72 - A Short Story - The Suggestions

November 6, 2020

Steven worked late as usual, finally clearing his desk, pushing away from it, and thinking, "All these long days are killing me, but the money makes it more than worthwhile." He smiled, stood up, and walked to the door. Another day done.

At home things weren't quite so harmonious. Ashley, as always, had eaten dinner alone, cleaned the kitchen, and put his dinner in the refrigerator. Then she sat down to watch TV and the evening news. That was when her husband of 11 years finally strolled into the house. She didn't smile when he entered and walked to her.

He gave her a hug and said, "Sorry I'm so late, again. It's just the job keeps me so busy..."

"Yeah, I know, it's always the same thing, honey. Every night, 9pm, you come strolling in here like some kind of king thinking everything is fine and dandy when, guess what, it's not," she said to him.

He looked at her with a surprised look, "What? What's brought this on suddenly? You've never complained about it before."

"Well, I am now. I'm tired of this job of yours, keeping you away from me from 7am until 9pm. What are we going to do now? You'll go wash up and go to bed. Then you'll be up for breakfast and off to work, only to return at 9, again. We have no time for us, and I'm tired of it!" She abruptly sat down, folded her arms, and glared at him.

Steven was taken aback by this sudden change in his wive's attitude, "Look at this house! Look at your car! Look at this furniture! Do you think you'd have any of this if it weren't for my working such long hours? Would you rather have nothing?"

"Nothing? That's an exaggeration, my dear. We would simply have less. And yes, I would be perfectly happy in a smaller house, with a cheaper car, and furniture of cloth rather than leather. I'd be perfectly happy with a simpler life if I could have you with me at the dinner table and here on the couch, holding me, as we watched TV together," she trailed off and started to cry.

"Baby, I, I didn't know you felt this way. How long have you had these feelings? Why haven't you told me before?" he sat next to her and took her hand in his.

"How could I? You love your job. I think you love it more than me," she cried into his shoulder.

"Oh, no, no, sweetie, that's not true. Not at all. I love you so much I was working all the time to make life better for you, for us," he pleaded with her.

She looked up into his eyes and asked, "Sweetheart, would you be willing to change your job so we can actually be together like we should be?"

"Yes, of course, I would. I have no problem with that," he said, and he kissed her on her forehead, then her lips, and they moved into their bedroom where they made love before going to sleep.

At breakfast Steven said, "Today I'm going to start looking for a different job".

"Really? You're really going to look for a different job?" Ashley asked with wide eyes and a big smile.

"Yes. Today I'll update my resume and start contacting people," he kissed her and left for work.

About 3 weeks later he received an offer for a job. It wasn't the same level of management, but that was okay with Ashley, but he wasn't quite so sure, but he agreed to take the job.

His new job was a low level manager position, one where he worked a more normal 10-hour day. Ashley had her husband at home for dinner, TV and movies and she loved it.

But, at his new job, Steven was feeling like he had no power to do anything. He had a department with 12 people working in it, and two bosses over him, always poking their heads in and asking questions about the department.

Their micromanagement style was something he wasn't used to. Where he had been before he was the boss, he was the one checking up on the lower level managers. Not anymore. But, he stuck to his new job for his wife and his marriage. Ashley was more important to him than any job.

The months passed with them happier than they had been for quite a few years. With the lower income they decided it would be a good idea to downsize their home. They sold their big house in an exclusive gated community and bought a smaller, more easily managed home, in a neighborhood closer to where he worked. That allowed him to occasionally bicycle to work, or take the bus. They also sold their luxury cars and bought more affordable cars. And in all these changes they discovered something - they discovered their love had been waning for some time and now they were growing it together, again.

While his home life was certainly easier, and better, than it had been, his work life was not necessarily so.

One morning when Steven was in the coffee room at work one of his bosses walked in. Steven said, "Bob, I have some ideas for changes in my department".

Bob cut him off immediately, "Oh, good, Steven. Why don't you put your ideas on paper, and put them James' mailbox. He'll review them and then he and I will discuss them and get back to you, okay?"

"Oh, sure, okay," Steven stuttered out, not exactly happy about that outcome, "when can we talk about my ideas?"

"After James has read your ideas and he and I discuss them," Bob repeated before he left to go back to his office.

That afternoon Steven wrote up his ideas and emailed them to James. A few days later he passed James in the coffee room and asked, "Good morning, James. What did you think about my proposed ideas for changes in my department?"

"Good morning, Steven, what are you talking about?" asked James.

"I sent you an email with my ideas for some changes in my department. I sent it 3 days ago," said Steven.

"Oh, well, I have many emails, too many, to read all of them. I haven't seen the one from you. It's better if you put your ideas on paper and put that into my mailbox, okay?" said James.

"Sure, okay, thanks," said Steven, thinking "These guys need to move into the 21st century".

At dinner that night he told Ashley about the process to submit suggestions at work, "I feel like I can't do anything worthwhile at that place. They just want me to maintain the department the way it is and not make any improvements."

"Sweetheart, maybe it works just fine the way it is and it doesn't need improvements," said Ashley.

"Well, actually, there are some problems in the processes. It's like they are still operating in the 1990's. I just want to bring them up to date," he said.

"Did you put your ideas on paper, like they asked?" Ashley asked.

"Yes, I did, and I put it in James' mailbox. Can you believe they still use those things? Seriously, it's 2020 and they still prefer handwritten suggestions on paper. I hope he actually reads it," Steven complained.

A couple weeks passed since Steven passed along his handwritten suggestions to James and he had heard nothing from either James or Bob. He decided to put another copy of the suggestions in James', and this time, in Bob's mailbox, again.

Steven waited a few more days and said nothing to the bosses about his suggestions, then one morning while getting coffee Bob said, "Steven, it's not necessary to give both James and I a copy of your suggestions. Just give them to James, okay?"

Steven said, "Okay, sure, I understand. So, what do you think?"

"What do I think about what?" asked Bob.

"My suggestions," said Steven.

"I glanced at them, but will wait to hear from James, okay?" Bob said and he turned and left for his office.

Steven was getting a bit red in the face now, "My god this place is impossible!" he thought.

Another one of the lower managers was in the coffee room and overheard their conversation. He said, "So, you're having problems getting some suggestions looked at?"

"Yeah," said Steven to Andrew, "First, I sent them by email and they didn't get read at all. Then I wrote them on paper and put that in James' mailbox. And again, no response. Then after a couple weeks I put another copy in both his and Bob's mailboxes. Nothing! They said nothing about anything I wrote."

"Sounds about right," said Andrew. "They don't like progress. They're happy with the way things are going and haven't made any changes to anything in at least 10 years."

"Really?" asked Steven.

"Yeah, even the servers and other computers in the company, all of them, haven't been updated in at least that long. If I were you, I wouldn't get my hopes up," said Andrew.

"So, what do we do about it?" asked Steven.

"Nothing. We are powerless here. Bob and James hold all the power, make all the decisions. Others have tried over the years but they all realize the hopelessness of trying and they leave. I've been here 8 years. Of all the other managers, nobody has lasted more the 4 years," explained Andrew.

"My god, so, I guess there's no hope of my suggestions seeing the light of day," Steven turned and walked to his office, coffee in hand, mind thinking about looking for another job.

Steven stood at his office door and looked at the cubicles with his people quietly doing their jobs, a few talking softly while working, and thought, "How can they be so content?"

"Honey, what would you think if I started looking for another job?" asked Steven that evening at dinner with his wife.

"Is it really that bad?" she asked.

"I'm completely powerless in that company. The two bosses make all the decisions for everybody, and they're stuck in the 1990's," Steven said between bites of spaghetti.

"Well, we can't have you feeling powerless, can we?" asked Ashley.

"Absolutely not. I've been there, what, I think about 2 1/2 years now." agreed Steven. "Tomorrow, I'll update my resume and start another search."

After contacting a half-dozen companies Steven accepted a job as a middle manager with a department of 32 people. He was given full authority over the department, with only the biggest changes he wanted to make needing authorization from the higher-ups. He felt good about this job, he felt he was back in a position where he could use his experience and help a company become better in whatever way was in his power.