Downsizing

Bill sat at his desk and renamed files on the company server. He had to rename five hundred thousand files in various directories and was almost done.

Bill’s boss, John, entered Bill’s cubicle. “We’re downsizing, Bill. So this is your last day,” he said.

“Okay,” Bill said. Bill picked up his backpack. He canceled the file renaming. “Bye,” he said and left.


Bill went to McDonalds and sat there for a while. He had some Chicken McNuggets and a Coke. He took out a book on knots from his backpack and studied the knots on a marked page for a while. He felt the jury mast knot was worth extra study and marked the page with a 3M Post-it flag that he stole from work.

Later he went to the library and browsed photography magazines. He picked up some tips to improve his photographs in low-light situations and ways to take long exposures without a tripod.

At home, Bill went through the mail and then sat on the couch and watched TV for a while. A few hours later, Bill’s wife Fiona entered through the garage door. She saw Bill sitting on the couch watching TV. Bill watched M*A*S*H.

“You’re home early,” she said.

“I was downsized,” Bill said.

Fiona entered the living room. “What happened?” she said.

“I don’t know. I just left.” Bill said. He muted the TV.

“What did you do? Did you do something? Did you make them mad at you?”

“No. Guess they just didn’t need me anymore. I didn’t stick around.”

“You should have at least found out why.”

“Why? Downsizing is downsizing. I’m not going to let it affect me.”

“Tell me exactly what happened,” Fiona said.

“They said they’re downsizing and today was my last day, so I got up and left.”

“Did you take anything?” she said.

“No, I just left everything. Well, I took my backpack.”

“You left the little refrigerator?”

“Yep,” Bill said.

“Oh, Bill. We need that refrigerator. There’s no reason those assholes should have it. What about your coffee cup?”

“I left everything.”

“We have to get that stuff back. I’ll call them tomorrow.”

“OK.”


The next day Fiona stopped by Bill’s office during lunch and began packing up his stuff. She took anything perishable out of his refrigerator and put it into the trash.

“Did he say anything?” John said. “He just walked out like he didn’t care.”

“He didn’t say much. Maybe he was in shock.”

“It’s strange that he just left. It’s like he didn’t even care about this job. He had no reaction.”

“What did you want him to do? Did you want him to go nuts and trash the place?” Fiona said.

“No, of course not. It just seemed like he was indifferent to me, the company, his job. Like he never cared.”

“I’m sure with the shabby way you treated him, he’s totally indifferent to you and this company and his job. I’m sure to him the ten years he spent here didn’t even happen.”

“There wasn’t anything I could do about it,” John said.

“Still, I don’t think it was handled well,” she said.

“You’re entitled to your opinion.” He watched Fiona struggle with a box of Bill’s stuff and his refrigerator. “Hey, do you need any help with this stuff?”

“Thanks, that would help.”

In the parking lot, John put Bill’s stuff into the trunk of Fiona’s car. “Let me know how he’s doing?” John said.

Fiona stared at him for a while. “Thanks for helping with Bill’s stuff,” she said.


When Fiona arrived home that evening, Bill was in the backyard spray-painting a metal box. “Your stuff is in the trunk,” she said from the patio. “What are you doing?”

“Just painting this box,” he said.

“I can see that,” Fiona said. “What’s it for?”

“Just for storing some ropes,” Bill said.

“Don’t you want to know how it went?”

“Not really,” he said.

The phone began ringing, and Fiona went inside and answered it. It was John. Fiona went outside and yelled to Bill, “John wants to talk to you.”

“Not interested,” Bill said.

“Bill doesn’t want to talk to you,” Fiona said on the phone.

“It’s important,” John said. “We need to talk to him about some work stuff.”

“He doesn’t work for you anymore,” Fiona said and hung up.


The next day, a Saturday, John showed up at Bill’s home. Bill answered the door because he didn’t know it was John.

“Hi Bill. How’s it going?”

“I’m fine,” Bill said.

“Hey, we have to sort out some HR stuff at work. COBRA and all of that stuff.”

“Why’d they send you?” Bill said.

“They didn’t send me. I just wanted to see how you’re doing,” John said.

“I’m fine. Just tell HR to send me the stuff. They have my address.” Bill closed the door.


On Monday, John visited Fiona’s office.

“It’s really bothering you that he doesn’t care about you or your company or your job.”

“No. It’s not that. It just makes me wonder if he really ever cared. I thought we were friends, and now he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.”

“I guess he was using you just as much as you and your company were using him,” Fiona said.

John shook his head. “I need to head back now,” he said.


[October 1995]

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