Sunday, November 12, 2006

About that happy ending...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006, 5:45pm
Steve and Tim's house

"That's incredible," Tim shrieks. "You did it! You did it!"

"I can't believe it," I say.

"So, when do you start?"

"I told him I might need a month. He was okay with that. I haven't formally accepted yet."


"I had to talk to you first."

"Thank you, honey. Now take it!"

"Don't you have any questions?"

"Are you going to be travelling a lot? I don't want you getting stressed out."

"I might have to go to Thailand once every spring or summer. They'll pay for you to come with me, but only once a year."

"So if you go more than once a year and I want to come, we'd have to pay?"

"Yep. But I want you to."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Steve's office

This phone call is going to be fun. I've never spiked a football, but I bet it feels a lot like this.

"Steve, what have you learned today?"

"Actually, this phone call is about teaching you something, Dan."


"I've decided to resign. I'd like my last day to be Friday, September 15."


"Steve, I thought we had gotten past this."

"And now you see that we haven't. Right? This is the right move for me, for my health and sanity."

"Steve, it's career suicide. Career suicide, Steve!"

Big shots like Dan love to repeat themselves. They think they are so brilliant that, if they say something and it does not have the intended effect, they simply say it again, as if the only possible problem is that we didn't hear.

I knew he was going to regurgitate the "career suicide" bit, and I have an answer ready--actually, it's more like a story. And telling a story is exactly what Dan Johnson would do in my situation.

Shit! Am I turning into this guy?

"Did I ever tell you about Craig, my next-door neighbor?" I ask.

"I beg your pardon?"

"He lives next door to me. He's an avid jogger. Every morning, he jogs up a hill on a street adjacent to ours. There's heavy tree cover on either side of the road, no sidewalk. It's a narrow road, poor visibility, very unsafe. No way he should be jogging there."

"What's the point, Steve?"

"I asked him why he jogs there. He says it's the steepest incline in the area. He loves the workout he gets jogging up that hill, and he hates treadmills. His resting heart rate is in the 40's. He brags about it! And you know what I told him?"


"I said, in the morgue, everyone has a heart rate of zero."

He chuckles.

"It doesn't matter how great the workout is; the cost is too high. He's risking his life jogging up that road. One day, he's going to get hit by a truck and die."

"Cost-benefit," he says softly.

"Yes. The cost outweighs the benefit. It doesn't matter what this job has to offer me. There are too many consequences for staying here."

Could I be convincing him this easily?

He breathes deeply. That means a speech is coming. Shit.

"That's a wonderful story, Steve. Your point is well thought out. But this is not a matter of life or death. You're not playing in traffic; you're leaving a lucrative job with a promising future at a Fortune 500 company. The sky is the limit for you, Steve."


"Steve, other men do your job. Lesser men. Men who are less talented, who have less energy."

Ah, I see. So I'm a lazy slug!

"What are you saying, exactly, Dan?"

"I'm saying try harder."

"I'm done, Dan."

"Try. Harder."

"September 15, Dan. That's the date. I would advise you to have a replacement ready."



Friday, August 25, 2006, 6:55PM
Steve and Tim's house

Dan calling, my phone says.

It's not unusual for Dan to call me after hours, but I have a bad feeling nonetheless. We haven't spoken since I hung up on him Wednesday, and I have been expecting a lecture.

"Good evening, Steven."

This is not the after-hours Dan Johnson, who makes bad jokes and asks what I've learned today. This is Dan Johnson, businessman, who makes million-dollar decisions while sitting on the toilet.

"Hello, Dan." I don't ask how he is doing, or what I can do for him. I ask nothing, so he has no segue into what he wants to talk about. I have no intention of making this easy.

"Steve, I need to talk to you." It's the voice he uses in the boardroom, and with customers. Whatever he has to say, it's not good.

"I have a few minutes," I say.

"Steve, I hate to say this to you, because you know how I feel about you. But, sometimes past mistakes can come back to haunt you when you least expect it."

As opposed to those future mistakes that come back to haunt me?

"What mistakes?"

He takes a breath. "Steve, I trust you are well aware of our fraternization policy."

Yes, I violated the policy, with Lila. I probably violated the policy 150 times. And I confessed as much to Dan himself, two years ago, back when I was a rubber-kneed, babytalking, lovesick doofus, and could not have cared less if I was fired or not, as long as I could lay down next to Lila at night and be blissfully intoxicated by her green apple-scented shampoo. After I confessed, the whole thing went away. There were no consequences. I knew it was too easy.

But why is he bringing this up now? Does he want to fire me? Why bother? I'm quitting!

Maybe he wants to destroy my career by letting this information slip out. But, as I've already admitted, my career might be over already, and I'm not sure that spreading this kind of story about me would be worth the risk.

Maybe it's a bargaining chip, I think.

"What are you getting at, Dan?" I bark, discarding any sense of decorum I was pretending to have.

"Dating a subordinate is a serious offense. It exposes the entire company, Steve, all of us. Our livelihood, our--"

"I get the point," I say. I'm in no mood for an academy-award winning speech.

"The point is," he says, "that dating a subordinate is expressly forbidden by company policy. And if we were to ever find out that it happened, it would be grounds for immediate termination. For both parties."

That son of a bitch. If I insist on quitting, he's going to conveniently find out about my relationship with Lila from two years ago, and fire us both. I am leaving anyway, but Lila has no plans to quit. She's been doing a great job for us, and has a bright future. Dan knows I won't want her termination on my head.

"So this is what you're being reduced to, Dan? Blackmail? You're going to blackmail me into working for you?"

"She's a good employee, Steve. It would be a damn shame if we had to fire her. And it would be a shame to lose you, too. The company won't be the same without you. Your employees need you, and the company needs you. Just promise me you'll think about it."

"Yeah, I'll think about it. And maybe I'll stay, and maybe I won't. But either way, I've lost all respect for you as a human being. As far as I am concerned, you don't exist to me anymore. I'm sure you don't care about that, but I need you to know it anyway. I used to look up to you, and now..."

"You're angry now, Steve. Take some time to cool off. Go for a long drive and think it over. Someday you will thank me."

"I doubt it."