This story is by Yajiv and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Third most important thing in life is knowledge. Eric remembered what his father told him. His father also said that, Hope is the second most important thing in life and Love is the first. The theory was that, knowledge gives you a reason to hope for a better life. When there is hope, there is love and where there is no hope, hate creeps in. Eric always wondered if that made knowledge the most important thing in life. At least, at this point of time, knowledge is what Eric needed. Lack of knowledge about their company’s plans is what makes him and everyone else in the meeting room worried.
All twenty of them, in what used to be fifty, from the former Spring Green Corporation’s head office walked in this meeting room at 4 PM, on a Friday. They all believed today is their last day at work. Jeff Purdy, the executive assistant, stopped by to let everyone know that Mr. Thompson is running late due to some last minute preparations.
Eric asked, “What… what is he preparing for?”
Jeff was taken back by his question, “uh… he will be here soon to talk about it. Just give a few mins, please”
Twenty families future are at stake. Every heart in the room is pounding with unanswerable questions. Will they have a job next week or is it going to be a long, long weekend? Should they downsize their life? What life comforts should they let go? Are they looking into bankruptcy?
It all started a year back. Some millionaire board member in Demeter Agricultural Corp, a multinational corporation, thought adding Spring Green’s lawn mower to their product line will be a good idea. So, they bought the company and sent Kevin Thompson to run it. Initially, all thought that being part of a MNC will give them a better future. But, Mr. Thompson came in with a different idea. He didn’t try to fit in, barely talked to anyone and his sole purpose seems to be to intimidate and belittle them. A rumor started that Demeter Corp is keeping the factory, which is in Mexico, and closing down the corporate office. It appeared true. Thirty people left the company in the next ten months. Some were fired and others quit. It went quiet for a couple of months, until they got this meeting invite.
Jeff walked in again at 4:30 PM, “We need a few more mins. Let me know if you need anything, while you wait.”
Matt, the man with the shortest fuse of us all, scoffed and yelled “It looks like Mr. Thompson is not following his own rules.” Jeff starred and left without a response.
Mr. Thompson is a man of rules. The first email he sent after taking over the company started with, “My first rule is, I don’t like excuses…” It set the tone for his leadership through fear. That’s the fashion nowadays, anyways. The most famous of his rules are the ones about meeting etiquette. It stated, every meeting invite should have a clear agenda and expectations for each attendee. Meetings should start five minutes after the top of the hour and finish five minutes early. This meeting they are in now, didn’t follow any of those rules. There was no agenda, it didn’t start at 4:05 nor is it scheduled to end by 4:55. Eric found it funny and scary at the same time. Is it that the rules don’t apply to him or is it just that the rules are not needed anymore?
Brian, who was sitting quietly all these time, leaned over to Eric and said, “I can’t wait for this shit to be over with. All they care about is money… They don’t give a shit about our lives. I bet that asshole is having a good laugh now, making us wait, all worried”
Eric shook his head, “I don’t know man… just can’t believe it came to this, after 15 years.”
Brian shrugged his shoulders, “It’s inevitable. There is no future in this small town… or any small town. You need stability, move to the cities. Big, fat, urban sprawl. That’s where things are happening.”
Brian always wanted to move to New York City. But, he never left the town so far. He is sure small towns are at the end of their lives. Anyone who is not a landowner or farmer, should move the heck out of these towns. Restaurants and gas stations are good only if people have money to spend. He calculated that by the end of this century all of the population will be living in big cities, except the farmers. Eric on the other hand can’t stand cities. The two times he visited New York, he absolutely hated the crowd and the rush.
Brian continued with a hushed tone, “I didn’t want to tell anyone… I may have an offer in a pharma company. It’s not exactly New York, but very close, in Jersey.”
Eric got surprised, “Wow, congratulations… that’s great news. You always wanted to move… and great timing.”
“I got lucky. I will check if they have anything in the sales department for you.” he smirked.
“Thanks”, Eric felt a bit positive. May be he too can move to a suburb. And, suddenly everyone heard someone sniffle from crying. It was Marylou. The person who everyone is worried about other than themselves. She joined the company two years back after her husband died in an accident. The previous owners offered her a job as an office assistant to help her manage the family of two teenage kids. She is back in the brink and now broke down in tears, unable to handle the stress of waiting to know her family’s future.
Matt got up and screamed, “This is bullshit, I am going to…” And, right at that time, Mr. Thompson entered the room. Matt stared at him for a few seconds and sat down shaking his head.
Mr. Thompson stood at the head of the long meeting table and said, “Sorry for being late. I have three announcements to make. One about the company, the second about you all and the third about me.”
Everyone’s absolute attention was on him. Eric thought he could hear others heartbeat.
“First, as of today, the brand of Spring Green will cease to exist. All the new lawn mowers, factories, offices and other properties will be rebranded as Demeter. That completes the absorption of Spring Green and no more changes are planned for the immediate future.”
No one was sure what that means to them or their jobs. Eric started to worry that the uncertainty may continue.
Mr. Thompson continued, “Now about you. I am happy to announce that each one of you are offered a job in Demeter. The title is the same as what you have now, but the pay is adjusted to match Demeter’s pay scale. If the job can be moved to New York, it is mentioned in the offer letter, we welcome you to relocate. If you have any questions, please reach out to Jeff.”
Jeff started to hand over offer letters one by one. It was confusing to receive an offer letter for a job they already have. They never heard of something like this to happen. But, Eric felt good that he still have a job. The rush that came with the relief almost made him cry for a second. What does this mean? Life goes on as is? Is it going to be an usual weekend – walking the dog, watering plants and watching stupid TV shows?
Mr. Thompson continued, “And, finally, today is my last day in Demeter.”
The most hated person is leaving the company. Now that he gave everyone hope, suddenly, no one knew how to respond.
“I was hired to make this merger work and my job is done as of today. I was told to close this office, let go off everyone and sell the property. But, I never thought of that as a good idea. It’s not just the product and revenue, it’s also the people that makes a successful company. In the last year, you all helped me to prove your worth. You believed in yourself and the company. I wish I could have saved more jobs, but it is what it is. Thanks everyone and Good luck” He walked out as fast as he came in.
Brian jumped up with joy. He got an option to work in New York . Marylou was happy to keep the job at the same pay. Matt walked out without saying a word. Eric got a pay hike. But, suddenly he wasn’t sure what to do. The knowledge that his immediate future is stable gave him hope. He thought maybe he should do more with his life than just living. May be doing something that he really loves.