If you spend all your workdays in a cubicle in the center of a hundred thousand square foot room filled with cubicles, you tend to lose your identity over a period of time. I started this job three years ago, thinking I was on my way to the top of a large conglomerate.
A year after starting, something went wrong in their accounting department and the SEC began auditing and auditing and auditing. The stock fell and fell. Cubicles were continuously abandoned, with me thinking I would be next any day.
For whatever reason, they kept me, right in the middle of hundreds of empty cubicles. Maybe they forgot about me. Perhaps they don't know I'm really here. I don't hide. I go to the john and grab coffee on my breaks. I usually leave for lunch now because the cafeteria is down to stale pre-made sandwiches.
It was Thursday, February the twelfth, two days before Valentine's Day. I'm a sentimental cuss and used to give those cute little Valentine cards to all the girls in school. By the time I was in college, some of the girls thought the cards were a little nerdy, but then, I was an IT guy, anyway.
I wanted to give out Valentines just like always, but I was limited. I would give a card and a box of candy to my mom, both of my sisters, and of course, my sister-in-law. At least one of my sisters had two little girls that were old enough to enjoy a cute little Valentine card. The problem was, I did not have a special friend, a girlfriend, or boyfriend for that matter, but I really didn't think I wanted to go that route.
I was done with the assigned project, so I double-checked the running program and sent it to the program coordinator. I wondered if that group was as devastated as mine. They were up on the eleventh floor, while I was on the ninth. Departments and groups don't visit and are not encouraged to mix. We're all little mice, spinning our wheel.
Usually, if I send a completed project, within a minute or so, I receive another project or a patch to correct. I waited, nothing. Five minutes later, still nothing. Uh oh, would the axe fall now? I don't think there were but four of us in the entire programming department right now, so if they don't have enough work for four, the company is doomed.
"Mr. Thomas, come with me," came from a voice from the opening to my cubicle.
I spun to see a skirt leave the opening. Jumping up and going out of the cubicle, I just caught sight of the back of a lady turning right at the aisle. Hurriedly following her, I finally caught up to the lady as she reached the elevators. She turned to look at me, but stayed facing the elevators. When the door opened she entered and I followed. Funny how she turned at the exact moment I did but she was just in front of me so I still couldn't see her face.
I thought "Oh well, I guess it isn't important that I know who I'm following."
The elevator stopped on the eleventh floor and the girl took off on a brisk walk, heading down a row of outside offices. You know, the ones with windows. She stopped at the door of an office, turned to me, and pointed inside, "Please go in, Mr. Sanders will see you now."
Wow, the girl was really pretty. I smiled at her, and you could tell she was trying to keep her stern look, but her lips turned up a little. Kind of crooked, if you know what that looks like.
I went in the open door and a fiftyish guy in a shirt and tie stood up, offering his hand. Good to see you, Mr. Thomas, or can I call you Bob? I'm Dan Sanders, head of programming."
Wow! Head of programming, I've heard of this guy.
"Nice to meet you, Sir," I said.
"Not Sir, Dan. Sit."
After we both sat down, he said, "I've watched your work for the three years you've worked here and have been very pleased. It's too bad you came along about the time the company got into its present financial turmoil, but, I have a deal for you. One of our founders is taking his money and running. He's running to open another company and taking a few of us with him. I'm going, and a couple our marketing people are going. When he asked me to pick out a versatile programmer, I instantly thought of you. I have to say that as long this company stays in business, you have a job, but I'm not sure they will survive. This job I have for you will pay a little more than what you're making right now, but it will be out on the edge of the city instead of downtown like we are here. I see you live out to the northwest, so you will be close to work, no more long commutes. What do you think, Bob, want to go on an adventure?"
I was stunned, "How soon do I need to give you my answer, Sir?"
"That's Dan, Bob, and it would be nice if you could just say yes."
Looking at him confused, I said, "Well, I live cheap and have saved my money pretty well, so I guess the answer is yes. I'll take a shot at a new company. When do I resign from here?"
"How about I give you a separation package as if you were laid off? We'll pay you through tomorrow, you'll get your vacation pay, paid for all of your unused sick leave, plus two months severance for every year worked. That's six months severance for you. Will that work?"
I nodded, then asked, "When do I start at the new company?"
Dan Sanders smiled broadly, "Tomorrow."
He wrote a short note on a piece of paper and said, "See Sarah, the girl who came for you to sign your severance papers, clean out your desk, then Sarah will probably meet you tomorrow at the new site. I'm laying her off next."
I went out to Sarah's desk and signed a bunch of papers. She entered a bunch of codes into her computer and printed out a bunch of papers along with a couple of checks. "Here you are, Bob, I guess I'll see you tomorrow. Glad you will be coming with us. See you there."
The trip back to my cubicle was in a daze. It took but a couple of minutes to get the couple of small personal items there. A small clay animal, I think was from one of my nieces, and a cup that a sister had given me. That was it, three years worth, wow, what a bummer.
Downstairs, I was about to leave when Greg the security guy there asked, "Bob, sorry to see you go, but you have to leave your door card key and your employee ID."
I gave Greg the two items and actually felt a little naked without my door pass. Oh well, I guess with the extra money in my pocket, if the other job doesn't turn out, I'll have six months to find a new one.
On the way home, I stopped at one of those dollar stores to see if they had any kid's Valentines. They had a bag of them for two bucks, so I bought a big bag along with Valentine boxes of chocolates.
Next, I stopped at the mall out by my apartment to get some Valentines for mom, sisters, and sister-in-law. I just love Valentines Day. The high school girl at the register was a cutie. When I finished paying, I smiled and wished her a happy Valentines Day. She blushed a bright pink, making me happy that I said something.
Wandering through the mall is always fun. I ogled Victoria Secret's window models, wishing I had an excuse to go in and check out the neat stuff, but passed on by. It's always fun to people watch as you amble along. You make up things about people you see, that one is getting something for his wife, that one is getting something for her boyfriend. A swishy looking guy is getting something for his boyfriend, and on and on.
I was just about to the entrance when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to find Sarah from the office. "Hi, Bob, do you live around here?"
"Yes Ma'am, right down the street at Gateway."
Sarah laughed, "You do, I live at Gateway, too. How long have you lived there?"
"Almost three years, I got the apartment right after I got the job at Great."
"I've been there over two years too. I wonder why we've never met before. Do you go to the any of the pools?"
I couldn't believe she was my neighbor, "I go to the pool in the back, it's more private and very few kids go there, mostly adults. Besides, they have a big jacuzzi there that I really enjoy."
"You know, I didn't know about that one. I'll have to start going back there. Do you want to go into Friday's and have a drink?"
Duh! Stunned. That's the only way to describe me at that second. "Sure, Sarah, sounds great, I won't be keeping you from your husband or someone will I?"
She held up her left hand and said, "Not married, except to my job, and I just got divorced from that today, same as you. Come on, let's drown our sorrows. If we can't drive home, a taxi is cheap from here."
Sarah and found a reasonably quiet spot at the bar. If you know how noisy Friday's is, it's hard to find anywhere quiet, especially around dinner time.
Sarah ordered a Margarita and I had one of their giant martinis. About the third one for each of us, we decided we better begin eating something or fall off our stools. We talked about everything, finding out that we had both gone to the same high school, except that I graduated three years before she did. The more we talked, the more we knew the same people. I finally asked her where her folks lived.
"They live in Custer Estates on Highland."
"No way, what number?" I asked.
"The address is 17104 Highland, they've lived there for probably thirty years."
When I finally closed my mouth, I opened it again saying, "I grew up there and my folks still live at 17710 Highland. That's only six blocks from your house."
Sarah smiled, "Small world isn't it, wonder why we never met before. I'll bet I even sold your folks Girl Scout cookies, unless you have sisters."
That reminded me, "Do you remember Nancy Thomas from school?"
.... There is more of this story ...