“Best ae luck wi' that, honey,” Liz said to a still hopeful customer. He took his slip and change with a nod. She followed him to the door and locked it after he left. How often had she felt this relief at the end of the day? Thirty-eight years with the company tomorrow; four different locations and one armed robbery. A career in taking poor saps' money. She had spent a lifetime working in a bookies and never placed a single bet. Liz removed her glasses and wiped them with her polo shirt. The younger staff departed as she turned off the lights and went through the general locking-up ritual. Around half an hour later than the rest, a very tired Liz left work. Need to get my rest for tomorrow, she thought.
Liz had a job interview the next day; her first in thirty-eight years. They asked you all kinds of silly things these days, she'd heard. But it was worth it. The fear of staying the same had become greater than the fear of change. She was going to get an entry level position at a company where she could actually make something of herself. It's never too late for a change of pace.
The interviewer was older than herself; a blessing. He used a lot of 'buzz' words which Liz understood were necessary to run a business these days. He explained the basic duties she would be required to undertake and the reasonable amount she would be paid for doing so.
“You've been with your current employer for...” he paused, “thirty-eight years, correct?”
Liz confirmed the story and the man looked undecided which column to put that under. They shook hands and she was to expect his call in the next five working days. Liz stepped out into the cold foyer, a light layer of sweat now dried on her back. Networking, she thought, he had said networking so many times, but she still didn't have a clue he meant. Seven regular and five working days later the man rang to congratulate her on getting the position.
At her induction, Liz met a nice man named Robert who had also recently joined the company. On request, he proudly displayed a wallet full of photos of his new bride and baby girl. Liz's children had flown the nest many years ago and she told him to cherish these days. By the end of her first day at Halduke and Bryan Associates, Liz was still unsure of what exactly 'networking' was, but making the tea certainly seemed an important part of it. By week two, she was transcribing recordings on to the computer and making the tea. Week three: Proof reading emails, transcribing recordings and making the tea. After a month, Halduke and Bryan Associates hired a new young lady and Liz taught her how to use the kettle.
Almost a year later, Liz was called in to head office for a meeting with the man who had originally interviewed her. He sat her down with the same charming, irritating smile he used last year.
“Thanks for coming in,” he said, “I'll get straight to the point. We've got an opening coming up and we think you'd be perfect for it. It's more money, more responsibility and less hours.”
“Ah cannae imagine three better perks than that!” Liz responded, enthusiastically.
They shook hands and had a celebratory drink in his office. The bitter smell from the bottle was a stronger version of that which hung in his office at all times. She didn't know much about whisky but he seemed like a man who wanted to be judged by his choice.
“Och, that's a nice yin,” she mustered up.
“I know,” he replied, swirling his glass with no real purpose, “On Monday, see Douglas on three about your first duties.”
Monday came and Douglas was expecting her.
“Liz, great, come in, take a seat.” he said, and she did. “Now, I'm not sure if you were told, but to start you off, we've got a bit of housekeeping for you to do. As part of your new role, you're going to have to let someone go. Is that a problem for you?”
It was a problem. Of course it was a problem.
“Right, I understand.”
A 'streamlining session', he called it. He passed Liz a document to guide her on the correct terminology to use and another on the employee in question. Robert J. Smith. Robert; the father of a now one year-old girl who Liz had met on her first day.
“We're going to get away without giving him the severance package because of this clause here,” Douglas said, pointing at some unread paragraph on a page near the back of Robert's contract.
“But he huz a baby,” Liz pleaded, “and a wife. Are you sure ye need tae...”
“Let me stop you right there, Liz. I thought you might start talking like this. Let me put it like this: in this world, there are takers and waiters. There are people who see what they want and take it, and there are people who see what they want and wait for someone to give it to them. Takers make it to the very top; waiters...tell you the soup of the day. You get what I'm saying?”
Liz 'got' what he was saying, as painful as it was to hear. She had traded her career in taking poor saps' money for a career in taking poor saps' careers.
“I know what I need to do,” Liz said, leaving Douglas with his documents.
Liz returned to working at the bookies not long after resigning her post at Halduke and Bryan Associates. With thirty-eight years' experience under her belt they couldn't say no. She started having a flutter every once in a while; it was only a bit of spare change, after all. One condition on her return, though: she demanded to be considered for a move to head office within twelve months. The regional boss accepted this term and told her she should've asked sooner. She also convinced them that she required a new Loss Prevention Officer in her branch and she knew just the person to fill the role. Robert was extremely pleased to get Liz's call as it just so happened that the firm had sacked him a fortnight ago without severance pay.
“You're a real blessing!” he kept saying down the phone.
Liz was happy to call herself a 'taker' these days, but 'waiters' needed a hand sometimes, too.
About the Author: Ross Sayers is a twenty-year-old Scot. His role model is Conan O'Brien, with whom he shares a hatred of cynicism. This is his first published piece.
Image: (c) @Doug88888