Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
“I’m sorry, Sean. That’s the best we can do.” Gerald Scott had been the boss of a technology firm’s Seattle location for nearly a decade, but having to fire employees was never easy.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Sean Watkins took a deep breath and said, “So, let me get this straight. I want to make sure I understood you correctly and completely. My options are that I lose my job or that I move all the way across the country to get this same job at a different location? You haven’t even told me which city it is.”
“I really wish I could give you better news, I really do. I mean that.” Gerald sighed and looked down at his lap. “But that’s just how it is right now. The position on the East Coast pays better than here and I think you’d get something out of it, plus you’ll receive a bit of compensation for losing your job here. There are a few places there that are possibilities for you and I'd let you know where you’d go, if you choose to move.”
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Sean did not know what angered him more, the news of losing his job or the large clock ticking away on his boss’s wall. He stood up from an uncomfortable chair and walked towards the clock. He slowly raised his arm with an intent to tear the clock off the wall, throw it on the floor, and crush it. The clock had never bothered him before, but today was different than any other day he had spent in Gerald’s office. Sean was confused as to why he was fired. Was it because he was late twice last month due to traffic? Was it because he nearly fell asleep at his desk after one sleep deprived night? He loved his job and was one of the hardest workers out of everyone in the office. He tried to think of what the problem was and what caused the company he worked for to let him go. He stood, facing the clock, for a few minutes to think, but could not think of any reason for him to be fired. He quietly asked, “Why me? Did I do anything in the last two years that gave you a reason to decide to do this?”
As politely as possible, Gerald answered, “I’m going to be completely honest with my answer, because you deserve an honest answer.” He paused and pondered how to finish his reply. After several seconds, he continued, “We have to let people go for reasons that require an hour of explaining, which I am sure that neither of us want to sit through. This office is going to turn into more of a company headquarters type of situation and the people on top want a certain type of people here at this location. They want to create a better image. You’re one of the ten people we’ve had to let go.”
“Can I ask who the others are?” Sean gulped and feared what names Gerald was going to say. Within the last year, three employees had started a family and four others expanded theirs. There had been a few happy new marriages, a couple of desperately needed divorces, adoption of new pets, renting and buying new homes along with many other personal, major milestones. He knew that unemployment would be not nearly as devastating for him as it would be for some of the other employees.
Gerald sighed and quietly responded, “I can tell you the names of the three who we just let go. Hannah Marsh was the first today and breaking the news to her was difficult, especially since her maternity leave ended less than a month ago. She is going to think about moving to San Diego and working there. Jesse Santos was rightfully upset, but took a job at a Denver location. And Faith Towne, well, she took it the best for some reason. She sat in silence, then asked if I was done, and then pointed a certain finger up in the air, but at least she didn’t slam the door. I don’t want a broken door. Gotta save company money, right?” He winked at Sean and laughed and then immediately realized how inappropriate his joke was.
“None of those people have ever even slipped up or done anything wrong. Hannah was the model employee, one they’d show in a training video! So what is it?” Right after his question, Sean figured it out. “You said this would take forever to explain, but I’ve beaten you to the end of it! We are being fired or relocated because of our ages! That’s my best guess! You know just as well as I do that there isn’t any reason for that besides what the guys on top tell you. If you’re not hiring anyone, how will you all manage? Some of us younger people are what hold up this entire corporation.”
“I’m sorry, Sean. Like I said, our offer is the best we can do. This location is transitioning into a company headquarters type of situation, but that’s not really the case anywhere else. All I can do is hope you will accept my offer. You have a week and a half to decide.”
After the end of his conversation with Gerald, Sean emptied his cubicle and hurried to his car with all of his belongings in a large cardboard box. He dropped the box in his trunk and slammed it shut. When he forced his key in the ignition, he looked back at his former workplace. On his way home, he thought about the job offer Gerald gave him. His anger began to subside when he realized how great of an opportunity the new position would be. Gerald mentioned the East Coast and Sean wondered about where he would go. Would it be Boston, Washington D.C., or Providence? Or even better, would it be somewhere in New York City? The thought of working in a skyscraper that was close to touching the clouds with a great view excited him.
As soon as he had parked in his driveway, he dialed Gerald’s number and accepted the offer. Gerald told him that he would be able to start work there anytime. Sean was nervous, but knew he had made the right decision. Besides the job he had lost earlier that day, he had no real reason to stay. He lived on the outskirts of Seattle and loved the city, but there was nothing else there for him. Gerald also mentioned that Sean would be going to be working in Manhattan. “You got real lucky there, Sean. The Manhattan office thinks you’d do great there.” His insane desire became true. Sean had been to Manhattan before and loved it. Living in New York City had always been an outlandish dream of his and now he was able to have that wish become a reality. He felt like he had hit the jackpot.
He immediately began to pack and searched up apartments in New York City and right outside of it. His luck grew further when the company offered him a place to stay near the downtown area. The first people to know about the massive change coming up in Sean’s event were his parents and they sounded more excited than their son. Within four days, Sean’s parents had landed in Seattle to help him begin his move.
“We’re so proud of you, son.” Pat, Sean’s father, repeatedly told his son during his visit.
Two days after his parents arrived, Sean was almost all set to go to New York and that was when the nerves set in. Seeing the apartment that he would be staying in until he found his own place intimidated him. He worried about what would happen if he touched something with too much force or accidentally knocked something over. His feelings of excitement and joy were quickly turning into a ball of anxiety in his stomach. In his mind, he was beginning to imagine different scenarios of everything that could go wrong. When he confided in his parents about it, his mother, Jane, said, “Well, of course you are. You’re not even 25 yet and you’ve been given a once in a lifetime opportunity that people double your age work tirelessly to get. If you weren’t nervous at all, then I’d be a bit more concerned. Do you know of anyone your age that is doing anything even remotely similar to what you’re about to do? Everyone goes at their own pace, which is more than okay. But your pace is at a sprinting speed.”
A little over a week after he had lost his job in Seattle, Sean was raring to go start working somewhere new and to start making a new life for himself. He triple checked the bedroom he slept in and found that he left nothing behind. Two hours before he needed to be at the airport, while he was still inspecting the room, he received a phone call from Gerald.
“Hi, former boss. This is a pleasant surprise.”
Gerald quietly laughed into the phone and said, “Hey there, Sean. I’m glad I was able to reach you before you left town. How are you feeling about all of this?”
Sean cleared his throat and answered, “Well, I am not even 25 years old yet and I’m already making it big, so I think I’m doing quite alright.”
“I am really glad to hear that you’re doing well, Sean.” Gerald took a short pause before he continued what he wanted to say. He wanted to make sure that he articulated what he was thinking in a proper and correct manner. He apologized, “Look, I’m really sorry about what happened. I could tell that you were quite upset when I broke the news to you and I wanted to let you know that you had every right to be angry.”
“It’s all good, sir. I was really pissed off, but I am more than fine with that news now.” Sean plopped down on the large mattress in the middle of the room.
Gerald was relieved to know that Sean was holding up okay. Breaking the news to him was the most difficult out of all the people he had to fire that day. Sean was like a son to him. He revealed, “Honestly, you’re the one who I felt the worst for. You’re such a great worker. I mean, all of the people who were let go were great. But I saw the most potential in you, Sean, and I’m glad that the people on top saw that too. As soon as you left the office, I called my bosses and fought hard to get you hired in Manhattan and I’m glad it worked out.
“Thanks so much. I am really glad to hear that and I’m also happy that it worked out.” Sean thanked Gerald. He was glad that he had someone looking out for him. He sighed and said, “Well, Gerald, I have to go. Thanks for the call. Also, please tell Keith that I left his toy basketball in my desk and tell the group on the fourth floor that I miss them. I think precious Henrietta will appreciate that.”
Gerald chuckled and agreed, “She would love to hear that you’re okay. Best of luck to you. I hope you have a great time in New York and have a safe flight. Bye, Sean.”
“Thanks, sir. Goodbye.” Sean ended the call. He was grateful for Gerald advocating for him and seeing what he was capable of. It made him realize more that he would be more than okay in New York City.
Sean’s mother knocked on the bedroom door and asked, “Sean, I found this wall clock in the room that was your office. What do you want us to do with it? I never noticed it before.”
Sean looked at the clock and laughed. He remembered how annoying the clock on Gerald’s wall was when he was fired. He said, “Please take it. I can’t stand the sound of clocks anymore.”