One could eloquently state that Charles was no romantic. The well established 45-year-old district sales manager shined in the aspect of providing for his beloved family. With a concrete dedication, he held fast to a work-eat-sleep routine. Amidst his well-balanced life a problem stewed.
He and Dianne married in their mid-twenties and, like all well planned out families, they had two girls four years apart; making college preparations easier. Truth be known, both were accidents, but that another quaint story for another rainy day. Having the gift for gab, Charles excelled as a sales representative and with time he progressively gained his current position, stepping on the shoulders of his coworkers.
A clear view of his misguided perspective laid the foundation of his skewed reality. For you see, although he wasn’t the most honest, nor virtuous man, he did have righteous intentions. This is what’s brings us to our ambiguous hero’s current situation; standing perplexed as he desperately searched for the right anniversary card.
Seeing that Charles was not having the best of times, a sales representative inquired “May I help you?”
Looking over his reading glasses, he politely smiled. “Perhaps.” A quick glimpse at the card in hand allowed him finish his read. “I’m looking for the perfect 20th anniversary card.”
“Oh how sweet!” she exclaimed. “We do carry a wide variety of cards that suits that very occasion.”
Placing the card back on the shelf, his chin pointed towards more cards as he peered for more prospects. “Do you have one that says ‘Thanks for understanding’?”
Not clear on his statement she point towards a set of cards. “These are our ‘Thanks for being so caring’ cards.”
His lip pouted in discontent. “No. It needs to say ‘Thanks for understanding’. I’m a little off schedule, as one may put it.”
“Oh I see. Are we talking a day or two late?” she asked.
Turning his attention to the sales rep he quickly muttered. “Nope. It was last year.”
Stunned and speechless the lady pick up a card and handed it to him.
Opening it, he found it to be blank inside.
“Wait, there aren’t any words in this one. I need a card, with words, right now.” Charles demanded
With raised eye brows and an honest look, the rep replied, “Sir, there are no words.”
Lightening illuminated the room as Kevin began to count,
“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand…”
A roll of thunder signaled the approaching storm. The ten-year old boy wasn’t as afraid of storms as he use to be. However, lightning always brought an eery view to his room. Perhaps it was the split second revelation followed by the sudden darkness that led to his overactive imagination. Was that shadow my coat or a dark creature? He was certain that it was his jacket hanging in the closet. He clearly remembered hanging it there.
Another flash of lightning revealed his jacket was indeed hanging there next to an unknown shadow that seemed to be staring at him. All features were hidden, but he was certain something was standing in his closet. The thunder crackled as the creature moved, ever so slightly. It moved! I saw it move. There is something in my closet and it just moved. Focusing his attention to the closet he could hear the creature breathing. But, what is it? Kevin slowly slid out of his bed and slipped across the carpet; taking care not to make a sound.
The creature appeared to be short like a goblin. No identifying features were revealed as Kevin got close. Holding his breath he got within inches of it. He could still hear it’s rapid shallow breathing. There’s no such thing as monsters. If there are, I’m about to catch my first one. Raising his hand towards its head he slowly began to exhale.
“Kevin.” a small voice called out.
A fear struck him as the creature seized his hand with its cold pale fingers. Lightening struck illuminating its screaming face. Kevin’s scream was eclipsed by the explosion of thunder. His backwards leap pulled the creature from the closet. The two fell to the floor as fear gripped them both. Before Kevin could move his unknown fiend wrapped it thin arms around him.
“I’m scared.” his sister whispered.
A flood of revelation brought an onslaught of relief to Kevin. Realizing it was his little sister the whole time, he hugged her back.
“It’s OK. That lightening was scary.”
Reaching up, he pulled his pillow from his bed for them to share and covered up with the blanket she brought from her room. The two slept on the floor as the storm passed over. Every now and then his sister would jerk from the thunder, and he would comfort her. He knew this was all part of being a big brother, even if she did scare the living daylight out of him.
Five a.m. came quick for Chris. It wasn’t a late night with the boys, or an argument with his wife that brought the morning on so quick. No, he was just worn out from his new carpentry job. Setting in his favorite chair, he realized he had fallen asleep with his work boots on. A small quilt covered him; a sure sign his wife took care of him.
Slowly making his way to the kitchen his body ached. Every joint popped like a bowl of milk and rice-crispies. Setting at the kitchen table, he untied his boots and kicked them off. Pulling his socks off too, he placed his feet on the cold hardwood floor. The cool flat surface brought relief as he made his way to the coffeepot. First the a precise measurement of grounds, then a pot full of water was added. As the first drip of coffee fell, Chris began to stretch. How could he be this young and feel this old? His hands still felt tight from gripping a hammer all day. Hand cramps were a sign of learning. Gotta let the hammer do the work. He told himself as he stretched his fingers out. The morning fog cleared from his thoughts as he stood there watching the pot fill. I could be getting ready for the day.
A quick shower and fresh clothes helped him face the morning. Moving with more ease, he poured his first cup. Not sure if it was his youth, inexperience or the excitement of learning a new trade, but he was actually excited to go to work. His career choice was the foundation he was building his life on.
Life didn’t come with instructions. It came with those before us showing what works and what doesn’t. Like Chris, we have all stepped out with uncertainty. But our youthful vigor perpetuated us all to achieve our greatness. As our work kicks back with pain, we are reminded five a.m. comes quick for us all.
The engine raced as adrenaline rushed through Levi’s veins. Tires screamed in horror, fighting to hang onto the morning asphalt of each corner. Machine and man danced around each chicane resembling two familiar lovers, knowing each other’s moves. This was not loved; this was passion. Cresting at the last hill, three miles of straight road filled his eyes. With ears tuned to each signature shift point, Levi was pulled deeper into his seat. The speedometer’s needle slowly made it’s way past 150mph. At the end of the straightaway, a hairpin corner waited patiently. Nerves tingles as a 20mph sign flew by in a blur beckoning him to slow down. Was this stupidity or just craziness? Whichever, he knew he was coming in too hot. This is where experience and reflexes demanded perfection. One hesitation, or one miscalculation could send car and driver to an early grave. Like four permanent markers, the wide tires marked the pavement in a howling pain. Levi’s body was pushed to the side making it difficult to move. Knuckles turned white, fighting to stay in control. The car careened sideways around the corner. A downward shift and the sound of an accelerating engine shot Levi out of the hairpin. A quick glimpse at the side mirror revealed no space between the tire marks and the unforgiving grass-line. Once again he escaped death’s clutches. However, an old oak stood six feet from the line, baring scars from the many drivers it had caught; a sacred reminder of past mistakes made with confidence. Such is life through the eyes of Levi and why he loved to dance around the corners.
When the consolidating cool air is upon me. I will ban with others, and bring the storm. Winds, thunder, and lightening will join in our crusade. Within this war we wage, I will fall. Plummeting at a chaotic rate, the winds of change will rip at the fabric of my soul. Though I’ll fight to stay together, fragments will be lost. Others around me will fall with me with no Calvary in sight. We are all fighting the same fight, but we are so individual.
A catastrophic amount of myself will be lost within the realm of my descending impact. I will only be a fraction of what I was. Yet, my days of demise are not upon me. For as the sun rises and brings the heat of the day, I too shall rise far above this earth, only to wage another storm.
The air around Eric curdled. Tension built as his ears filled with the peevish voice from his boss’ high pitch questions.
“Hey Marty, when’s that quarterly report going to be finished?”
Eric sighed as he fought to calm his nerves. “It’s Eric, and I’ll have it to you after I type it up. First, I need to run these numbers.”
“Oh, you better hurry up. The back office needs that report as soon as possible. I’ll try to run interference, but I don’t know how long I can keep them at bay.”
Eric was certain that his statement wasn’t completely true. Remain calm. Everything will work out. Focusing on his report, an odd feeling stopped his fingers from typing. A pair of eyes were still fixated on him.
“Is there anything else?” Eric asked his boss.
“Oh no, just watching.” He replied with a thin lipped smile.
“So you’re just going to stand there and watch me finish this report?”
Stay calm. Breathe from your abdomen. He’s just a poor pencil neck geek who needs a good roughing up. But, we’re not going to do that… today. A smile came across his face. Yep! Not today.
Bolstering at 6′ 3″ and weighing 258, Eric could see that his peckish boss was feeling the power of his position. It was the classic Chihuahua vs Great Dane scenario, where the little dog tries to bully the big dog. Given the situation, Eric didn’t have much choice but to remain calm.
Wrapping his attention around the quarterly numbers, he quickly typed out the next segment of the report. A quick tap on the F7 key revealed no errors. Moving to the next section, Eric fell into a comfortable zone. He could hear his boss giving interjections, but with everything falling into place, it was easy to ignore his snide remarks.
With the conclusion typed and his patience worn thin, Eric printed the report. Without saying a word, he went to the printer.
“Hey, is that the report?”
Glaring Eric calmly replied, “You know it is. You have been leering over my cubical for the last hour watching me type each letter, commenting on everything that popped into that peon brain of yours.”
Although his voice was low, it had a rolling thunder effect that silenced the whole floor. Realizing that everyone had stopped working and was now watching them Eric’s boss snatched the report from his hand.
“Do you know how much you have cost this company by delaying this report. IT WAS DUE LAST WEEK. YOU SHOULD BE GRATEFUL THAT I DON’T FIRE YOU FOR NOT MEETING YOUR QUOTA.”
With that his boss started to storm off but froze as a firm grip caught the back of his neck. In a reflex move, Eric had reached out and clamped his boss’ neck. He could let him go, but with everyone watching, Eric knew that the little worm would more than likely press charges. If he wants to fire me, let me give him a good reason. Stay calm. Don’t say anything. Go to the back office.
Eric began to walk towards the office without loosing grip. Determination flared in Eric’s eyes. He was going to get to the bottom of this. Perhaps he was wrong and his report was needed. Perhaps his boss was right and he was wrong. Perhaps…
“Here is your report Mr. Manning.” Eric replied.
An elderly gentleman sat behind the large desk. His suit was modest as the layout of his office. When he spoke, it was always calm and collect.
“What report are you referring to Mr. Green?” he asked Eric.
“The one that this gentleman stated, was due last week. I apologize for the inconvenience and cost that I have brought to this company.” Eric stood there, nervous and irritated.
“I see. Do you mind letting go of Mr. Lund?”
Eric quickly released his grip. Stepping to the side the petite bully started slandering about terminations and prosecutions. But none of this mattered to Eric. He was numb to the sound of his boss’ voice. Looking up, he could see the irritation in Mr. Manning’s eyes.
“You talk too much.”
Eric’s eyes opened wide. Did he say that? Those were the exact words that coursed his thoughts. No, he didn’t say that, Mr. Manning did.
“I am placing you on one week suspension Mr. Lund. Within that time I hope that you find the patience that Mr. Green here has afforded you. I have set here and watched you pick at this gentleman for the last three weeks. I am amazed at how much restraint he has shown. You and I both know that the quarterly report isn’t due until next Thursday.”
“But, Sir, I was only trying to get it to you ahead…”
“Of schedule. I got that, Mr. Lund. Now if you don’t mind, Mr. Green and I have a quarterly report to go over.” Mr. Manning walked to the door and gestured Eric’s boss to leave.
Not knowing if he was about to be reprimanded, Eric stood there in silence. A small chuckle broke the ice as Mr. Manning returned to his desk and asked Eric to set.
“How is it that you didn’t beat the snot out of that guy?”
Eric was struck by Mr. Manning’s informality. “Well, just because I can doesn’t mean I should. I try to stay as professional as possible.’
“You’ve definitely demonstrated that. I need someone with your mentality to run this floor. Would you be interested?”
He just offered me my boss’ job! As much as I would love the pay raise, personal parking, and private office, I really love my position. I would hate to see it fall on the account that I moved.”
Mr. Manning smiled. “Spoken like a true professional. I’ll talk to HR and we’ll get someone in for your to train. Until then, keep up the great work.”
Eric left with a great sense of pride. Today, professionalism won.
If you feel that I don’t have your best interest at heart, are you really going to listen to my criticism? More than likely the answer is no. Love is constructive not destructive. Yes, changes may need to be made that might bring a destructive appearance. However, it is the end results that matter. A garden is not made without first tearing up the soil. With that in mind, how many times have we thought back to our childhood and remembered the lessons we neglected to listen to. If we had the foresight then to see why our parents said what they did, I’m sure our attitude would have been different.
The opinion of a stranger weighs less than the opinion of a friend. If you do have to throw criticism towards someone be professional, encouraging, and ensure that they understand that you care about them. Never focus on the negative. Rather, focus on the bright side of the situation. Anyone can complain about the bad. It takes discipline to change that focus and constructively criticize someone in a manner that they feel better knowing that you took the time to express you concerns. We are all human. We demand to be treated as such. 🙂