10 years down the pan in 30 minutes

Here’s my story of how nearly ten years of working for one company, changed in 30 minutes and set me off on a new path with The Bakers Dozen.

It was a small hot aired meeting room packed full of bodies in the middle of May. The type we all hate, lousy air con, pale green painted walls, cheap table and chairs, noticed boards with signs ‘Put off lights after use’, ‘Be safe’ and others signs that after a while blend into the background. And worst of all was that that tension was hanging in the air like a bad smell no one wanted to claim.

We’d all be summoned to the head office for this team meeting. Some like myself had driven an hour to be here, others only 10 minutes but we all felt it – that feeling of something not being quite right.

Then finally we all sat down after the awkward hello to our boss who sat behind the meeting table looking a bit nervous. She had flown up the night before from down south to be here. But there was another women with her here who had travelled up too, an outsider of the team, not smiling, looking stern, cold and focused, who was she?

Then our boss spoke cleaning the air with her bubbly tone, ‘thank you all for travelling up today and for those who changed their day off to be here again thank you. Today we’re…’ and then she stumbled, and for the first time we saw and heard it, the fumbling and quivering in her voice. It sounded like when you’d be caught drawing on the wall when little off your parents. You’d be asked to explain yourself but you couldn’t as you got too emotional. She now had that same sound and look of, ‘I’m sorry, please don’t hate me’. Now she had our full attention.

She composed her self quickly and introduced the outsider, ‘this is Jill from HR, she’ll be with us for the meeting and the rest of today and tomorrow. Jill is…’ but her voice seemed to fade away, and I was thinking fast, too fast, my brain was going into overdrive firing off all sorts of ideas… ‘dam, what did we do. Then another thought popped in from left field, but I laughed it off in my head while still nodding as if I was listening. No, I thought it couldn’t, but why not, maybe it is and yes why not indeed. With that, I relaxed, sat back, listened and enjoyed the rest of the meeting.

I tuned back in on time to see the presentation being weakly projected onto that lovely ‘I feel sick’ coloured wall. As we sat through those first 10 minutes, it became clear to all that our lives were going to change forever. All the bonds we’d made, the friendships, the meetings, the nights out, the discussions and everything else was all about to disappear.

Then one of us spoke. ‘I can’t be expected to decide on my future in one month, I’ve been here 11 years dam it’.

Ah, the fear, the panic that’s normal I assume. I assumed this as I wasn’t feeling any of it strangely. Then more and more slides, discussions, tensions and I wanted was to get out. To get away from this even hot room with eight people being held together for the last time so I finally spoke, ‘I need to go to the toilet’. A rather tired weak smile from my soon to be not boss and I was out.

Not free yet into a different world of a busy call centre floor, full of people working away, chatting, laughing, some serious, some typing away on keyboards as if their life depending on it all for a career in here, not me, I nearly free but I need space.

The toilets were a lovely pale blue with bright fluorescent lights which made it brighter than the summers day outside. And to my sheer amazement, the toilets were empty. Eight cubicles and urinals were all empty, only me now standing in the middle of the space looking bewildered.
Then it happened, a rush of emotions and thoughts. I was getting out. Soon I’d be free and.. ‘ FECKING YES. WAHOOOOOOOOOOOOO.’ It came rushing out that fast that I startled myself and burst out laughing. I wanted away now, to be done with it but I knew I had to compose myself, go back in and try to act normal.

It felt even hotter in the meeting room now. The air was thick with anger, confusion, bitterness, resentment all topped off with ‘we know it’s not your fault’ to my slowly wilting boss.

Our boss and the HR women finally left six of us to talk it over the options on the table, and to give us time before we had a one to one with them.

They asked what I thought as I’d been strangely quiet throughout. I ‘d generally have been a bit serious and have passed over guidance given I was four out of the five line manager, but instead, I said, ‘officially as of today I’m not your boss. So it’s up to you. I’ve enjoyed my time here, but it’s time for me to move on.’

After a few minutes of conversation, I said I needed time by myself to look over stuff and politely left. And then it was done, ten years of working for a company all done and dusted in a morning. I’d spoken to my wife who was delighted that I was leaving. I’d talked to the team to say I was going and I’d spoken to my boss and HR to sign the paperwork. The paperwork took about eight minutes most of which was the HR person trying to look a bit sorry while reading off the legal stuff then asking me to sign and smiling as if I’d just died. But I hadn’t, I’d be reborn. It was done.

Finish up early today early they said, take some time, so I did. I found myself driving home through the beautiful Scottish countryside with the sun shining through. It all didn’t feel real, like when you have a vivid dream only to forget the details a few hours later that’s how I felt. Did it just happen? Had I drove up here in a job and left without one?
Now the panic and fear set in. Now. Not at the start of the meeting when my minded drifted off or when I was about to sign the forms. Soon, alone and driving home at 70mph the panic started to set in. Now, what was I going to do? Will I have enough money? Am I employable? Do I want a job? Oh, feck this is real? What will people think? Is it too late to turn back?
Breathe I told myself, relax… Take the car down to 60mph, put it in cruise control and put some music on. So that’s what I did. My thoughts, panic and fear all took a back seat (for now) and watched as I drove signing my heart out smiling all the way home.

Amazing photo by Syed Umer on Unsplash.
Sums up how I felt around being caged in but soon was free.

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