I knew it would happen one time or another, I saw it coming a mile away; however, I never thought it would actually happen. I would roll up on my bike to work, avoid a puddle, and lock my frame to a post outside of Jimmy John’s in the epicenter of downtown. I would walk in the street-level Skyway, turn the corner to the left and there, I would see it, the doors locked, the lights off, and no one home.
Abandonment brought on by executive attrition to subordinates and their counterparts.
This scenario happened to me today…
I thought, could I maintain the whole operation without a baker, a not so stable baker at that? Could I make it?
Management had been increasingly stressful on the staff as per I have no idea. A few people had been fired thus far, and for someone trying to make rent and not be stressed over when, or if, they would lose their job, it became a complete and utter sham to show up with a smile and attempt to act natural at work.
I felt something strike a chord within my body halfway to the job this morning.
The Wake Up:
Up early as usual, I rubbed my eyes as I walked towards the basement door. I left my bike downstairs the night before; I traversed the steps on the way through the door, and up another set again to get outside. I hooked on my bike lights and pushed through the snow. I rode in between cars and through a parking lot to hit the main street, or a main side street, semi groomed snow crunched below my tires. A car stuck in the snow, accelerated and spewed exhaust into the predawn hours. The smell of burnt rubber and fuel resonated in my nostrils. Led Zeppelin played in my ears. I biked to University Ave. and turned on to the 3rd St. Bridge, en route to downtown, particularly 9th street, adjacent Target.
Midway there, riding through snowmelt slush, and piles of snow, I felt a surge in my stomach, something hollow and empty, I thought, because of the fact that I obviated breakfast. I thought, possibly, a premonition.
I passed cars and trucks, zoomed through red and green lights. I may have been wrong. The sun was about 2 hours shy of rising, my morning was semi-started, and semi-over. I couldn’t see the light of day.
I locked eyes on a Dodge Charger as it spun its wide-tread tires at a couple of stoplights in the foreground. I thought, what a badass-this driver. I could have a vehicle like this someday, right? He turned the corner on 9th in front of where I was coasting, and almost immediately I lost sight of the powerful machine.
I turned onto 9th mentally preparing myself for the customer inquiries, phone orders, and barks from management; a barrage of neurotic stimuli. I watched the lights, the wetness of the pavement, and signs on the street which told me several different things, completely devoid of each other, all on the same block. The signs said, “RUN OR WE’LL GET YOU!” What a clusterfuck, do I live here?
Once inside I knew my optimism would be diminished to mere tattered shreds of happiness. Everyone was on edge for little to no reason at all. Expectations were high, but for what? And who was so exceptional to make impossible expectations the standard? I was certainly not employed by God, however it was above Hell; my place of employment was a moderately banal purgatory.
Everything was in order as it were, nothing was changing from the bottom up. At this point the problem was at the top. Things needed to change in the head for the body to work properly. Also, I had never seen so many people grow wildly manic, and hysterically dramatic, over the most wonderful thing ever: Donuts. This paradox scared me immensely.
I had never imagined showing up, literally, lacking almost all fresh product and a baker. I locked my bike, admired the shine on my leather boots, freshly polished, and stepped through the first set of glass doors. I saw the name of my place of business plastered on the wall, it read big and bold: We Are The Best In The Country (I wanted the statistical data on this claim, I wanted facts, a testimonial. Give them to me. I found nothing of the sort). Were we?
I saw no one else. I walked through the second set of glass doors past an ATM and a fake plant. I walked around the corner with a smile on my face, happy that I didn’t have to call John to get inside (the second set of glass doors was usually locked).
I walked right into nothing, and then I stopped. I blacked out, woke on the floor, called my manager, told her I quit and walked to my girlfriend’s apartment to call my closest friends and family.
After I woke up:
I realized I was just doing things to do things. There was no passion involved. I could’ve cared less about sweet snacks and intricately decorated cupcakes. These so called things I had to literally be passionate about to receive a paycheck, or not eat, or get fired.
I wanted to be passionate about love, and knowledge, and reading. I wanted to hug everyone and dance in the streets (possibly to the sounds of Van Halen). I wanted to float into the sky holding balloons and take pictures with a polaroid camera. I wanted to make people smile, and realize that everything was going to be okay, O.K.?
That sounds like a career I am interested in.
I biked in negative 30 degree windchill to watch customers, confused by the selection, mill over items to turn their noses up and leave. I woke before dawn to get castigated for virtually spilt milk and managerial mishap (I could handle anything). This was relatively comical, but there wasn’t satisfaction. Orders upon orders, flour, sugar, eggs, milk, and threats from management. I was making things happen to make other things happen; not necessarily because I enjoyed doing these things, but because that is what I was directed to do. I felt bad, I felt trapped, I felt like an actor in a play I wanted no part of. I felt like a remote controlled car; racing whichever direction the person with the controls was pointing me, but not in my own, crashing into the same walls, tumbling down the same steps, again and again. I was spiraling out of control and had lost my grasp.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining wholly; aside from the corporate span of my life; punching the time clock and existing at work, my situation is relatively, if not exceptionally pleasant: My family and friends are amazing. My bank account is at a surplus (SURPRISE!!!). My love life is impeccable (Thanks Babe). I couldn’t ask for more in those respects, but inside of a paycheck, there was to be more.
I picked up the phone and dialed her number, it rang 3 times, to be picked up by her broken words. She was downstairs packaging product, not within good range of reception. I sat on the bed and looked through the door across the room, I was staring through the wall, through the complex, through the sky, into oblivion. And then she answered more clearly, timidly I said, “I am confused about the whole situation this morning… I don’t think I can do this anymore…” The response on the other end of the line was something like, “You are screwing me over, don’t count on a reference!” That was all I needed; confirmation, and our conversation was over.
I read recently:
“Crusty old alpinists who’ve survived a lifetime of close scrapes like to counsel young proteges that staying alive hinges on listening carefully to the one’s “inner voice.” Tales abound of one or another climber who decided to remain in his or her sleeping bag after detecting some inauspicious vibe in the ether and thereby survived a catastrophe that wiped out the other who failed to heed the portents.” Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air
I had found my sleeping bag, I had found my inauspicious vibe.
I could hear the negativity in her voice almost instantly, and I fell limp, I felt relaxed. I knew I had made the right decision because everything that happens is right. I could have cried.
Going with your gut feeling is hard, but how often do people do things differently, something less predictable, something out of the norm?