were running a marathon, and his thick index finger wagged before my nose like a dog’s tail. “Did you hear me?” he asked through clenched teeth. “You missed the meeting. You cannot skip our meetings.”
I swallowed. ‘I’m sorry, Frank. I’m sorry. It slipped my mind, I was busy and—”
“Busy? That’s always your excuse. What the hell are you busy with?”
I glanced at the stapler on my desk and wondered what would happen if I threw it at Frank’s mushroom nose. Would his nose break? Would he squeal like a pig then leave me alone? I wanted, desperately, for him to leave me alone; conflict injected unnatural stress into me, and Frank was the embodiment of conflict. And, anyway, how could he think I wasn’t busy? Reports were scattered across my desk, waiting for me to complete them, and I had been working after hours to finish a marketing design before a tight deadline, and the two new interns had been stealing two to three hours of my time every day for the past week. I wasn’t simply busy, I was bloody busy.
“Well?” Frank snapped.
“You’re kidding, right? You know I’m swamped with work.”
Frank shook his head in disgust, spun around, and marched out of my office.
I sighed and massaged my temples. When had I become so miserable at work? The first few years of my career were filled with enthusiasm and excitement and energy, but then things had changed, and work had been turning more and more soul-sucking and stressful year after year, month after month, week after week. I had now reached that all-too common point in life: I hated my job. Perhaps “hated” is an understatement, but which other word could suffice? My job had sucked every drop of joy out of my life, and, therefore, I wanted nothing to do with my job, with my employer, with my career. But I couldn’t just quit, of course – my wife and three-year old daughter were completely dependent on me. No, I couldn’t be so irresponsible and simply quit; the best I could do was continue looking for other work (as I had been doing for the past three years) and perhaps ask my manager to ease my work load – although, winning the lotto was far more likely than being relieved of certain responsibilities by Mr Aiande. But I had to try.
I stood, left my office, walked past the cubicles that were stuffed with overworked employees, stopped before my manager’s office door, and knocked.
“Enter,” Mr Aiande said.
Sitting behind his desk, Mr Aiande didn’t raise his head but only his eyes, and he peered at me over his spectacles. “Yes?” His tone said he’d forgotten who I was.
“Mr Aiande,” I said with unprecedented politeness, “you can shove your corporate job up your arse.” I then undid my black tie and tossed it across the room. The tie didn’t go far, however; it was a pathetic toss.
Mr Aiande blinked.
He blinked again.
I turned, left his office, rode the elevator to the ground floor, exited the building, and strolled down a busy walkway.
Relief washed over me; it felt as if a sumo wrestler had just climbed off of my shoulders. At the same time, panic stabbed me, for I now had no source of income, and very little savings. What had I done? How would I support my family? Would we end up on the street?
I walked past a hot dog stand and was stopped by a fireman who was handing out pamphlets. He handed me one.
My eyebrows raised into a question mark.
The fireman said, “We’re desperately looking for people willing to be firefighters. So if you know anybody who’s interested, give them that flyer.”
“When can I start?” I asked.
He frowned. “Training begins next week, Monday morning, eight AM, at the fire station. You interested?”
“I’ll see you there.” I walked away thinking about one of my grandfather’s favourite sayings: sometimes, don’t think, just do.