I flipped on the lights. My desks was covered with project files that I’d left in various stages of completion. For some, the deadline had come and gone. I tore the page from my desk calendar to the 31st and with a sweep of an arm I cleared the rubble into the trash cash and bid it good riddance. I pressed the intercom button and waited for 2009 to pick up the line.
“Come see me, will you?” From where I sat, I could see him walking down the hall. He was so confident, so brash, so totally unaware of what was about to happen.
“Yes?” he said.
“Sit down, 2009.” I motioned for him to take a seat then looked him square in eyes. “Do you remember your first day here?”
“Yeah, sure, January 1. The place was a mess.” He leaned back in his chair. His left foot dangled over his knee while the restless right tapped on the floor. “The guy before me left a huge mess. You were happy to see me, remember?”
“Yes, I was, wasn’t I? In fact, I had great expectations of you. That’s the beauty of a new year, 2009. It’s a chance to clean the slate and start over. Welcomed you into the firms, had your office ready, supplies in place. I distinctly remember the high hopes and anticipation of the great things to come. I truly embraced the opportunity of your arrival. More important, I was certain that between my strengths, my determination, and your fresh approach, the firm was going to go places.”
I let him chew on that for a while before slipping him the page on which I’d written his performance evaluation.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Well, first of all, I’m not at all pleased with the company’s bottom line. You promised improvements in that area.” I pointed to the yellowed ripped line graph I’d taped to my wall. “And yet, it dropped like a pipe in a stagnant pond.”
“You can’t blame me for that,” he said. “The economy was already shaky when I came on.”
“Yes, but you did nothing to help our diminished profits. In fact, you added to the problem.”
“I suppose you’re going to blame me for the war and what’s going on in Washington too.”
“That’s not fair. You’re doing okay.”
“Only because your actions forced me to become more frugal. Look around! The place is in a state of chaos. There is no security, no guarantees any more. Everything I’d taken for granted is gone.”
“Your success is a testament to my diligence,” he said.
“Testament? You want testimonials? Don’t think that I’m speaking solely for myself. I’m not the only one who has seen you hanging around the water cooler while there was work to be done. I have witnesses and plenty of them. “
I reached into my top desk drawers and pulled out a sizable stack of papers. They made a hollow sounding thud as they dropped onto my desk. “This one’s from John in Accounting,” I said as I scanned over the first page covered in numbers written in red and shoved it across the desk to him. I grabbed the next one and tossed it at him as well. “Janice in Receivables is beside herself, and Joe at the docks told me more profits are leaving the firm than coming in. Your careless management style has affected countless employees—all neighbors and friends. I’ve heard the same grumbling over and over again—many had worse tales to tell than mine.”
“A clear case of over-exaggeration. You know what they say, misery loves company.”
“Don’t be smug.” My fist made a thundering noise when it hit the desk. I could only admit to one thing. Our experiences had brought many of us closer together.
“What about the good things I did? The increased vacation times, the recognitions my actions brought to the firm. Maybe we didn’t have an extravagant year, but it wasn’t all bad.”
“Granted. Whether by intent, an incredible accident, or a stroke of luck, some good did manage to slip through the cracks and for that, I’m grateful.” I rose to my feet and turned to gaze out the window. “At least I still have my family, my friends, and colleagues. I have my health and the insurance to help me keep it. My mind is clearer now and, I might add that wry as it may seem, I’ve managed to hold on to my sense of humor.”
When he started to patronize me again with one of his condescending remarks I acknowledged that I did have a comfortable home, enough money for what my family needed. “Yes, and somehow, there’s always a little extra for what we want. I know I'm truly blessed.”
“Glad to know it. Now, are we done?” he asked and started to get to his feet.
“Sit down!” I was getting tired of his arrogance and was determined he wouldn’t get the last word. “I’m a strong believer that things, good or bad, happen for a reason. In this case, your poor management style forced me out of my comfort zone and made me think outside the box—more than once I might add. No matter how hard you tried, you weren’t able to sever my will or crush my character. You haven’t dampened my optimism or diminished my believes. No, 2009, because of you, I am more determined than ever before to succeed. So thank you, thank you so much!”
“I thought you’d see things my way. In the next couple of weeks—”
“Don’t get too cocky. Your time here is over.”
“But—” He rushed to his feet again and leaned over my desk. “You can’t be serious!”
“Aren’t I?” I shoved all the testimonials back into my drawer and slammed it shut. “I’ve already hired your replacement. 2010 will be here soon. I need to get ready. I don’t want a scene either. There’s certainly no need for lengthy good-byes.” I glanced at my watch and tapped its face. “You have just enough time to collect your things.”
A shocked expression was still on his face when he turned to leave.
“I’ll take your key now.”
He reached into his pocket, bounced the key a couple of times in the palm of his hands, and then placed it in mine. “I suppose this means you won’t provide me with a reference.”
* * *
Best wishes for a great New Year to all!