9 to 5 was the furthest thing from reality for Carl. His day was more of a 7 to 7, and a lunch break was a treat enjoyed about every third Friday. Under-supported and under-staffed, his firm relied on him heavily, for all the decisions no one else had the time or the interest in making. Not to make it sound like these were unimportant decisions, they just weren’t the kinds of decisions that determined the fate of the organization, or had too much of an impact on profits, market share or anything that would matter a few months from now. And though this may seem tedious to many, Carl accepted his responsibilities happily. With no one to greet him at the end of the day, and weekends spent alone and occupied with his collections, work represented a purpose, a destination and most of all, satisfaction.
His only regret was that he hadn’t married, or at least, dated, more, when he was younger, because today, there were times when he was simply lonely. He wished he’d had someone to have an occasional dinner with, or to accompany him to the theatre. Or just to talk to, on the phone even. But those opportunities had come and gone, and were now stored in the past.
Each day started with the same routine, which included hot oatmeal and coffee, 4 prunes, a glance at the paper and a 35 minute ride to work. Waiting in his inbox were anywhere from 10 to 20 requisitions, each requiring review, some research in various catalogs, a few phone calls and then a decision. Which, when, where, how much. Then update the req, send it back and go to the next one. Over the years, Carl had developed an ability to compare options, question, process, and arrive at a decision with speed and dexterity that was unrivaled. And if he was ever questioned about a particular choice, even months later, he could articulate his rationale, recount his analysis, and support his thought process convincingly.
And Carl was appreciated for his thoroughness and expertise, there seldom being a complaint from a bad decision. In fact, unbeknownst to Carl, there had been, over the years, more than one discussion about whether he could or should be bumped up to a more senior position, with new responsibilities. But those discussions always ended abruptly when it came time to determine who would take Carl’s old job. No one was remotely capable of making these decisions anywhere as well as he, and Carl stayed put.
In the evenings, following a balanced meal of protein, green leafy vegetables and a modest amount of starch, Carl would finish reading the paper, and either watch a movie on cable or ponder what he had in, or what was missing from, one of his collections. Occasionally though, when he felt the need to comment on a news story, or ask an opinion about whether this would be a good item to add to one of his albums, he’d allow himself to remember the days when he did have someone to talk to, to share time with, to care for.
There were a few lovely young ladies along the way, who had befriended and cared for him, and although he could be a bit awkward due to his lack of confidence, on more than one occasion, there seemed to be the possibility of a future. But in time, the story always followed the same plot – his young companion became bored, tired of waiting for Carl to advance the relationship, to commit. And Carl always felt dismayed and guilty after the fact – knowing that the relationship’s failure was his failure, that he could have saved it, if he’d only acted more confidently, had more resolve. But really, how could he? What if she wasn’t the right one? What if their future turned out to be a dismal wreck? He struggled to imagine a worse outcome.
So, he’d concluded, it’s best to stick with what you know, what you do well. After all, there would be 10 to 20 new requisitions waiting for him in the morning.
Photo: iPhone 5, Snapseed, No. Conway, NH, Copyright 2013, Ed Spadoni