Contest #167 shortlist ⭐️

56 comments

Creative Nonfiction Funny Contemporary

I’d been fighting with my delete button for forty-five minutes, until I finally found the right arrangement of words.


There! I think to myself. I’ve complimented his contribution; made my own contribution without making a slight towards his, and I’ve included my thoughts about how to progress for next quarter. All in less than three sentences! I mentally pat myself on the back for successfully compiling what I feel is personally an even better response to my boss than my last. I hit the send button.


Closing my messages app, I eagerly open my Peet’s Coffee app. This deserves a treat. I select “Reorder” and confirm my usual pick-up location. I set up Spotify on my favorite Mood Booster playlist, and reverse the car. The coffee shop is only seven minutes from my house, but I can’t help myself. I’m checking my phone at every stop sign and traffic stop (and a little in between, too, since the car in front of me is going super slow).


No response yet.


When I enter the coffee shop, I’m surprised my drink is not already at the pick-up counter. It’s unusual for this team of baristas. I check my app to make sure I did in fact tip, which I did. I don’t let any hint of irritation taint my expression. Regardless of their slacking, I don’t want them to think I’m one of those “Karen” types, and I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to spit in my coffee.


There’s a guy around my age waiting in the long line at the pay area. He’s cute, and we lock eyes for the second he takes them off his phone. I have sympathy for him. I wonder if I should tell him about the app… It’s so much faster. He’d never have to wait again. Except…I’m waiting now. Now I’m embarrassed I even thought of it. He looks at me again, a quick flash, but definitely a look. I blush, and wish I had ordered my drink iced. Oh my god, I think he’s checking me out! Shit! I left my phone in my car! I don’t know where to look!


The barista saves me. Kind of. He quickly plops my drink on the counter, and rushes away without even his usual small talk flirtation. I can’t hide that feeling of confusion and irritation from my face. I feel my eyebrows drop over my eyelids and my nose crinkle upwards. I wonder if he’s mad I didn’t tip more. Or… oh my god, maybe I don’t look as cute today. I mentally assess my attire, but I can’t identify any reason for rejection.


Disappointed and annoyed, I take my coffee, willing it to make me feel better about this crappy Peet’s visit. One sip of my Pumpkin Oat Milk Latte, and my world has changed for the better. I’m eager to get back to the car to check my boss’s response – surely, he must have responded by now. Clicking the side button, my screen illuminates and I can see there’s a new message notification. Excitement slides my thumb up the screen, opening my password keypad before I have a chance to peek at the message preview.


Initially, I’m unsure of what I’m looking at. My message is the last one sent, and there’s no reply. Then realization hits, and I notice the small “thumbs up” icon at the bottom of my message, indicating one of the newer messaging features known as “reactions.”


I’m stunned. I feel a punch to my gut. Then, denial offers its salvation. Maybe he’s still replying…


I stare at my screen, willing the three jumping dots to do their dance, but they don’t show. A full ten minutes passes. My latte is gone, and I have to pee. I’ve reread my perfectly crafted message at least fifteen times. Still, there is no reply from my boss.


This can’t possibly be his response to my message.


I screenshot the message, which includes the small “thumbs up” icon, and send it to my boyfriend. His dancing dots immediately appear, quickly followed by his response: “????”


I roll my eyes, and my fingers are rapid against the keypad. “Rude, much? He didn’t even respond.”


He types back: “He thumbs-upped it. That means you’re good.”


My annoyance is as clear on my face as if I were face-to-face with him. He doesn’t understand!, I think to myself, but I still reply: “That’s like liking my post and not commenting! I spent like 45 minutes writing that message. The least he could do is acknowledge it. This is seriously offensive.”


My boyfriend’s typing dots appear and disappear a few times, and then his message finally arrives. It’s a shrugging emoji.


“Ugh!” I say aloud, tossing my phone to the passenger seat. As I’m driving, the irritation builds. I consider how to respond, or if I should respond at all. I go back and forth between telling my boss off or keeping it professional, or going to his boss with a complaint of harassment. It is harassment, I tell myself. The least he could do is tell me what he thinks about my ideas. Panic sets in a moment… Oh no! Am I going to get fired?!


I ask my boyfriend via text.


“You’re not going to get fired, babe. You just got promoted.”


This makes me feel better. For a moment. Then why the hell didn’t he respond? What does “thumbs up” even mean?!


When I get home, I’m pacing the house. In between biting my fingernails and checking my phone – still holding out hope that maybe my boss got torn away from his phone and is still working his way back to send me a proper response – I’m searching the web for what to do when you have an altercation with your boss. There are tons of suggestions about professional conflict resolution – don’t make assumptions, remain calm, acknowledge personal triggers, respectfully use “I” statements, address conflict in-person to avoid miscommunications, etc. – but none of it seems suitable for this level of offense.


I didn’t do anything. He’s the one being unprofessional here.


Next, I search “How to write a resignation letter,” and start surfing Indeed for jobs, which then leads to searching “How to improve your resume.” I’m scrolling through the results when something interesting catches my eye.


It’s a Quora post about someone who’s had a similar experience. It reads: My boss and colleagues are always responding to my emails with the “thumbs up” emoji and I have no idea what this means!!!! It makes me feel unappreciated and unimportant. I work really hard to share my ideas and offer my feedback, and it feels like they’re not even trying… or appreciating my efforts, for that matter!!!


I scroll through the comments, and so many people are having similar experiences in their workplace. I feel partly relieved that this isn’t just me, but the more I read, the more frustration rises in my chest.


This has gone beyond just me and my boss, I think to myself righteously. This cannot keep happening to us. Something has to be done.


I consider what I can do to help these people. I ask my boyfriend what he thinks should be done, but I only get a real-life shrug. After more pacing, more biting my nails, and one more trip to Peet’s (I put all my disgruntled feelings aside from earlier now that my mission has become so much more important; the barista totally tries to flirt with me this time, but to that, I stick up my nose), I finally realize what needs to be done.


I sit at my computer and open a new window. I’m thankful I created an account years ago when Britney Spears’ conservatorship was under review, and even though I have to reset my password to Reddit, it’s worth it. In just under an hour, I write what I feel will one day be a historically significant article on why our society must cancel this disrespectful and demeaning response. It takes me another thirty minutes to come up with an equally significant title, but I finally settle on the perfect caption: “Thumbs Down to Thumbs Up.”


When I hit the submit button, I smile, eager and excited at the thrill of those anticipated non-thumb-ups-shaped upvotes rolling in.


It only takes a moment for the anxiety to creep in…


What if someone downvotes it?


***


Mr. Meeks sits at home finishing up a work email to his boss. He summarizes his week, projects next month’s progress, and includes any additional information he feels necessary or specifically requested. In this particular email, he is delighted to include an update on the woman he recently promoted to sales manager.

He writes, “Angela is doing exceedingly well in her new role. I am pleased with the new accounts she has acquired, and her team’s numbers are only going up. Her input is impactful and demonstrates her dedication and knowledge of her new responsibilities. See the attached photo for her most recent ideas.” Mr. Meeks attaches a photo of the message he received from Angela earlier this week.


The next morning, Mr. Meeks finds a response from his boss waiting in his inbox. The message is simple and concise, consisting of one character: a thumbs-up emoji.


Mr. Meeks smiles at his boss’ approval as he pours his coffee and begins his weekend. Off to a great start, he thinks.

October 15, 2022 02:21

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56 comments

Tommy Goround
11:27 Oct 15, 2022

Remember to like your own story. Own it all.

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Anne Marie Miles
14:23 Oct 15, 2022

👍

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Tommy Goround
11:26 Oct 15, 2022

Analysis: 1) you are not alone. 2) the gambling industry got into social media. The dopamine from "slots" is now an emoji of Vulcan mind melting. But let's be more candid: this situation is turning us into 3rd world vassels, serfs, ego slaves. You have the power to take your boss' job. Hedge fund him. Use the internet to learn instead of crippling self esteem 30 years ago Melanie Griffith Rose from a secretary job to owning the company. Michael j fox "secret of My success" owned it. This generation is turning Americans into cave peopl...

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Anne Marie Miles
14:23 Oct 15, 2022

And in that cave, eggshells EVERYWHERE!

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Tommy Goround
01:00 Oct 16, 2022

Lol

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03:27 Nov 19, 2022

I really enjoy the aspect of perspective. Your first character has multiple chances to stave off her own anxiety, but chooses to continue escalating. Her descriptions and addiction to technology is readily visible. Her perception is her reality and yet, little does she know how off the mark it really is. It's sad that her experience is so wide spread for the younger generations. Hinging self-worth on likes, or in this case comments and then upvotes, is unfortunate.

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Anne Marie Miles
04:23 Nov 19, 2022

Hey Jessica, thank you for reading and commenting! I agree, it is unfortunate that so many are correlating their social medias and likes to their own self worth, and becoming obsessed by their own perceptions, creating, in a sense, a delusional form of anxiety. I was really trying to showcase how easy it is to become so self-absorbed that one cannot even consider another perspective, or even communicate how they really feel. Angela completely avoids the option to respond to her boss and gain more clarification. And then on top of it, she con...

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15:03 Nov 23, 2022

Oh wow, Anne. I can't believe it was based on a true story. Thank you for the insight into this issue. You did a great job showcasing how the ease of self-absorption and social media addiction lead to delusional anxiety and inappropriate and potentially harmful actions against others. It is sad that the time for clarification isn't taken. Great job focusing on real world issues. Communication is hard for some. Thank you again for posting such a great read!

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Kamala Chaudhary
14:45 Oct 31, 2022

So, should i thumbs up this story or not? hmmmm

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Anne Marie Miles
17:22 Oct 31, 2022

I guess that depends on who you relate to more... Angela or Mr. Meeks?

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Amanda Lieser
15:31 Oct 29, 2022

ANNE!! CONGRATULATIONS!! I loved this one! I loved how you zoomed in on this issue and voiced a concern so many people feel. My heart was delighted in jumping into your MC’s mind. I also loved the last little bit where we get to read what her boss is actually thinking. Sometimes, I feel as writers we spend so much time thinking about crafting our words, that we forget the rest of the world doesn’t. This sorry made me laugh and smile. It made me want to be friends with your MC. Tell her, I’d take her for a coffee. :) thanks for writing!

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Anne Marie Miles
15:58 Oct 29, 2022

Aw thank you, Amanda! This was definitely a really fun one to write. I tend to overthink like Angela does here but I'm working on recognizing other people's perspectives, too. It helps with the anxiety - lol! Thanks for reading :)

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Sophia Gardenia
13:33 Oct 29, 2022

Oh man, this is so relatable! Sometimes it takes me half an hour to write an email, text, or reply to a reedsy comment.

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Anne Marie Miles
13:36 Oct 29, 2022

Oh yes, I get quite in my head about responses, even verbaL ones - LOL. But I find especially as a writer, I love to move around words and find the best articulation. It's a timely thing!

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Maria Alexandra
12:27 Oct 24, 2022

Love the story! I usually react to someone’s message when I want to seem “cool” or “not too eager”. Incredible how much overthinking comes from these little icons and signs on our phones! Looking forward to reading more of your work :D

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Aeris Walker
11:25 Oct 23, 2022

I love how you perfectly you captured the differences in the (stereotypical) male/vs female brain: “He types back: “He thumbs-upped it. That means you’re good.”” Meanwhile, she’s considering quitting 😂😂 The ending was awesome. Really enjoyed your great writing!

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Anne Marie Miles
15:48 Oct 23, 2022

Thank you for your kind words, Aeris! While it is stereotypical, it is also very much how my husband thinks vs how I think 😂 Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!

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Aeris Walker
09:20 Oct 24, 2022

Same for us too! I told my husband about your story and we both had a good laugh, saying “that’s so you!”

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Anne Marie Miles
14:00 Oct 24, 2022

I love that you shared it with him and it made you both laugh! 😊

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Zelda C. Thorne
21:19 Oct 22, 2022

Bahaha Brilliant. Great voice. Loved the end. Looking forward to reading more from you 👍

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Anne Marie Miles
22:13 Oct 22, 2022

Thank you kindly! 😊

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Edward Latham
14:11 Oct 22, 2022

So often a change of viewpoint at the end of a short story can feel like a cheap twist, but this one was perfect! It really reminded you how different people can be and how its important to consider that they react differently to things. I think we've all experienced times when we've put effort into things and felt like it wasnt appreciated, and you did a great job of describing that feeling! Great story Anne Marie!

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Anne Marie Miles
14:50 Oct 22, 2022

Hi Edward, thanks for these kind words. I hadn't intended to write the ending that way. Honestly this story came out in a matter of minutes while I was literally making dinner - lol - and the ending with Angela posting on Reddit just didn't feel like enough. I felt adding a change in viewpoint at the end really sealed the idea that people perceive communication cues entirely different, especially those who are prone to overthinking and need direct and sometimes inflated validation! It was a fun story to write, it still makes me laugh. Thanks...

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Tommy Goround
07:32 Oct 22, 2022

Oh sorry. You need dust jacket quote: "The most important story about emojis...since The Emoji movies was displayed in Saudi Arabia" t.g. of the former Asinine Press.

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Anne Marie Miles
13:13 Oct 22, 2022

😂 that's a pretty epic dust jacket quote

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Tommy Goround
07:29 Oct 22, 2022

Boom, there it is.

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Anne Marie Miles
13:14 Oct 22, 2022

😂 thanks, Tommy!

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Kendall Neff
18:16 Oct 21, 2022

I loved this, The title caught my eye, and the whole story kept me invested. I love it!!

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Anne Marie Miles
18:31 Oct 21, 2022

Thank you kindly - for reading and commenting! Glad you enjoyed it. :)

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Sue Hunter
15:57 Oct 21, 2022

This story definitely got a chuckle out of me. I overthink in the same way as your mc, so it feels very lifelike!

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Anne Marie Miles
16:07 Oct 21, 2022

Happy to give you a laugh. I think we all have tendencies to overthink a bit like this. But hopefully we don't all take it to Reddit 👀😂

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Seán Mc Nicholl
23:26 Oct 18, 2022

Anne Marie, this was great! Loved it! I was thinking that that prompt would be a tough one but you nailed it! Thoroughly enjoyable story and the contrast of the ending was brilliant! Loved it, well done! Or 👍

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Anne Marie Miles
04:11 Oct 19, 2022

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Seán! I did not anticipate taking on this prompt, but I was pleased with what came up!

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Seán Mc Nicholl
16:30 Oct 21, 2022

Congratulations on the shortlist!!

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Anne Marie Miles
18:34 Oct 21, 2022

Thanks so much!

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Rebecca Miles
04:04 Oct 18, 2022

Miles to Miles: great voice in this one, flows so well. And definitely funny; I love humour in internal monologues, especially the situational sort here which throws up lots of paradoxes. Interesting idea too, the medium is the message or rather the miss message! I like the hint at the deeper issue of how gender affects our style and willingness to communicate. E.g it's well documented in the publishing industry that female readers read across the genders where as men tend to stick to male authors, which sucks for gals like us! Anyways, thi...

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Anne Marie Miles
04:10 Oct 19, 2022

Thank you sister Miles, for your kind words! I find myself having my own humorous internal monologues (at least they're funny to me!) and I had to call upon a bit of my own anxious tendencies for this one. But all credit goes to my husband who told me about an article he read that said there is an actual call for canceling the thumbs up emoji 🚫👍 we had a laugh about it in the car (where he gave me plenty of inspiration via his real-life shrugging) and then I wrote the story later while making dinner 😂 Glad you enjoyed and I thank you for rea...

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Rebecca Miles
04:36 Oct 19, 2022

😂Love that anecdote with your hubbie. I can picture the shrugged shoulders and your face: Gold!

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Rebecca Miles
05:32 Oct 22, 2022

Shortlisted! Fully deserved, this one went the distance 😉🏅

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Anne Marie Miles
19:37 Oct 22, 2022

Thank you sister Miles!

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Tommy Goround
02:11 Oct 19, 2022

Lol at miles to miles.

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Michał Przywara
20:59 Oct 17, 2022

👍 Great title :) Very amusing story that fits the prompt. Fighting for 45 minutes with a delete button is far too relatable though :) "or going to his boss with a complaint of harassment" - lol! Love it. "but none of it seems suitable for this level of offense" - also lol.

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Anne Marie Miles
21:32 Oct 17, 2022

For us writers, 45 mins against a delete button is nothing 😂 Glad you enjoyed it, thanks for reading!

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Kendall Defoe
13:09 Oct 15, 2022

Okay, this hits home for me. Mr. Meeks, we appreciate you so much...

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Anne Marie Miles
14:21 Oct 15, 2022

SO much!!!

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Philip Ebuluofor
10:20 Oct 23, 2022

Congrats. It is easy to follow story.

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Anne Marie Miles
15:46 Oct 23, 2022

Thank you!

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Philip Ebuluofor
09:49 Oct 25, 2022

Welcome.

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Rama Shaar
03:09 Oct 22, 2022

Oh this is so me! You captured the overthinking, anxious personality so well!

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Anne Marie Miles
03:51 Oct 22, 2022

Thank you so much! I definitely have a few of these tendencies too, so it was fun to write about and exaggerate a bit. Thanks for reading!

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