Archive for the ‘Don’t Hang Up!’ Category
I’m reading “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett. 802 pages long, the first in his trilogy about the 20th century. Since he is 62, I suspect this trilogy will take years of research and writing, and may be his swan song after a long, successful career that began with “Eye of the Needle” when he was 27. Prior to this, he had already published five books before striking the mother lode. He is one of those dedicated, working writers who can now choose to write the books that he wants to.
After reading about him, I ask myself, What if I had stayed on the writing path that I started on when I was 12? Would I now be a recognized author? Maybe, but I would have spent my life doing something that I loved. While I also loved my advertising career, the difference is that I worked for others to promote other people’s products rather than my own.
When I was 12, and reluctantly living in Mexico (after being informed that we were not going home to England), I sat down at my mother’s Remington and typed my first book, “The Glass Stag.” 240 pages, double-spaced. Then I revised and rewrote it three times. My next book came at 13 (considered and rejected by MacMillan as excellent but no audience for a book written by a teenager). At 14, I joined an adult read and critique group, where I wrote my third book.
I knew for certain that I would become a writer.
Then why did I stray from that path?
Young love, having fun, moving, a career, New York and London took over my life. Until I was 21 and in a dull marketing job where I wrote lots of poetry. One day, I looked out of the filthy office window and thought, Is this how I want to spend my life? I quit, typed scripts at the BBC part-time for a living, and spent several months writing a book. This time, I was on track.
Until the day I met the love of my love who whisked me off for a year of high style living and travel before we broke up.
Back I went to a high-flying job as PR for an airline (pun intended) until marriage and a kid led me back to the corporate world and to Mexico, another marriage, another child, and then as a single mother supporting my kids.
Once, a friend from my first read and critique group, who had published several books, took the manuscript written years before in London to his top New York agent who got all excited about it. “Just clean it up and send it back,” he asked. It was a week before my second marriage, I was about to start a new job, and I had a two-year old to look after. The timing was off. I never did.
Fast forward to forced early retirement from advertising, a failed business, and the urge to create came back. In a golden four and a half months, I typed out (yes, an electric typewriter) the first draft of my opus, “Recognition.” As I rewrote 2nd and 3rd drafts, I supported myself with part-time work teaching English and selling my belongings. The agent from before, one of New York’s best, agreed to read it twice, both times sending me encouraging rejection letters. Over the following years, I wrote another seven drafts, joined several writing groups, and often followed up on comments made by agents in the numerous rejection letters. My first chapter won an award. But after seven years with “Recognition,” I wasn’t getting anywhere. So I stuck it in the closet.
I wrote another first draft of a novel, and a personal memoir (five drafts) that everyone, except for me, in three writing groups praised and loved. I was a weekly newspaper columnist and had shorter pieces published.
Next, inspired by Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed”, I took a Writers Digest book proposal course. When I approached several agents, they all wanted to see the book. For several years, while working freelance as a Hispanic report writer, I wrote “Don’t Hang Up!” Initial response from agents: great book, excellent writing, current and relevant theme, “but you need credentials for a publisher to be interested in it.”
An impasse of sorts until online opportunities unfolded before me.
Another writers’ conference and I knew where I was going: Found a small publisher willing to publish my book if I’d promote it. Put up my website, contacted a publicist, ready to go, and …
Hit by the economic downturn that depleted my resources, left me jobless again. And book less.
However, I still had a blog so I decided to make a go of that. Try to create interest in “Don’t Hang Up!” and then publish it.
I became addicted to blogging, not so much writing posts as to reading other people’s blogs and commenting on them. Many blogs inspired me or filled me with such enthusiasm that comments flowed, and I’d spend the better part of a week happily blogging.
I realized I’d lost my focus.
I wasn’t looking for or doing much work.
I got hustling and found freelance work. A lot.
That issue solved.
The other, my writing has been on hold. Meanwhile, several friends have published their books. Where am I with mine? What have I done to get it published? Too busy blogging.
Do I want to be a blogger or a book writer?
I already asked this question in a blog post months before, “Out to Sea. To Blog or Not to Blog.”
The answer is right in front of me.
I’ll never have the time or experience to aspire to reach Ken Follett’s level.
However, I do have two finished and edited memoirs, one first draft, and the outline for a trilogy that starts with “Recognition” (needs another go round/editing).
For me, at 68, time is at a premium.
So I’d better get going – and fast – with my writing.
And I can’t let life and work get in the way again.
Photo credit: Jacob Tron
“Beware of judging [people] by their outward appearance.” Jean de La Fontaine
When I worked in the phone room, I often misjudged people, assuming they were something they were not. I found out that many were very different from what I thought them to be at first, and vice-versa, others wondered what someone like me was doing there. Below is an excerpt from “Don’t Hang Up!”
“You Never Know Who You Will Meet in the Phone Room”
“Don’t you people have anything better to do on the Sabbath?” the man on the other end of the phone asks. “Today is the Lord’s Day. To be kept holy. Not for material gains.”
He hangs up before I can give him an answer as to what “material gains” represent to people in low-paid jobs. Things like a week’s groceries.
Why should I give a damn? I’ve had a good day. Not like the young man next to me who is struggling to get surveys. Perhaps it’s the slow, hesitant way he reads the opening statement. From his appearance, he doesn’t seem to be “one of us” phone room people. More like an executive doing a weekend stint here. Too well groomed. Trimmed dark hair and beard, suede jacket. Mid-thirties. Attractive.
It sounds like he got a survey until, throwing up his arms, he stands and shouts, “That f… computer just cut me off.”
Hope he’s not freaking out. I’ve seen interviewers break down over surveys gone wrong – bursting into tears, shrieking, or wrecking a phone. Crazies smash computers and one assaulted a supervisor.
“Don’t worry, that happens to everyone.” I try to keep my voice calm.
Anger recedes from his face. He nods and sits again. “What did I do wrong? I was half way through the survey and it went blank.”
“Sometimes it cuts you off for no apparent reason,” I tell him. “Ask the supervisor.”
He returns with a dispirited expression. “She gave me some half-assed excuse about how this happens when a quota’s full. Let me see if I got it right. First, to qualify, the respondent has to be between forty-five and sixty. Second, he/she ate dinner – no lunch or takeout – at this Chinese restaurant chain at least once in the last three months. Third, only week nights, but not Fridays. Come on. Talk about looking for the proverbial needle.”
In the next two hours, I dial over a hundred times, twenty people answer, four agree to do the survey, and only one qualifies.
Would it really affect results if a respondent went to that restaurant on a Friday? Or had lunch instead of dinner? Or is sixty-one instead of sixty?
By this point, I’m sure many interviewers, desperate to get surveys, are twisting answers. It’s tempting.
Every so often I glance at my neighbor to see how he’s doing. Only two surveys vs. my ten. The supervisor is sure to send him home yet, when she checks, all she says is, “Pick up the pace.”
Another sign he’s special? Lucky man. It’s not as if his livelihood depended on this. Tomorrow, he’ll be back upstairs thanking God he doesn’t have to work down here for a living.
Great. I get another survey.
I feel his eyes on me. Probably feeling exactly what I felt not so long ago. “You really know how to get them,” he says.
Why should it matter if he’s an executive posing as an interviewer? I say, “Let me give you a tip,” and tell him what I learned from Lucky León, our Star Performer, how to tweak the opening statement. “And put a smile in your voice.”
“Hey, thanks, I really owe you.”
Talk about coincidence. On his very next call, he gets a survey.
But with the quota filling, every interviewer is struggling with the almost impossible task of finding someone who fits the profile – and agrees to do a survey. My neighbor is literally begging people, a tactic that rarely works.
I hear him slam down the receiver. “Why can’t those high-and-mighty bible thumpers understand that people like us need to work on Sundays?”
“People like us?”
“Working poor, who else?” He gestures at other interviewers.
“Is that what you consider us to be?”
“What they pay here is just one step above poverty level.”
“How would you know?”
“My paycheck, for one. I’m almost embarrassed to cash it.”
“So you are working here?”
“As far as I can tell, though who knows about tomorrow?”
“Why this job?”
“Because it’s all I could find, and it’s work, and a lot better than being homeless.”
“Yes, homeless – as in people who live on the street. I’m sure you’ve seen them around, kind of a blot on the landscape of America’s finest city.” Sarcasm shades his voice. “Last month, I was one of them. Not that a lady like you would know anything about that lifestyle.”
“I can’t imagine you sleeping in a doorway next to filthy drunks and bag ladies.”
“I couldn’t imagine it either”
“Why the streets? Why not a shelter?”
“Ever tried to get into one of those places? Let me tell you, I did and on cold nights they’re stuffed to overflowing. I was afraid to sleep – they steal your shoes right off your feet – and there’re guys crying out from booze or drug withdrawal, or honking away because their noses are clogged up with shit. You get used to the smell but it sticks to your clothes even after you go outside. So I found a couple of homeless, interesting guys – one plays chess in the park and the other reads anything he can lay his fingers on – and hung out with them a few days.”
I shiver. Being homeless seems only a couple of steps from the phone room. “Dressed like you are today?”
“Course not. Hocked my watch, left my bag in the Greyhound terminal, except for an old army jacket and sleeping bag. You’d never tell the difference between me and the real thing, though people don’t look at the homeless – not if they can help it. Finally, I got hold of some cash and rented a room in a downtown hotel. Not the swankiest in town, but it’s heaven after that.”
As the day wears on, the room becomes silent. Surveys have tapered off. It’s hard to be cooped up in here while the California sunlight beams through the front windows. Three hours before our scheduled leaving time, the supervisor tells us, “Everyone, clock out for the day.”
I step into the bright, semi-deserted downtown. After the refrigerated phone room, the March sun on our side of the street is warm and welcoming.
“Isn’t this great?” My neighbor smiles as if we were old friends. “Days like this, who cares about leaving early?”
“$24 less on my paycheck.”
“Didn’t think of that.” He shrugs. “Hey, wanna go for coffee?”
“This your regular work?” he asks. “You don’t sound like you belong in a phone room. More like you should be upstairs with the executives. Sure you’re not just posing as an interviewer?”
“Funny, I thought the same about you,” I say and we both laugh at how misleading appearances can be.
“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” Wayne Dyer
How on earth did I ever end up in, of all places, Tijuana? A question I ask myself all the time. But what else could I do? I can hardly walk except for a few steps, and this is the one place where I may find an inexpensive cure.
Before, I’d heard Tijuana described as “a hellhole” and “a den of vice,” a city of whores and drug dealers. Now, I’ve discovered the real Tijuana. Apart from being a tourist spot and red light border town, it also has a burgeoning middle-class with the same family values as any others. Just don’t get mixed up with shady characters and mind your own business. And better pretend not to know what your neighbors are up to.
In the afternoon, I rest on the balcony that runs around the building. On one side, shacks cover barren hills and, on the other, the elite inhabit white condos in a residential area way out of my league. Next to our building, a junkman has his yard piled with growing mounds of trash. I keep the window shut so that the giant cockroaches climbing up the wall don’t get in, but they drop off the roof at night onto my balcony and I have to sweep up their smashed corpses.
A burning odor from the mechanic’s shop hangs in the air adding to the stew of gasoline, tar, dirt, and fried food. In front, two neat little yellow middle-class homes stand side-by-side to the house where a drug dealer – a narco – plies his trade. I know because my neighbor overheard men knocking on the door and giving the password, “Es el mero-mero,” meaning, “It’s the big boss.”
I watch the goings-on in the drug dealer’s house below. It’s intriguing to have such a neighbor, almost as if I’ve become part of a secret and dangerous clan – if only by proximity. What does a Tijuana narco look like? A normal person? A gangster? A corrupt politico. No way to tell.
He’s had a busy afternoon; Friday is good for sales. By my count, the two men knocking on their door are numbers ten and eleven, and it’s only four p.m.
A car tears into the street and comes to a shrieking halt in front of his house. The driver jumps out and runs to the front door, making it inside just before another car zooms to a stop. Four men leap out brandishing shotguns and splatter the house with fire. Windows shatter behind iron bars. Someone inside retaliates and I hear bullets thunk the assailants’ car as they crouch behind it.
I have a balcony seat to the Wild West, Mexican style. A rival drug gang? No, probably cops. Maybe a raid. Like in a TV series.
“Salgan, hijos de la chingada!”
The men outside regroup and shred the door with gunfire, then use brute force to break it down. No more return fire from inside. From my vantage point, I see two narcos emerge behind the house. One jumps over a fence and disappears into the maze of backyards while another zigzaggs sideways and crosses into the junkman’s yard. Four attackers enter the house followed by shouts and gunshots.
Not a sound on the street and nobody sticks out a head to see what’s going on. Let the gangs kill each other or the cops catch the narcos; they don’t want to get involved.
I hear a scuffling sound at one side of the balcony. Next thing, a skinny young man is climbing over my railing; he’s managed to get up to my second floor. Looks like a teenager, trembling, tears in his eyes – one is bruised and half-closed, a finger across swollen lips for me to be quiet. Not scary enough for me to scream. Anyway, I’m not the screaming type. So I just watch as he crouches at the end of my balcony. A smell surrounds him in the dusty air, a smell of fear and sweat.
He looks too young to be a narco. But are they ever too young? Rather, he reminds me of those mangy curs that roam the city, stalking food, growling if you get too close or groveling if you give them something. He could be armed and dangerous, only he doesn’t look dangerous, more like vulnerable, standing in the shadowy part of my balcony so he can’t be seen from the street.
Maybe that’s why I don’t scream at him to go away or maybe it’s because I’m rarely afraid of anything. Not of bomb scares, or life-threatening accidents, or earthquakes, or machine gun assaults – I’ve experienced them all and more – and he’s just a narco teen on the run. Though for all I know, the young ones are the worst. Probably has a weapon tucked under his shirt.
He hangs back while two men from the car yell at each other, glancing up and down the street and no, please not at my building. Then their cohorts reappear dragging a couple of drug dealers. My mouth opens, in surprise that they caught them so fast.
The boy whispers, “Please, Señora, don’t you scream.”
I’m not about to. Those men are busy taking turns kicking the dealers though they are huddled over on the ground. Crunch, howl, crack, yelp. Cuss words. Screams, moans. I’ve seen scenes like this on TV, and they are bad men, but I scrunch up my body as if they were hitting me. When, finally, the men pull-drag the narcos into the car, I close my eyes and rub my head in relief. What will happen to them? Prison? Or bodies left in the desert for the vultures?
The boy sits on his haunches, back against the wrought iron railing. “What’s happening?” he asks, in the jerky voice of a nervous teenager caught in the act.
“You heard.” Why should I play lookout for a narco? Because he’s young and scared or because, in a way, he threatens me and I can’t move to help myself. “Looks like those men are taking them away. Who are they?”
“Cops – drug squad,” he said. “Bad men, cruel. Find us, hurt us, our families. Say they know things about us. I don’t want to tell them, Señora, but they force me.” That explains his swollen lips, half-closed eye and bitter fear odor. “They tell me if I not help them, they kill my sister – rape her first, my little sister, she only twelve.”
“The cops would do that?”
No expression, and his eyes are so dark that they aren’t giving away anything. “The drug squad. They all threaten, make you do what they want. No choice. I must get to el otro lado, los Estados Unidos, and hope they never find me.”
“What about your sister?”
“To save her, I tell them what they want. If I go away, they not hurt my family. I will pray to la Virgencita every day that they will be safe.”
“What if you get caught as an illegal and sent back?”
“They will kill me.” He glances around, up and down, reminding me of a trapped animal. “Senora, how I get out from here and they no see me?”
“Only through the front gate. Or the way you got in.”
“Perhaps over the roof and across there.” He points to the junkman’s yard and beyond, the mechanic’s shop.
We watch for about twenty minutes while the cops probably tear apart the drug house, finding or not finding whatever they are looking for. Obviously, they do because they haul out another man, and at last, take off in a swirl of dust and screeching tires.
“They’re gone,” I tell him. “Now, you can leave.” If he wants money, I don’t have much. Nor much of value here.
He must sense my thoughts. “Don’t be concerned, Señora. You save me from those hijos de puta and for that, I am in your debt. Before they arrive, we have a good day. I have cash.” He shows me his wallet, stuffed with bills, and pulls out, counting them, five hundred dollar notes. “Here, for your trouble.”
I stare at the money, speechless, then shake my head. No way. It’s drug money, blood money. Don’t even want to touch it. “Thank you,” I say, “but I can’t,” wishing for all the world that I could accept them. Get another cartilage shot. And another pain relief one.
“Are you sure, Senora?”
I manage a smile. “When you get to the other side,” I tell him, “no more drug dealing. If they catch you, they will send you back here.”
“I promise,” he says. “My cousin will give me a job in construcción.”
Maybe he just tells me this to please me. I’ve heard that once a narco always a narco and, as he turns to leave, I notice the gun – tucked into the side of his pants.
Picture a room with clusters of telephone interviewers, bunched together according to some supervisor’s idea of a seating plan. I’d envisioned having a cubicle of my own, perhaps a drawer where I could keep my possessions. No such luck. Our location in the phone room changes every day according to the survey we’re doing. Not even a locker room, which means I have to carry my tote with me wherever I go. You never know with the kind of people who work here.
Interviewers rattle off a cacophony of introductions. Voices blend into a murmur that envelopes the room like a canopy.
This isn’t really me sitting here. Susan is not a person I know. Whatever happened to Penelope who once worked in solitary splendor in an elegant office? I envision it, if only to regain for a minute that lost sense of comfort and security for the days when I worked at a carved, Mexican colonial desk, or leaned back in my king-size leather chair and gazed out at the inner courtyard with its bubbling fountain and ivy-covered walls.
In the phone room, there is no view outdoors. The large windows at the front are too high up and far away so that I can’t tell if the day is sunny or cloudy.
I must not look back. But, how can I face this day-to-day proximity with between fifty to a hundred people, all of us breathing in the same air, farts, body odors, and unwashed clothing? Occasionally, there are eruptions of chest-wrenching coughs. Is the workplace infested with cold and flu germs, or maybe the air-conditioning, on so high that people wear heavy jackets and sweaters indoors, is the culprit.
Supervisors prowl the spaces behind rows and come up stealthily behind us, to catch offenders who goof off or don’t try hard enough. Some interviewers have a sixth sense warning system – a talent, I learn from Ahmed, acquired the hard way. Behind prison bars.
I punch in my number and the research questionnaire comes on the screen. I read, as told, exactly what it says. “Hello, this is Susan, calling from Kelly Research. This is not a sales call. I just want your opinions about…” and I name a fast food chain.
“Not interested.” Another ten dials. No answers. Only taped messages. On the eleventh, I get someone. I juice up my voice only to have the receiver slammed down on me. And so it goes for the next hour.
A supervisor leans over and picks up my batch sheet. “You need to get at least two surveys an hour,” she tells me and the implication is in her tone. If I don’t, I’ll be terminated.
But how, if nobody wants to do them.
Finally, someone says, “Why not? I like your voice.”
We get through the survey that, because of the asinine convoluted questions, takes fifteen instead of five minutes, and reach the last part where I ask age, educational level, ethnicity, and type of work. This can be tricky as some people balk at giving personal information.
This time, I fall down a hole into phone Wonderland.
“Professional firewalker,” he tells me. Oh no, not another joker.
“Er – Is that a profession or a hobby?”
“It’s what I do for a living.”
I hesitate. He must be kidding.
“You’ll find the Firewalkers Institute on the Internet,” he adds as if sensing my thoughts.
“I’m sorry, it’s just that …Where do you fire walk?”
“A lot of places. Some businesses use fire walking to build teamwork. It’s also considered an alternative health remedy.”
“In what way?”
“Helps cope with anxiety issues.”
My God, some people will try anything.
“What got you into that profession?”
“I was doing yoga and I wanted to prove to myself that not everything we’re told is true, including our perception of pain.” He sounds serious, credible. “Then I discovered I liked this.”
“Walking on hot coals?”
“It’s not about walking on hot coals. Not in your mind. It’s like you go through a cleansing ritual that clears it of bad sensations. Some religious orders fire walk as part of their training.”
I wish we could talk more, but I have to get on with my surveys. “I’ll definitely look up that Firewalkers Institute,” I say.
I’m getting lucky. Another man agrees to answer my questions but only if I answer his. Well, okay, I don’t suppose that’s against the rules.
“I like your accent,” he says. “My granddad came from Leicester. Ever been there?”
And, “Did you go to the Royal Academy of Art?”
“The Tate Gallery?”
“The British Museum?”
Or, farther afield, the Louvre, the Prado, the Uffizi in Florence?
I envision him to be a wealthy, cosmopolitan art connoisseur. At the end of the survey, I expect him to tell me he’s an academic or gallery owner or painter.
“Cross-country truck driver,” he says.
What? My image of the rough, uncouth trucker is shattered.
“Why are you so interested in art?”
“Because I’m pursuing my Masters in Art History.”
This country is full of surprises.
The next man I speak to answers my questions easily, but when I ask for his personal information, he acts as if I’m coming on to him, and starts flirting. “I’m thirty-six,” he says, “and ready and willing to meet you any time.” He teases me about my English accent, wants to know if I’m single, and where I live. I tell him I can’t give out that information.
“Your level of education,” I go on. “High school, some college, college graduate…”
“How much do they pay you for doing this? About $8.00 bucks an hour?”
How did he guess?
“Want to make $50 bucks an hour?”
His voice becomes husky, intimate. “You sound like a hot chick. That Princess Di accent really turns me on. Ever considered phone sex?”
I feel as if he suddenly stripped himself naked in front of me.
“Certainly not.” I tell him in my most hoity-toity English lady’s voice. “Shame on you. I’m old enough to be your mother.”
“Don’t get mad. Just think about it. Same kind of work, different script.”
Undeterred, he says, “You have my number. Call me if you change your mind.”
I thank him for doing the survey and hang up.
What have I come down to?
Princess Di, indeed.
I sit back in my seat, glance at the monitor, at the questionnaire that has just popped up on it. Look around the room, at my poor, drab fellow phone room employees.
$50 bucks an hour?
(Excerpt from “Don’t Hang Up!”)
“I am still in shock and awe at being fired.”
(This is a repost of, “Fired! Going Out with A Roar,” partly excerpted from my book, “Don’t Hang Up!”)
“You’re fired” may not be politically correct these days (except for Donald Trump on The Apprentice) but being fired/terminated/let go/laid off/downsized/given early retirement – however it’s phrased – all mean the same thing: you don’t have a job anymore.
Job loss, particularly in mid-life, can be a bit like a small death – of everything you have worked for over the years. Like a death, it also affects your/your family’s lifestyle, and often leads to a trail of other losses, trials, and struggles. It changes the course of the rest of your life, your expectations, and forces you to face the fact that your best years may well be behind you.
Or wait. Your best years may still be ahead of you.
“Don’t Hang Up!” is not only my story but that of many former successful professionals who, in mid-life, have been cast out of the professional world. We have had to come to terms with job loss, look for a way back in or up, struggle to make a comeback, a new start, or reinvent ourselves in a new career and lifestyle.
This is the start of my story.
Early Retirement? Go Out With A Roar
Someone is “after” my corner office. The whispers and warnings, like damp rot, seep through the ivy-coated walls to where I sit as my colonial desk. I sense the vultures circling, waiting for the moment when they can catch me, down and unawares.
Again? Why is my office such a target? For one, its location in a quiet corner of our building. Add a landscaped patio view, forest green décor and designer colonial Mexican furniture, and size – large enough to contain a small conference table – all make it a desirable status symbol.
In my fourteen years occupying it, many people have aspired to it, and tried, by fair means or more often foul, to wrest it away from me. Foiled every time.
This is my second home. Here, I have celebrated successes and teetered on the verge of dismissal. This office has seen both my laughter and my private tears. It has witnessed my change from the adventurous, optimistic, dreamy eyed young executive who first inhabited it to the hardened, high-powered, stressed-out senior VP of today.
For me, this office represents an important chunk of my life.
For others, it represents status, a symbol of who they want to be in the business world.
In recent months, after we were merged – more like a takeover – with a much larger New York ad agency, our new bosses brought in Marty as manager. One of his tasks has been downsizing, and he’s taken to it with a vengeance unparalleled in the agency’s fifty years. A fierce little man, he zooms around on invisible skates as he goes on his deadly way. Speedy González with a machete.
I must be on his hit list. Everyone of any importance, and some who aren’t, are on it. New York wants to revamp the place and get rid of us old-timers. Even the office boy, now middle-aged, may be walking the plank soon.
Today, I returned from my campaign presentation to a difficult client. Victorious. Still at the top of my game. A reason to celebrate. So when Marty calls me into his office, I’m pretty certain it’s to give me a clap on the back for my achievement.
He embarks on what sounds like an oft-performed speech, so smooth that it takes me several minutes to realize he’s trying to persuade me, in the nicest of terms, how it’s in my best interest to take early retirement. I hear, “Corporate takeover casualties,” and “Anyone who’s been more than ten years in the agency.”
I don’t move, not a muscle or a blink, as if my hearing is my only sense left. He’s the one who reacts to my non-reaction, gets muddled, and waffles on a bit about how I need not worry about my future.
“It shouldn’t be hard for you to find a good position,” he says. A blatant lie. At my age, once you’re out of a job, you’re out of the market. And who wants to join the bunch of middle-aged has-beens in search of work in a youth-oriented world?
“I don’t think I’ll look.”
“Have something else in mind?”
“I’ll get rid of my high heels, give away my business suits, let my hair grow down to my waist… and strangle you with my pantyhose. Then, I’ll open a restaurant.”
His flinch is barely noticeable. He recovers fast. “You should do very well. Congratulations on today’s presentation. You did a great job. You can go out with a roar.”
So someone else will inhabit my office after all.
I hope that my ghost will forever haunt it.
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