Assignment: Write a narrative essay. Any subject.
I've heard about jobless rates in America endlessly every single day on the morning news, the afternoon news, and the evening news. While opening up the morning paper I am routinely accosted by various charts and graphs boldly colored in red depicting the dire nature of our economy. It became easy for me to become desensitized by the constantly streaming bad news especially since I'd been employed by the same company since 1996 and felt very secure in my job. Recent developments brought this epidemic too close to home, making it impossible to ignore.
Beginning on a Wednesday the crazy, unfathomable rumors made their way around the massive tin building like wildfire, filling every employee's heart with dread. The recent economic downturn that had made life more difficult for many people now seemed to have my employer in its crosshairs. One rumor claimed an entire 3rd shift would be eliminated, cast out like day old soup. The other rumor purported that a "big" meeting would be held on Friday to discuss jobs or more importantly job losses. While none of the sensational rumors turned out to be exactly correct, like the pattern of a shotgun blast they circled the devastating truth.
By Thursday the increasingly sour feeling in the pit of my stomach would no longer allow me to eat. Everything seemed to slow down to a snails pace. Management avoided employees' questions, averting their eyes when passing them in the hall. The only "boss" who I thought would give me a straight answer could only offer: "There will be no meeting. No discussion." The hand writing plastered the walls like neon signs on Main Street.
Time stood absolutely still on the morning of Friday, the 13th of February in my thirteenth year of employment at Rotometrics. I awoke wide eyed, several hours too early, not waking from a nightmare but waking into one. The urgent need to get to work completely overtook me with an iron resolve to face any fate that may or may not come. Driving slowly through the parking lot, I half expected the building to look like one of the castles in a Dracula movie, complete with bats, a moat and drawbridges slamming shut. Entering the building through the cafeteria as I do every day, the stark contrast of the atmosphere immediately became apparent. The large room usually filled with people sipping coffee and eating glazed donuts before their shift started, remained empty except for one man who stood staring at a blank wall. Walking the plank of life, I continued on to my desk intent on beginning my day of work.
The constant ringing of telephones and drone of mindless chatter were noticeably absent, the only sound being the ominous hum of the fluroescent lights overhead. Co-workers remained at their desks, silently contemplating, each one going over their own worst case scenario in their heads. A pile of work sat mockingly on my desk, daring me to complete it before possibly being handed my final paycheck, a last grain of salt rubbed into the open wound. Concentration left me. Disjointed thoughts remained, some frighteningly crazy, funhouse thoughts skewed and escalating out of proportion.
A sound from behind ripped me out of that other dimension, causing my heart to beat double time. I spun around in my chair to discover a man who works in the department next to mine standing behind me. He whispered conspiratorially: "they're done with your department".
Done? I hadn't been aware that they'd started! In this mausoleum like silence how did I completely miss someone being fired, packing up twenty years of family photos, magazines, coffee mugs, even houseplants and then walking out the door? Running over to the suspected victim's desk, I found the computer turned off and every personal effect gone. Just like that.
With this revelation I could no longer sit silently and stew in my own emotions, so I begin to converse with my co-workers, exchanging facts and speculations. Looking over our shoulders gossip flew, names piling up of people systematically fired and shown the door. Occasionally someone working in the shop would enter our office looking dumbstruck, to relate the drama being played outside our doors: a steady stream of employees, some crying hysterically, some stoic, escorted away by their immediate supervisor.
Finally after an excruciating morning agonizing over the unknown, our boss entered the room. After informing us that we still had jobs, he delivered quite an eloquent line of corporate rhetoric meant to ease our minds and stroke our egos. An almost audible sigh of relief escaped everyone although halfway through his speech you could see the wheels turning in everyone's head. Our boss wielded the axe. The unenviable task of notifying people they no longer had a job, a career or a paycheck belonged to him. Short lived relief became still more fear and uncertainty. Would it be one of us next?
As I went home that evening the ill feeling I'd endured all day lingered on. I could find no joy in knowing that while I still had a job on Monday, many of the people I'd worked with for years did not. In my mind I could picture the chart I would see in the Saturday paper, the red bolder than ever, the arrows soaring higher before my eyes. Headlines I can ignore no longer ignore.