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"Then Fire Me"

 

Reconstructed from a verbal account.

 

" Sure I was successful but at what cost? " 

 

         I found out through a passing comment that my wife was having an affair.  

When "Alex," a friend and coworker, sped past my house early one Monday morning on the way to work he saw a car pulling out of my driveway. 

It was still dark and he just assumed I was on the way to work, but when he called my office later that day, they said I was still in Germany on business and wasn't expected back until the middle of the week.

Still thinking it was my car that he had seen, when he finally got a hold of me he jokingly accused me of stealing a couple extra days for myself before coming back to "the salt mines."

I guess we both figured out what was going on at the same time, but to try to protect my wife, Kathy, I said I needed the extra time to get through jet lag. It sounded like a hastily constructed lie and it was.

        At about 4:30 when I was finishing up at work Alex called me and asked if I had extra time to meet him for a drink. 

I didn't want to face what we both had figured out, but, then again, I didn't want to go home to deal with Kathy and whatever was going on either.

For years Alex had been one of the company's top sales people. To bolster competition, our company constantly reminds us where everyone stands. But when Alex went through a divorce he suddenly dropped down into the "average range." 

Everyone assumed he would bounce back after his divorce, but after months it was clear that he had no interest in that.

         We met in a bar and sat in he back.  After some awkward starts at conversation, he said, "You are really lucky to be married to Kathy; she's beautiful, smart and," he hesitated, "with you being out of town so much, often lonely."

I knew exactly where this was leading, so after taking a long draw on my drink, I asked, "Who was he?"

He said, "I have no idea, but now I know it wasn't you."

I said, "So much for easing into this." 

Alex said that he had gone through one divorce over work hours and he didn't want to see another one.  He looked at me to see if I got the message.

He said, "My first wife was named Cathy too, but with a "C." She was the best thing that ever happened to me, and although I'm married again, I still miss her."

" He said, 'You got a real prize in that woman of yours. A lot of guys that would snatch her up in a heart beat, so don't be a fool.' " 

 

         I when I got home I said nothing to Kathy. I had to sort this out.

I sat down on the kitchen table with my yellow note pad and PDA while Kathy fixed dinner. I was going through a year's dates and times adding them up.

Kathy said, "Sorry supper's not ready; I'm never quite sure when you'll get home. Sometimes when meetings run over you don't have time to call and supper just gets cold."  

Maybe it was my imagination, but she seemed a bit distant.

When I added up the dates and times from my PDA, I saw that I was away from home about a third of the year. And even when I wasn't away, I was often late getting home, or after supper I worked late in the den.

" Sure, I was successful, but at what cost? " 

 

As I watched Kathy cook our supper, I suddenly had to confront the fact that, no matter what she had done, I might be losing her.

That scared me.

         When she put my dinner down next to my note pad she asked what I was doing. I said that I had just discovered that I was gone or working most of my waking hours.

She just nodded as if this wasn't exactly news and said, "I know your work is important to you."

I said, "Not as important as you are."

Coming out of the blue like that, and with her probably feeling guilt over what she had done, it jolted her. Finally she said, "You are important to me too."

We didn't make love that night; in fact, our love life had dropped off in the last few years.

I was generally pretty beat at night and had things other than sex on my mind -- even when I got up from my computer and got to bed at a decent time.

        The next morning I went into my boss' office and said I was going to cancel all of my scheduled out of town trips for a couple months, and if that meant I would be replaced, so be it.

He looked stunned and asked if my health was okay. I said my health was fine.

He reminded me that I was close to being the company's top sales person.  I simply said, "There are other things more important."

He considered it and said, "So you are going the way of Alex."

I said that Alex still pulls his weight even without all those little gold sales trophies you give out at the end of the year.

He said, "Maybe, but I don't know if I can let you do that right now.  Business has fallen off...."

I interrupted him, "Then fire me."

He stammered, "I can't just fire one of my top sales people."

I said, "Sorry. I have a lot of vacation time coming and I want to take it." 

He knew I hadn't taken a vacation in several years and my contract clearly spelled out vacation time. If I wanted to I could I could even make a legal a case out of this.

         I wanted to act quickly before I got a memo about some critical assignment.  

On the way home I stopped by the travel agency and booked a month-long tour of Europe. There were a lot of places I wanted to show Kathy.


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