An Engineer’s Journal, June 2, 2001: Fireworks

She had expected this day for months.  After 23 years, she’d almost welcomed it.  She was prepared psychologically, emotionally, and financially, rationalizing that it offered the best of all worlds.  Her family was ready.  She was ready.

Yet on that day, there was a part of her that wanted to wish it away, and she promised herself that she wouldn’t cry, as she walked down the hall to his office.  During that brief and last encounter with him, the anticipation and sense of impending doom was put to rest, as reality smacked her (she knew it would) right between the eyes.

Those eyes were now brimming with tears, as she returned to her once-comfortable executive office to pack all that remained of her personal belongings. She called home to confirm that it was fait accompli; and as if in shock, stood alone and still at the window, staring out at the street.

It was no surprise to see Augie cruising back and forth, awaiting the verdict.  He lowered the car window, and catching her eye, gestured a questioning, “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”.

Earlier that day, they’d shared lunch with a small inner circle of friends, raising their glasses; toasting to what had been and what was yet to come.  The pros and cons, were carefully weighed and openly voiced.  Hundreds of her co-workers expected their ‘news’ today, as well.  For months the general feeling had been one of helplessness and incredulity.  Today, almost dutifully, the friends awkwardly laughed, recalling happier days and promising to stay ‘in touch’, despite the inevitable cyclone of corporate ‘right-sizing’ that was headed their way.

Now that the fireworks were over, tears began to well up again (they would so often in the days to come) as she sadly motioned ‘thumbs down’ to Augie. He shrugged;  silently, knowingly offering his consolation, encouragement, and empathy, with the shared glance of an old friend.

It was at that moment, she began to comprehend how truly life-changing this would be.

An Engineer's Journal
An Engineer’s Journal

Image   (Trifecta Writing Challenge, wk. 34: Fireworks)

10 Comments on “An Engineer’s Journal, June 2, 2001: Fireworks

  1. Yet one with talent,, if fortune strikes lands on their feet. They find new strength and in time become better for the experience.
    Over the years I lived that day a few times. As the cycle repeated. In fact one year it was I who was the bearer of the news. Seeing the emotions across the desk as I had to inform many of their ‘fate’. It was the most difficult career day I ever had.. As trained as we were for what to expect. I really were not prepared.for my own emotions.
    You left a void in the lives of that ” inner circle”. But for sure true friends I’m sure stayed in touch. Less frequently I’m sure. But nevertheless you were “with’ them many a time..

    As for the future. it is now. Always recall the words from the song in Annie.

    The sun’ll come out.tomorrow
    So ya gotta hang on ‘Til tomorrow
    Come what may
    Tomorrow! Tomorrow!I love ya Tomorrow!
    You’re always
    A day away!


    • Yes…and the sun did come out…in the intervening years…so many new experiences and a few new friends along the way. I do believe when one door closes another opens. And like you, the day when I – well prepped – had to deliver the message to others, lingers on, as well. The faces and fears of those receiving the message, never leave you. And stronger bonds are formed when friends go through these ‘fireworks’ (I.e. intense conflicts) together. Thanks for your insightful comment.


  2. My father-in-law was forced to retire early. It caused him to walk out on his wife (note – the marriage wasn’t doing well to begin with , this was just a last straw) and start his whole life over.

    He’s so much happier for it.

    (For the record, I love both my parents-in-law. They just are much happier apart.)


  3. This is powerful. I like that you gradually let readers know what was happening. Reading was like working a puzzle. The friend who waits for the thumbs up / thumbs down is a fantastic addition. I appreciate the comfort and normalcy he brings. The loss of that perhaps daily contact is something to mourn. Frightening for its truth, I love this piece.


    • I know…it was a different time – 2001 – pre 911. Successful, large companies were paternalistic, and the notion that someone in their mid-fifties would have to seek new employment was a shock, especially since retirement was not a viable option at that point. Best laid plans….and all that. Thanks for your comment. It highlights the huge difference between our culture and economy today and a decade ago.


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