It happened on a Tuesday afternoon. After 3 PM. The chilling words, "Can I see you in my office?" resonated quickly through my ears and into my tense body. I walked in, sat down and proceeded to hear that my fragile career was over.
I wasn't laid off. I wasn't "let go." There wasn't anything delicate about it. I was fired. Fired. FIRED. If my heart weren't pounding and in my throat as I listened to the crimes the company had against me, I might've thought about Mr. Spacely. I surely felt like George Jetson. Only on The Jetsons, Mr. Spacely always hires George back. I wasn't going to be hired back. I knew that just as surely as I knew I would be fired. By reportedly the "nicest woman on the planet."
Hmm. I never saw that side of her. She barely spoke to me. Unless it was to rip on my copy. It all sucked...until she replaced a word, rearranged some sentences and then miraculously...it became genius.
*insert angels choir singing*
My boss actually did not fire me. She let the HR person on the phone do it. "We've decided that your performance just wasn't there, and so you're being fired for lack of performance. Your last day of work will be immediately. You're to gather your things, turn in your badge, make your way to the door and you'll receive your last check on the 16th."
I'd already carted my things home before Thanksgiving.
They wanted to watch me cry. They kept staring at me to see if maybe, just maybe I'd lose my cool. They wanted to witness a breakdown of epic proportions and then report back to the rest of the team how they cracked my veneer. I gave them nothing. Nothing at all.
I walked back to my desk, gathered my Batman lunchbox together and handed over my computer's passwords. They stood gaping at my calm demeanor. "I saw this in a cartoon once. I think I got it," I explained as I donned my coat with what I hoped to be total nonchalance.
They stood. Silent. Unwilling to meet my eyes. I spoke to my coworkers who never, ever wished me a good morning in the 240 days that I was there. "Goodbye. I'm being fired. I guess it's been nice. Good luck."
They also stared at me as I turned over the security key. If I needed a reference, one man offered...lamely. He meant well. "Thanks," I nodded at him curtly. Now he was going to be pleasant, friendly?
I hooked my purse over my shoulder, grabbed my Batman lunchbox and walked out. I didn't look back. Mercifully, the elevator came quickly to take me away from the many sets of eyes that now watched my departure. The doors closed and I relaxed. It was over.
I didn't have to drive into work telling myself to be brave and not to cry.
I didn't have to keep trying to forge relationships with people who cared nothing for me.
I didn't have to hear people invited to lunch without me.
I didn't have to beg my teammates for input on what to do, how to do it and how to improve upon it.
I didn't have to work with an art director who didn't care that columns weren't lining up and images weren't straight and charts were impossible to read because she didn't want to format them.
I didn't have to hear how badly I sucked unless, of course, I deserved it.
Despite the advantages of my termination, it still stung. I shook hands with the maintenance crew and then walked to my car. I let the tears fall. When the folks six floors up wouldn't be able to see me.