This story is inspired by a story by a writer that goes by Bigguy33. I took his story and reverse engineered it a bit. It’s not the same story, but it is the same theme. I hope he considers it a tribute.
“Wait, what did you say?” I was in my wife’s office. She was the head honcho of the division, the big cheese. Me, I was a lowly accounts representative, quite a bit down the food chain. I was a little nervous at first when she came on board, but there were several levels of management between us, so it was all good, I thought. Maybe not.
“You’re numbers are way down, Mr. Waxman. You were the worst performer of the year in your division. I’m afraid we had no choice. X is waiting outside to escort you to your office to collect your things.” X stood for Xavier, one of our two security guards.
We always called each other Mr and Ms in work settings, to keep it more professional. She kept her last name for professional reasons, so she said, but everybody in the office knew we were married. I even had a picture of her on my desk, of her shaking the hand of the Chairman of the Board as she received her promotion.
“That’s it? Nine years of loyal service to this company and I’m terminated because my numbers are off? If you had bothered to listen to me, you would know...”
“Please, stop. The decision has been made. Let’s not make it any harder than it has to be.”
For some reason, that struck me as funny. “Listen, Pink, I mean Ms Patterson, I really...”
She must have hit some button, because all of a sudden three hundred pounds of black muscle was in the room with us. “Xavier, would you please escort Mr. Waxman to his desk to collect his things. Best of luck to you Mr. Waxman, perhaps this will encourage you to try harder at your next position.”
X definitely looked embarrassed, but he had his own job to do. I looked at him and grinned. “C’mon X. Like the lady said, let’s not make it any harder than it has to be.”
She was still talking when I went out the door. Everyone avoided looking at me, which told me most of them knew beforehand. That definitely didn’t improve my mood. I walked slowly, looking those who would glance at me in the eye. They looked away every time, and the women actually blushed. I kept very little in the way of personal items in my office, so it didn’t take fifteen minutes to pack one small box. I was walking out when X stopped me.
“You forgot this, Mr. Waxman,” he said, handing me the expensive pen and pencil set she had given me when I made Salesman Of The Year the first time. I looked at it for a second and dropped it in the wastebasket with her picture.
“No, I didn’t”
He drove me home, so he could take the company car back. After several attempts at conversation he got the message and shut up. As I got out he reached over to shake my hand. I took it, because it was just his job and I really liked the guy. “Sorry, man. Sorry it happened like that.”
I grinned, even though I didn’t feel like it. “Me too.”
I walked in, looking at the house like it was the very first time I ever saw it. I realized suddenly there was very little of my presence in the house. It seems she was minimalizing me at home as well as work. It made me wonder if I had a performance issue at home, and if I’d be canned if I didn’t keep my numbers up.
She came in about seven, late even for her. I was watching a baseball game and didn’t even look up. “Hi, honey, sorry I’m late. Meetings ran over, you know how the Board loves the sound of their own voices.”
I didn’t respond, just kept watching the game. She looked at me for a minute before deciding to try a different track. “What’s for dinner?”
It had been our practice over the years that whoever got home first made dinner. It had occurred to me as I examined our relationship that she probably hadn’t fixed dinner more than a dozen times in the last year, anad most of those times were because I was travelling.
“Whatever you decide to fix yourself. I’ve already eaten.”
She just stared for a minute before she opened her mouth and started the worst fight of our marriage. “Surely you’re not mad about today. It was a business decision, honey. It had nothing to do with you personally. I still love you just as much.”
“For an executive and a fairly intelligent person, I can’t help but think in this case you’re a fucking moron! And by the way, yes, I am angry. In fact, I’m pissed beyond words. You handled the whole thing very badly. Had I ever gotten an unfavorable review in all the time I’d work there? Where’s the paper trail of warnings, counseling, and reprimands? Sure, my numbers were down, but there’s a very good reason. One you never bothered to discover. I...”
“Stop begging! I’m sure I did the right thing professionally.”
It shocked me so bad I did stop talking for a minute. She smiled and started to speak, but I exploded. “Fuck you, the Board, and every other asshole in the company! YOU WERE NOT PROFESSIONAL, YOU WERE NOT REASONABLE, AND YOU DAMN SURE WEREN’T INTERESTED IN ANYTHING I HAD TO SAY. Tell me, how much input did Adler have in this?”
She was reeling at my outburst. She actually stuttered for a minute before she got it out. “He’s been concerned for months, and was very nervous when he brought me the numbers. You had gone from being one of our top producers to the absolute worst. I had no choice! I had to send the message that no matter who you were, if you didn’t produce, you were gone. It was the only way I had to keep the respect of the people under me.”
“Once again, a fucking moron. I’ve been thinking all afternoon, now that I had some free time. When did you stop respecting me as a man and an employee? If you’d had the least bit of love for me personally, or regard professionally, you would have handled this completely differently. You could have tried talking to me, give me a heads up, and if it got bad, you could have offered me a chance to resign. Do you have any idea how hard it’s going to be for me to find another position? If I can’t perform well enough for my wife, someone who is supposed to love me, why would strangers trust me to do a good job? You’ve fucked me in this town, I’ll have a hell of a time landing a job now. It not like I can whip out a glowing review from my old company, now is it? I’ve said enough. If we continue, we, or rather I, may say some things that can’t be taken back. Why don’t you get some dinner, and I’ll finish watching the game.”
She tried one more time. “I never thought you’d take it so badly. It’s just business, honey. We’ll be fine. And don’t worry about a job, I make more than enough to keep us...”
I held up my hand. “Please, stop while you’re losing. I’d bet you’d love to turn me into a househusband, it would cement your reputation as a tough as nails CEO. I can hear them now. “Watch out for that one. She’s so tough she fired her husband and turned him into a little house bitch. Bet she’s the one who’s on top when they fuck, if she isn’t banging him with a strapon. Wonder if she makes him wear panties around the house? Well, you can forget that shit. I’ll eventually land another position somewhere, even if it’s not here. Now please, stop talking.”
I’d finally managed to piss her off. “Fine! Sulk! Get angry! It might give you enough motivation to do a good job next time. FYI, honey, your little tantrum put the skids on the extra good loving I had intended to give you tonight. Looks like it’ll be you and your fingers if you want any release in the near future.”
I shrugged. “Fine. At least they won’t fire me if I don’t perform as expected.”
That one hit her hard. She tried forming words until she finally screamed in frustration and stomped out of the room. I heard her rattling pans in the kitchen, so I assume she made her dinner. A little while later I heard her go up the stairs. She came back in the ‘absolutely no sex for you tonight’ outfit, and old tee shirt and ratty sweatpants. I think it upset that I didn’t comment. We sat, and I let the silence stretch. Finally she spoke.
“I’m sorry, okay? I wrestled with it a long time before I made the decision. I do love you, and it isn’t the end of the world. We can...”
“We can stop talking about it. What’s done is done, and you can’t unring the bell. I’m going to bed. I need to get up early and put some feelers out, see if I can salvage anything out of the fiasco you turned my life into. Good night.”
She floundered for something to say, before settling on “I’ll be up in a little while.”
I was already asleep when she woke me with her scream. Seems when she changed she never noticed that my things were gone. I was in the largest guestroom with attached bath, and planned to stay there awhile. Soon she was knocking on the door, demanding I let her in. I just turned back over, wondering how mad she’d be when she realized I’d changed the lock on the door and she didn’t have a key. Ten minutes later I heard the lock rattle. A few minutes after that I heard a sigh, and then I went to sleep.
Jen brought her boss her standard coffee and pastry the next morning, as well as her own. She had been with her since her first promotion, as seretary and later private assistant. Jen loved her for how she treated her, and was the one person in the company who was able to tell her the truth without worry of repercussions. Jen pulled a chair next to the desk, and they went through their morning ritual of coffee and personal time.
“How’d it go when you got home?”
Her boss sighed. “Not good. Not good at all. He said more swear words in two hours than I’ve heard from him in all the years we’ve been together. Apparently when he’s angry the truth comes out, and he thinks very little of my management skills. He even moved out of the bedroom, and changed the lock on the one he moved into. Have I told you he threw the pen set he kept on his desk in the trash? Along with my picture? Really, why is he taking it so hard?”
Jen looked at her boss with sad eyes. “I warned you. You should have left him some dignity. The way you did it was really cold, boss.”
“I had to do it that way! I was sending a message to everyone. No one is bulletproof if you’re not performing to standard. How did the rank and file take it?”
“Well Bev, it’s divided. Most of the men and some of the women think you’re a screaming bitch. A few admire you, but it’s very few. A surprising number are updating their resumes, saying that a company that fires people with no warning whatsoever is not a company they want to work for. Two more of your salesmen say they’ve seen the writing on the wall. One already has an interview lined up, and I suspect that in two weeks time he’ll be gone. The other is thinking about relocating to be closer to his aging parents, and this is the incentive he says he needs.”
Beverly couldn’t believe her words. This wasn’t what she had in mind at all. She thought that if she showed them regardless of who it was she meant business when it came to the company, everyone would work harder. She had no intention of sparking an exodus. This could be very bad. Very, very bad. She knew that in a couple of years she would be in line for a board seat, maybe eventually Chairman. This might slow those plans down considerably.
Jen brought her back to reality. “What are you going to do about your husband?”
She waved her hands dismissively, still thinking about her job. “Give him a little time and space, I guess. He really does love me, he’ll come around.”
Jen had an idea it was going to take more than that, but held her silence. She had been loyal to Beverly all these years, but if things got bad, if people started leaving, she needed an exit plan. She had her own family to worry about ... DAVE I’m shamed to say I spent the next three weeks being spectacularly unproductive. I stopped going to the gym, stopped eating right and was drunk more than I was sober. I did nothing around the house, leaving a mess wherever I felt like. Bev tried being supportive at first, enduring my cutting remarks, until finally sinking into silence. I did note that she spent a lot more time at work. I guess she felt more comfortable there, where she was Queen.
Then I went through a phase of not bathing. After three days Bev finally had enough. “For God’s sake, Dave, man up! You stink and you’ve got a pretty good start on a pot belly. You might like living like a pig, but I don’t. I’m sorry, all right? I could have handled it better, but as you said, I can’t unring the bell.”
Her face softened. “Please honey, I miss the old you. I miss you in our bed, and I miss you in me. It’s been almost a month, why won’t you come back to me?”
I held up my fingers and wiggled them. “I’m kind of involved now. They seem to love me, and have never once complained about my performance, or offered to terminate me. Besides, you’re already in a committed relationship.”
She went white, then red. “You asshole! I have never cheated on you, not once in all the time we’ve been married. Although I have to admit, once the word got out we weren’t getting along that well, I’ve had offers.”
“We’ll get back to that in just a minute. And you’ve cheated on me our whole marriage. Not with a man, but with a job. It will always have first call on your time, you will always put it first above any needs I may have. Know how many anniversaries we’ve missed celebrating together? Eight, out of thirteen years. Something was always more important at work than spending time with the man you supposedly loved above all others. Don’t get me started on missed birthdays, the times you broke commitments with both our parents and good friends. Ever notice how rarely you see your parents now, or how many old friends we used to have that we haven’t socialized with in years? You just never seem to be able to spare the time. I’m really glad now we never had children, they would think they’re living in a single parent home because they would never see you. As for your offers, how many have come from people higher in the organization? I can’t imagine you fucking down, it would have to be someone who could help your career somehow.”
I felt bad for her for just a second, looking at the pained expression on her face. I got over it when she slapped the hell out of me, the first time either had ever touched the other in anger. I looked about thirty minutes later, and the print was still on my cheek.
“You sonofabitch! Don’t you know I’m doing all this for us, so we can retire while we’re both still young enough to enjoy it? So I’m not Miss Congeniality, and I apologized every time I missed an anniversary or major event in our lives. And we agreed no children, I couldn’t afford the distraction, so don’t throw that up to me. As for the offers, yes, some were from people who could help my career. But I would never have an affair, because I still love you and could never betray you like that, but you need to get your act together, so get showered, dressed, shaved, and let the woman who loves you take you out for dinner.”
She stopped, out of breath from emotion and the long speech. I gave her a sad smile. “Sorry, I’ve already had dinner, three burritos and a large fry. And on the subject of children, I didn’t want to be a biological dead end. I loved you so much at the time, though, that the choice was easy. Still hurt, though, when my clients used to pull out pictures of their families. What was I going to show them? We don’t even have a fucking dog.
You’re right though, the pity party has to stop. I’m going upstairs to shower, shave, and try to turn back in to a real person. I’ll hit the gym three times a day for a while, after all, what else do I have to do? Thanks for the motivational seminar.”
She just stood there in shock, from the words and the fact that she’d hit me. Bev was smart enough not to follow me, although when I got downstairs she was very contrite and apologized.
“I’m sorry, but you don’t know how hard this is on me. One business decision shouldn’t destroy a good marriage like this. Please, I’m sorry I had to fire you, but it was in the best interests of the company. Like I’ve told you many times before, it was just business. It doesn’t mean I love you any less.”
I sighed. “Look, Bev, I know you think in your heart you did the right thing. Firing me was just the final straw. I’ve played second fiddle to your career our whole marriage, and frankly, I’m done. I hope the Board chair can keep you warm at night, that the raises and accolades will make up for the loss of grandchildren to dote on. I hope your success fills the void of a sterile life, without family, or close friends.”
I paused. “And is it hard on you because you regret how you handled things and hurt me so badly, or is it hard because suddenly people are leaving? You created a hostile work environment when you did this to me. People don’t respect you anymore, they fear you, afraid you’ll arbitrarily fire them at any time. That can’t be condusive to a productive workforce. Don’t look so shocked, I actually had friends there, and every time I see one they fill me in. And before you ask, I say nothing to denigrate you, I only say you were sure of your actions at the time. I’m curious as to how you’re going to handle it when the numbers drop and the Chairman pops round for a visit. Better hire a really good spin doctor, if you don’t already have one.”
I sighed, quietly. “Bev, I shouldn’t do this, but I’m going to tell you now this is going to get a lot worse. Be prepared for what’s coming in the next few weeks. Now, if you will excuse me, I have some serious gym time to make up for.”
Beverly was lying in bed, feeling sorry for herself, going over the conversation when it hit her. he said “I loved you so much at the time” She was still wondering if he still loved her when she finally drifted off into a fitful sleep.
BEVERLY I found myself sitting with Jen three days later, pouring her heart out. “I just don’t know what to do any longer. Everything I say or try he turns around on me. I’m beginning to understand he’s carried these resentments around for years, but held them in. He hasn’t touched me sexually in almost eight weeks. I had to buy a vibrator to keep the edge off or I’d be climbing the walls. I can’t believe he turned down the job opportunity I wrangled for him. He didn’t even wait for me to get home, he came here while you were running an errand for me, and exploded. I’m very glad it was lunch time and most everyone was out of the office or in the breakroom.”
“Why did he get so angry when you were just trying to help him?”
“Well, I had to promise the President over there I’d spread a little of our business his way if he helped me out. Things were going well until the final sitdown, and the guy laid it out. He was only hiring him as a direct favor to me, and only then after I had made some concessions. He then told Dave he was giving him the absolutely worst territory, and if he didn’t bring the numbers up quickly he wouldn’t make it past the probation period. Just because your wife carried you all those years, he told him, he wouldn’t be as understanding.”
“What did Dave do?”
“He stood up, and politely thanked the man for the interview. Then he turned and left, coming straight here. The President called me just after he left, and raised hell with me because he just walked out. Then he demanded that I keep my commitment to him.”
They changed the subject, talking general business, when the receptionist called and said she had a gentleman there who wanted to see her, but he didn’t have an appointment. “He says he only needs five minutes, if you would be so kind. He says he has something to deliver.”
Curious, Bev had him escorted to her office. He was a large man with a friendly face, dressed impeccably in a nice suit and tie. He thanked her for her time, and got down to business.
“Ms. Beverly Patterson? Or should I address you as Mrs. David Waxman?”
“I go by my maiden name here, for professional reasons. What can I do for you today?”
He really looked apologetic when he handed her the papers. “I’m sorry ma’am, but you’ve been served. Good Day, I’ll find my own way out.”
Beverly looked at the large envelope, and fainted.
She came to her senses on her sofa, Jen and X had placed her there, and Jen was wiping her face with a cold cloth. “What happened?”
“I fainted? Why would I faint?”
Jen held the envelope and it all flooded back. I started crying uncontrollably. It took me twenty minutes to cry it out. In a trembling voice, I asked Jen to open it and tell her how bad it was.
Jen opened it up and nearly fainted herself. She read through them with intense concentration, before placing them gently on the table in front of the couch.
“The good news, Beverly, is that he’s not filing for divorce.”
I started smiling again, but Jen held her hand up. “He’s doing something a lot worse. He’s suing the company, you, Bob Adler, and the Chairman of the Board for wrongful termination and mental cruelty. You need to get hold of him fast Beverly, and talk him into withdrawing all this, or your career here is over. It doesn’t matter whether he wins or loses, the bad publicity will be enormous. IF you get to keep your job, you’ll never rise any higher.”
I nearly fainted again, before pulling myself together and driving straight home, trying my best to set a land speed record for a luxury SUV. All I found was a note on the dining room table.
“I’m sorry Ms Patterson but you crossed the line. My lawyer assures me it’s pretty much a slam dunk, and your Board will do just about anything to keep it quiet. She was pretty ticked when I told her I would accept no deals, that I intended to make this as public as possible. Don’t bother looking for me, on her advice I’ve moved out, at least temporarily. I still love you, though I don’t understand why. When this is over I’m willing to go into counseling if you are. Maybe we can find our way back to each other. Maybe not, but I want to at least try. Oh, and if it makes any difference, I got a job, something new for me, and I look forward to it. We’ll talk soon.”
I leaned back in the kitchen chair, watching my life and career go up in flames.
Just when I thought my life couldn’t get any worse, It did. Two weeks had gone by, and the hearing was in four days. The Board had sent an independent HR expert and a lawyer in, and it didn’t look good. The discussions they’d had with the employees did not paint her as the best of bosses.
I was sitting in her chair, staring into space instead of working, when Bob Adler burst into the room. She had always liked Bob, had actively recruited him, and he’d done a really good job up until now. He’d flirted hard after I had fired Dave and I had leaned on him to help with the pain. I was lonely and depressed, and when he offered to take me to dinner to forget my problems for a while I accepted. We wnded up drinking way too much wine and when he kissed me it felt so good I didn’t stop him. Then reason kicked in and I pushed him away. He apologized and I stopped any nonprofessional contact, even though he pleaded with me to give it a chance.
“Goddamnit, Bev, you need to do something about this! Solomon Enterprises just called, and have decided not to sign the contract. There goes eighteen per cent of our business! All they said was they’d found a cheaper, more reliable source who’s quality matched or exceeded ours. They told me they would be glad to let us bid next year, but it had better be something spectacular if this new supplier worked out. If that’s not enough, Apex and Stuart industries have both been hinting they may go to someone else. That’s another eight per cent.”
That was absolutely the last thing I wanted to hear. If we lost a quarter of our business, especially while they were tied up in the wrongful termination case, I was toast, as well as Adler and maybe a few others. I needed to move on this quickly. I sent Bob out, especially when he started pestering me for another date, saying it would be okay now that she was separated. I wasn’t sure I had a marriage left, but a sure fire way to finish it would be go out with Bob and Dave to find out. I reached for the phone.
“Hello, Mr. Soloman. Thank you for taking my call.”
“You’re welcome, Beverly, and how many times have I asked you to call me Sal? I’d like to think after all this time we were friends.”
“We are, Sal. Tell Susan hello for me, and I hear your daughter just got her MBA from Wharton. Is she going to be the future of Soloman Enterprises?”
He laughed. “I hope so, the girl is already smarter than I ever was. I’m giving her three years, then Susan and I intend to sail away into the sunset.”
“That sounds lovely. Sal. I’m guessing you know why I’m calling?”
“Yes. I’m sorry Beverly, the new supplier is cheaper, faster, and exceeds our quality standards. The difference is significant enough that I can’t walk away from it.”
“Have you signed the contracts yet?”
“Not yet, but we’re scheduled to finish up the paperwork in two weeks.”
“Good. Please Sal, give me a chance to see if I can match or better their deal. One meeting, that’s all I ask.”
He sighed. “All right. For old times sake, I’ll give you one shot. Set it up and I’ll be there.”
I was sure I could win the business back when I talked to Sal, so I stopped worrying about that and focused on the upcoming hearing.
DAVE I was at loose ends, and about to go out of my mind. It looked like if I had any hope of finding anything in my line of work I was going to have to expand the search area, and that meant moving. I was at the gym, straining my guts out, wondering if I had a marriage left at all. Yes, I had coasted the last year, but she never once allowed me to tell her my line of thought. She didn’t know I had deliberately let orders dwindle, or that my core base of customers were fine with it.
It was blind chance that after I left the gym I ran into Sal Soloman and his wife Susan. He had been one of my first customers, in fact, we went back eight years. After we got past the customer/salesman relationship, I was treated like family. I once told Susan she was the smart aunt I’d wished I had when I was growing up. That statement cemented our relationship, and I have even introduced her to others as my favorite aunt. Susan would giggle and coo, and Sal would grin at her antics.
“Sal, Susan! What a surprise! It’s so good to see you, are you in town on business?”
“All pleasure, I’m happy to say. We just got out of the theatre. I’ve always wanted to see The Odd Couple, and this is supposed to be the best touring version of the revival around. When we found out they would be here but miss us, we just had to come.”
Sal just smiled, he once told me his real job was to make his wife happy, and his business was just a means to that end. He never forgot a birthday or anniversary, and most of his employees benefitted from it, because he instituted a policy of giving you a half day off the day on your wedding anniversary, and the whole day off afterwards, to recover, as he put it. And he paid you for the time off.
Turnover in his office and factories were the lowest in the state, someone had to pass or move away before there was an opening. Every woman got roses and chocolates on her birthday, and every man got something in line with his hobbies, be it a box of golf balls, a new fishing reel, or fine cigars. Executives came to his business to observe his operation, and while many changed nothing, a few copied him.
They insisted I join them, and for ninety minutes I forgot my problems and admired what a true relationship was. Eventually though, they brought up my situation. Susan was baffled, and Sal was a little ticked. “You were one of her best. I really don’t understand it. Did she not understand your reasoning?”
“She never gave me a chance to explain, Sal, just called me into her office and fired me in the most public way possible. It’s poisoned the well locally. It looks like I’ll be moving soon.”
Susan spoke up. “Does Beverly know you’re considering this? Is she willing to go with you?”
“No, she doesn’t know yet, and she would never leave her lover, Susan. And before you ask, I have to believe she’s never cheated on me, at least physically. No, her lover is her job, and like a skilled seducer, it’s offered her things I could never compete with.”
Sal was quietly for a minute, then grinned. “Since you’re at loose ends, my boy, pop by and see me in the next couple of days. I may be able to help you out.”
With nothing else better to do, I was in his office three days later. We talked general business for a few minutes, when he asked what on the surface was an innocent question.
“Ever hear of the RGP Group?”
I had indeed. A new company out of South Korea, they were trying to break into the U.S. market. I’d met the youngest son of the owner in an airport while we both waited on a delayed flight. We found out what each other did, and he happily showed me some of his products on his laptop. I looked them over and realized they would be in direct competition with my company. Luckily for me, they were concentrating on the West Coast, far from us.
He was a likeable guy, though. His father had sent him to the U.S. to knock on doors. Unused to American ways, he had an entourage with him, but most were just as clueless as he was. Since we ended up in the same towns a lot I kind of took him under my wing. I lost contact with him when they sent him to the midwest, basing him in Chicago. I breathed a little sigh of relief, his products were high quality, and their prices were almost thirty per cent less than ours.
I knew he didn’t ask the question casually, and grinned. “Yeah, I know of them. I’m even kind of friends with the youngest son of the owner, but I haven’t talked to him in over a year.”
Sal looked a little embarassed. “They’re expanding into our area. I talked to a few people who’ve used their product, and all seem to be satisfied. I haven’t responded to them mostly because of you. Your stuff is higher, but you always kept your word, always delivered on time, always followed up if we had a problem.
Us, Stuart, and a few others took your advice when you demonstrated the latest version, and we’ve been retooling for the better part of the year, using up old inventory. I don’t know about the others, but I have about a month’s supply before I’ll be completely changed over. We find ourselves in a unique position, RGP’s version fits even better into our plans than your old company. The main reason I wanted you to come by was to ask your advice and offer you a job. Instead of selling, why don’t you try buying? My purchasing mamager is retiring, and we still haven’t found anyone we feel will fit. With your experience in sales, vendors would have a hard time trying to take advantage. After all, you know all the tricks, right? Besides, most either know you or know your reputation, so it’ll cut down on a lot of haggling. What were you making before you got fired, and I don’t mean now, I mean your best year?”
Stunned, I told him. “Not a problem there. In fact, I can probably go five or ten grand better, and work in performance and savings bonuses. Why don’t you give it a try? Even if it doesn’t work or you decide it’s not for you, it’ll look good on your resume when they see you’ve done some work on both sides of the business.”
In the end, I decided to give it a try. It beat moving out of state, and I was a little excited about it, the first time since I got fired I was excited about anything. I went home to my apartment, actually happy to be there. Our house was really her house, an edifice to her success. She’d often remind me in small ways that if our salaries had been equal we could never have afforded it. I thought a little about the upcoming hearing, and sighed. I wondered how much of what I was doing was seeking justice and how much was revenge. Probably half and half.
I knew if I won, her career was over. Even if she got to keep her job, it was as far as she would ever go in the company. If I lost, it would still take years to recover from the damage. Would I be happy if I was vindicated? Probably. Would I be happy about hurting her career? In honesty, I would, just a bit. Not because of who we were, but because she needed an object lesson in how to treat people, and remind her the world didn’t revolve around her.
Thinking back to when we first got together, I remembered a freshfaced young woman who had set goals, her determination as strong as her abilites. I remember when she got her first promotion. I’d taken her out to dinner to celebrate, at a place we normally couldn’t afford. When she objected I showed her my very first bonus check, telling her she wasn’t the only one in the company who was rewarded for hard work. As fresh as it was yesterday, I remembered the lovemaking, the celebration of two young people desperately in love and on top of the world. I also remembered afterwards, as we lay exhausted, her head on my chest, her hand rubbing across my stomach as I toyed with her hair, thinking things were just going to get better.
Long story short, they didn’t. Get better, I mean. I watched as each promotion sent her a litle farther away from me. Her clothes got more expensive, her makeup and hair done by top of the line professionals, and how angry she got if I even tried to kiss her before we out to one function or another, always with her as the center of attention. I remembered standing around mostly ignored, feeling useless. Finally I stopped going except on really important events. Bev was pissed at first, saying it sent the wrong message, before spinning it to look like it was her idea. I nearly tore her head off when it got back to me she told people I didn’t come because I was embarrassed I couldn’t keep up with the conversations. I made it a point to go to every fuction for a while, seek someone important to her, clients especially, and have long, indepth conversations about things she never had a clue I even remotely knew about. It got to the point she asked me to tone it down, so the focus could be on her.
Well, today’s the day, I thought as I walked towards the conference room at the local State Employment Office. My career would either be over or not, depending on the outcome of the negotiations.
I hadn’t seen my husband in almost three weeks, and was surprised at his appearance. He’d lost most of the spare tire, let his hair grow out a little and was sporting a closely trimmed beard. It made him look distinguished and young at the same time, if that was possible. There was what could only be described as a blonde bombshell sitting beside him, but I knew looks could be deceiving. This was Amanda Austin, one of the most experienced and feared labor lawyers in the state. She was there more as an observer, gathering more data for the lawsuit she knew was coming.
I had the best counterpart my company had to offer with me. He’d spent a little time coaching me on how to answer the inevitable questions, how to project confusion on how this had happened when all I was doing was what was best for the company. I asked him how he thought they would do.
“This case is a trainwreck waiting to happen. There’s no paper trail, no writeups, no warnings, no explanation of the consequences if he didn’t improve. His last review was very complimentary. By company policy you should have had his manager handle the termination, with someone from HR as a witness. He was entitled to an appeal, to the next person up the food chain, in this case you. Since you fired him and never gave him his chance to take it to a higher authority, you once again breached company policy. You know, I read your file before I came down, and you got really good reviews, the home office and the Board talked about you in the highest terms, yet here you are, making a mistake someone fresh out of college would avoid. I’ll do my best, but if he wants to make it ugly, we can’t stop him. Have you talked to him at all lately? Does he have any idea the negative impact this could have on your future?”
I had to admit she hadn’t at the time, which made his frown deeper, and that he probably knew almost exactly what would happen to me if it got bad.
Everyone sat down, and the arbitrator started the meeting. She had a video camera set up, to record everything. She started off by introducing herself as an arbitrator from the State Employment Commision, and explained that while we may reach some kind of agreement, it wasn’t binding until everything was written down and notarized. She also explained that if an agreement couldn’t be reached, or if either party disagreed with her decision, they were free to take it to the capitol or if that failed, court in the form of lawsuits.
First she thanked the HR representative for sending her a copy of company termination policy beforehand, so she could familiarize herself with our procedures.
Before she let anyone else speak, she asked a few questions. “Mr. Waxman, Ms. Patterson, I understand you are man and wife. True?” I said yes as positively as she could, and Dave just nodded. “Tell me, Ms. Patterson, if you will, how has this impacted your marriage? Do you consider what your husband is doing reasonable? I’d like to clear this up before it gets to the civil stage.”
Dave didn’t speak up, so I went first. “We are most definitely married, and will remain so. Yes, it has absolutely impacted our marriage. He’s moved out, hasn’t talked to me since he did, and now we’re here. I must have told him a hundred times what I did was just business, and it shouldn’t impact our private lives. I really don’t understand why he’s doing this.”
The arbitrator thought the woman delusional, how could it not impact their marriage? She had told him he had no value to the company, terminated him after nine years, sent him home, and couldn’t understand why he was angry? She turned to the husband. “Mr. Waxman, care to comment?”