My Own Personal Grave Digger (Daily Prompt)
This is my first attempt at a Daily Prompt. I hope it does justice to all those that have come before me. From what little I’ve seen there are some pretty big shoes around the place, but I love a good challenge.
For Your Consideration I Present to You:
My Own Personal Grave Digger
Everyone has been there I’m sure, that moment in life when it knocks you sideways. While lying there you suddenly come to the realization that you’ve been provided with your own personal grave digger. It’s not something we should be surprised about really. After all, life affords us with so many other things, why not that creepy figure lurking in the corner of the cemetery?
I am not referring to those sad moments, or mad moments, or even the completely befuddled moments. Nope. This is the moment when you know, without a doubt, you’re screwed. In truth, it’s a rather calm feeling. Being trapped. You may not be able to climb out, but you can’t fall either. You’re stuck. Enclosed like those cute little bugs in those cosy little rugs that we hear so much about.
My moment came during a conversation with my boss at the time. He owned four Big Boy restaurants. I was his second in command, in his fourth and most recent acquisition. When he had first bought the place I was excited. He seemed nice, knowledgeable, and eager to turn our waning customer base around. He seemed to have good ideas, and had already proved to be a sound businessman by increasing profits and patrons at his three previous restaurants. What more could you ask for?
As it turns out… a lot.
I will not deny his business savvy, or his way with the clientele, and he did in fact bring butts back to the seats. Yet after only a few months we all began to notice that his kindness stopped at the front counter. He was belligerent, condescending, threatening, and downright rude to his staff. Going so far as to not only scream but throw things and push people. He could have made a marble statue cry.
The kicker. I had bent over backwards to get in his good graces. Done all I could to make him happy and want to keep me in his ranks. After baring witness to his outbursts, and being on the receiving end of several, I had had enough. So I did what most do. I began to look elsewhere for employment. Not an easy task in Michigan at the time.
Unemployment was at an all-time high, and employers looking for qualified employees were being bombarded with applications. Still I through my hat into the ring with more than 30 job listings. Despite the fact that there were people I worked with that would give glowing references, I opted for the “Do not contact current employer” option with all of them. After all, there was no need to cause more stress at my current job than need be, right?
Unfortunately, one prospect ignored my request and contacted them anyway. I’ll give three guesses as to who took that call, and the first two don’t count.
I pulled into work that day to see that the owner’s car was parked out back. My heart sank. All I could think was what kind of mess I would be faced with today. How I would go about picking my staff up off the floor after another sand storm? They would be disheartened, mad, stressed out and at their wits end. It was going to be a long night. Little did I know it wasn’t my staff I had to worry about this day.
With a deep breath, and a plastered smile I walked in, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. The owner met me almost at the door. He didn’t look happy and I began to scan the area looking for remnants of the hurricane that had occurred before my arrival. I didn’t see any, which left me wondering what bee had gotten up his bum. It had to be something because you could see the embers of Hades burning just behind his eyes.
Once we took opposing seats at an out of the way booth he sat, straight backed, hands on the table, clasped so tightly they had gone white.
“Is there something you would like to tell me?”
I smiled; though I have a feeling it was lopsided. “I don’t think so.”
“Nothing at all?”
I sat for a moment, my brain going into survival mode. There was something he knew, about me apparently, that I could not for the life of me think of.
“No,” I said slowly, now knowing my confusion had reached my expression.
His frown creased so much he could have passed for a human Shar-Pei hybrid. Reflecting far more of the canine genes than his own at this point. He stared, those embers getting brighter, and waited, saying nothing for a minute. When he realized I was either too stupid to know what he was talking about, or wasn’t going to admit to my wrong doing, he went on.
“I got a call from ***** today.”
My stomach hit the floor, along with my heart and brain. The mass suicide of organs splattered into a collage of unrecognizable soup at my feet. What was I supposed to say to that? Should I admit that I had been looking at other jobs? Should I play dumb? Beg for mercy? What?
I decided to go the safe route. Find out how much he knew. Test the waters before jumping in with the sharks, so to speak. Besides, maybe that company had called for a different reason than I was assuming. It was possible, wasn’t it?
“That’s interesting,” and it was, considering they were never supposed to contact this employer. “What was it about?”
“They had a lot of questions about you.” He replied, apparently having decided to humour me. “It seems they are under the impression you want to work for them.”
Damn. Well there went theory number one, and two.
I kept silent, and tried my best to keep that looming cloud of guilt at bay. After all, I hadn’t actually done anything wrong.
“Are you? Looking for another job that is?”
“I put a couple of applications out, yes.” I felt it best not to disclose just how many a couple was. No need to poke those sharks unnecessarily. They already smelled blood as it was.
The condescension all but flooded his mouth, “I thought you liked working here. Why would you want to leave?”
Because you’re a dick, who cut our vacation, benefits, and pay. Because you’re abusive to your workers, not only mentally but sometimes physically. Because I work the second most hours in this place, been here the second longest, have only ever gotten two raises in almost ten years, and don’t have enough money to pay my electric bill this month.
I bit my tongue, hard. So hard in fact I distinctly remember that familiar metallic taste. Oh if only I had had the balls to say what I thought.
“I do like working here,” which was true, at least for a small percentage of the time. “I was just seeing what they might have to offer.” Another true statement, if only a half truth. “What did you tell them when they asked about me?”
He glanced at me briefly before leaning slightly forward in the booth. “Would you take the job if they offered it to you?”
I couldn’t help but notice he didn’t bother to answer my question. Of course I knew all too well, having witnessed it before, that he was the type of boss that would bad mouth an employee when a possible new employer called. This was being done not because the worker actually did suck, but because he didn’t want to lose that employee, because they were that good. Which is why I didn’t want anyone I had applied for to come calling on him for information.
“I suppose I’d have to hear what they had to say. I wouldn’t want to blindly take a position without knowing what I was getting into.”
“Well, I’ll give you something to consider then,” this statement gave me a chill akin to that moment just before the axe murder takes off your head. “If you are going to be leaving us why should I bother keeping you on at all, and wasting my money?”
And there it was, the other shoe, and it hid the floor with a sickening thud, landing squarely in the puddle of my once whole organs. Again I was silent. He was actually threatening to fire me if I kept looking for another job. I was trapped and he knew it.
“That’s logical, right?” he asked, those embers dulling slightly now that he knew just how buried I actually was.
“That money could be put to better use in people and things that I can count on to be around. Why throw my money away with someone if I won’t get my money’s worth out of them?”
Ironically, his words made sense, in a business mongering BS kind of way.
I could not afford to lose this job without having another lined up. My bills were $1600 a, my take home pay only $1400, now, because of pay cuts, thanks to him. I always tried to cut corners and save money. I ate at work, because it was free, and almost never bought groceries. I only drove to and from work, unless absolutely necessary to go elsewhere. I turned off all my lights, and most of my appliances were unplugged when not in use. I even went as far as to only wash my clothes once a week, in cold water, and line dry them. The only expenditure that was not a necessity was my pet food, and cat litter. I could NOT lose this job without a backup.
I took a breath, and a sudden numbing calm came over me. It was the realization that I was looking at the world from six feet below it. The things that I had done, or not done, in the past with this job came flooding forward like some corporate near death experience.
“You’re right,” I said, suddenly realizing what had just happened. “It would be a waste of money.”
“So what should I do?” In other words, what am I going to do, was the real question.
“You can keep paying me. I won’t be leaving.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I’m in it ‘til the end.”
I’d like to think that I picked myself up by my bootstraps, all tough and courageous, when life knocked me down. But I didn’t. Sure I had two choices in this matter, true I didn’t like either one, but they were still choices. Instead of taking the risk to get out of a bad, and now inevitably worse situation, I gave in, I gave up.
With an all too familiar gait, I simply grabbed my shovel and went back to my job as my very own personal grave digger.
Daily Prompt for January 7th, 2013 – “Helpless”
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Posted on January 8, 2013, in My Life, My World and tagged bosses, career, choices, Daily Prompt, decisions, disheartened, DPchallenge, excerpt, grave digger, helpless, hopeless, jobs, lessons, life, nonfiction, post a day, PostADay, self-imposed, short story, trapped. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.