She steps onto the elevator, avoiding the gap in the floor, pushes the button for the 17th floor, catching the insulting whiff of the previous occupants, who obviously didn’t have any qualms about emitting in an enclosed area. Her stomach lurches a sunken feeling as the elevator door closes and the elevator starts to rise, but not from the motion. She’d ridden this elevator “thousands” of times. It was the pondering of why she was here. She takes a quick glance to her makeup mirror assessing the quick mascara job she did on the way as her vision blurs from the welling of tears trying to make their presence known. She discreetly adjusts her stockings through her tight fitting dress (which she didn’t used to be able to fit into) in the private confines of this vehicle.
She knew what was in store for her. She’d worked here for 22 years. She had commuted every day, pouring in long, long hours, every day. It wasn’t until just four years ago that her company started letting her telecommute from home. All she had to do was come on-site for three days every fourth week for project conference meetings, etc. But today, it had only been 10 days since she was last here. She and her husband Mike had moved out of the city to the suburbs and she was actually able to start being a soccer mom and tend to various community activities. Hell, she was even able to do Zumba a few days a week. Even telecommuting, the job was still demanding, but at least she didn’t have that damn 3-4 hour commute time anymore.
No, this wasn’t a “fly everyone in from around the country for urgent project meetings”. This was a single “we need you to come in tomorrow” email sent late last night. She had slept hardly at all, tossing every conceivable scenario she could come up with to make things seem better… But she knew better. Everything kept pointing in one direction, over and over, no matter how many times she played it out.
The strap from her laptop case was digging into her shoulder as the elevator finally came to a stop. How she hated lugging that ton of bricks around. She stepped out onto the pattern worn carpet greeting the poorly tended to office plants. She glanced at the water cooler, which was still stained with the splatters of Don’s hot chocolate as he would always add a little water to cool it off. It disgusted her. It was a basic representation of everything she hated about working here. Generalized sloppiness… She was great at what she did, loved what she did, but oh did they make her hate her job. Still, she was well paid and she did have a freedom with her role.
She navigated through the cubicle showroom through the invisible haze of burnt coffee odor, a few heads popping up to notice her with quick darts in the other direction to avoid eye contact. She was headed to the Blue Sword Conference room (affectionatey known as the BS room). She walked into the conference room where George was waiting for her, half expecting to see others in there. He had this obnoxious grin on his face rubbing his palms together, motioned her to sit down at the head of the conference table. Her heart was now pounding in her heart and could feel herself breaking a sweat, doing all she could do to swallow with her increasingly dry mouth. He stood for a moment not giving his eyes even the shortest break from her subtle cleavage. He then proceeded to shut the door and sit down directly to her left.
He was sitting there with that cocky ass look on his face. This punk was a thirty-something year old VP that sucked his way to the top in just the short three years he was with the company. It was a scorching 55 degrees today, so he rode in with the top down, but that didn’t affect the stronghold of his greased back “chick magnet” hair. He asks her, “So how are you today?”. She faintly answers, not even giving him a look, “fine, kids are home from college for Christmas break.” Before she could even elaborate, he interrupted her. “Andrea, I’ve been tasked with strengthening our competitive edge in our market. I’m terribly sorry to inform you that part of our strategy is trimming our staff, which includes you.” Andrea thought, “WTF? Sorry? How can you be sorry? You don’t even know me you fucking asshole! You’re just a corporate whore still learning how to suck a good dick”. She glanced up at him, “and?”. George replied, “you’ll have to immediately surrender your credentials…and your laptop.” At that moment she felt like reaching under the table with her high heels and kicking him in the balls. “So, what’s this for you? You gonna hire a desperate newbie for half my salary, and you get the other half of my salary as a bonus? Does that make you more competitive in the market? I know who you are, you’re a fucking puppet who contributes nothing to the company except doing pussies’ dirty work.” George was a little surprised. Andrea was surprised too. She’s not like this. She’s “passionate, but professional” she always maintained. But he deserved it. He was always about perception before principle. “I think you’ve got it wrong.” “Oh, really? Huh, how about it?”. She was furious. Now she was breaking a sweat. “OK, Andrea,” George the see-through-smile suit stands up, a little shook up. “HR will mail you the necessary paperwork, I’ll need your laptop and your credentials”. She stood up, nearly falling; her legs were shaking so much. She glanced at the vertical Blue Sword emblem on the far wall, so many emotions clawing their way out in desperation, begging to be unleashed. She could only reflect, going from her being a vital part of the company to a VP’s bonus liability. Her 22 years suddenly meant nothing. “I don’t see how you can sleep at night”. She was distantly escorted back to the elevator, once again, everyone avoiding eye contact with her. She rode down in the south elevator back to the lobby where the retirement-aged security guards were posted. Her laptop case felt so limp without the weight of the laptop in it.
She walked through the turnstiles into the bright light of the sun beaming down between the sky scrapers. She just stood there, blind and numb. She dug out her sunglasses. “Fuckers“. Her feet were already starting to kill her. She hardly ever wore high heels anymore. She waved down a taxi cab and hopped in to the delight of the eager cab driver. “Where you going?” “Just get me the fuck outta here.” He looks in the rear view mirror at her tissue-dabbing of tears out of her eyes. “OK, we just drive, OK?” “Fine”. She notices his cab license posted, watching the blur out the window of everything going by as she’s being tossed around by his cab driver instinctive maneuvering skill. She pulls out her business card “Andrea Bright, Senior Web & Systems Architect” She worked hard for that. The taxi driver looks into his rear view mirror at the next stop light only to notice a bright flash from the back seat, and the sucking sound you hear when a match comes to life upon the skilled stroke on a matchbox, and then nothing… She was gone. Everything gone, except her tattered, charred and smoking business card sitting in the back seat.