August is a special month in my calendar; it’s my birthday month. In 1998 August was more special than any other I have known. Aside from my birthday, August was the company’s budget month.
At that time I was a junior manager in our computer department and given the unenviable task of preparing, monitoring and managing the department’s budget. Jenny, from accounts, brought the budget pack through to my office personally. She didn’t stop to say much, just the normal small talk about the weather and said that if I needed any help she was available but stressed that the new signed budget was due by the end of August. I thanked her and she left. Strange, so formal I thought. Unlike her!
Well, I have this approach to undesirable tasks. Just get on and do it now! I open the folder and scanned through the neatly arranged pages of budget and actual expenditure. At a glance the figures all seemed in order. Turning the last page I had not seen the complement, the people budget. Oops, had I missed this important page? I went through the entire file carefully. No people budget pages! I picked up the phone immediately.
“Hi Jenny, its Mike,” I said trying to sound casual. “Have you a moment to talk?”
“If it’s about the complement budget, Cliff is waiting to see you,” she said.
“Cliff, he’s waiting for me?”
“Yes Mike, you can go through now. He’s available and waiting for you.”
I thought it rather unusual for the Financial Director to see me without his secretary booking an appointment. What could this be about were my thoughts as I walked down passage to his “plush” office. The door was open so I knocked and went in.
“Hi Mike, please sit down. You need to sit for what I’m about to tell you,” he said with the faintest of smiles and eyes searching my face. I sat in the chair directly opposite him, the one the General Manager normally used in our finance meetings. I had a feeling something big was about to happen.
“You are not in the budget,” he said plain and simple. Well, not so simple.
I took a moment to think through what he said and to word my reply carefully.
“Okay Cliff, so I’m retrenched. What about the rest of the department’s complement budget?”
“Sorry Mike, I was not clear. The IT department is not in the budget. In April next year you will all be retrenched.” This was not easy for him either. He continued “We thought that letting you know now in August would give your team time to make arrangements and, you know, sort their affairs out.”
“Thank you for the time. Does Cassie know?” Cassie was the IT Manager and I thought that he knew and had not let me know.
“No, Mike you are the first to know.”
“Thanks once again, I’ll let Cassie know right away,” I said getting out of that miserable chair.
I walked back to my office with mixed thoughts. On the one hand this was MY big opportunity to break out of the glass company I’d given twenty years of my life to and start something totally different but then there were the young men and woman in the department. We had proved ourselves a fantastic team, so what the bloody hell were twenty-five of us going to do?
That day in August changed my entire approach to life. For me it was a lesson in loyalty; corporate loyalty, both ways, was fast becoming a non-entity. It’s all about money! But more than that, it gave me the freedom to consult to different companies throughout the world which met my travel urge. We, the entire team, started our own IT consulting company the following year.
I continue to accept the challenge and grow to this day thanks to been made redundant.
Song “Una Furtiva Lagrima” (M’ama!) – Donizetti
Being twenty-one most people have the idea that you have come of age. Well, mostly, this is true but it’s not the magical number “twenty-one” that did it for me. It was the party celebration with my friends and my parent’s friends, the Poles, the Italians, and the Irish. We split into two rooms; the younger couples in the room at the rear of the house, with the outside door and my parents and their friends in the sitting room. I alternated between rooms, thoroughly enjoying both “parties”.
When I was my parents and their friends, my mom suggested that I gather all the “young ones” into the lounge for the speeches. Well both my father and mother were not parents who would give long silly speeches so I rounded up my mob and we all found space in the sitting room.
I was glad and proud of my parents. My dad’s speech was simple.
“You are now twenty-one,” he said and shook my hand. This was met with much cheering and the singing of “Happy Birthday”.
I hadn’t noticed that my Italian friend Roberto had shifted to stand with his brother and father. Their timing was perfect; when I moved over to hug my mother they started singing in fantastic tenor voice “Una Furtiva Lagrima (M’ama). The tears streamed, both my mother and I.
I was now twenty-one! Never ready to leave my good parents!
When I recall that night, as I do now, the tears fill my eyes and I find it difficult to focus.
This is a short story about Jenny Ashken who, in her late teens, resorts to alcohol and drugs to obliterate a fateful accident. While in a semi-conscious drug state she is befriended by a young man in a pub which triggers her desire to return to reality and face the real world. Will she be able to put the fragments of her appalling life back together and go clean in a manipulative world of narcotics and law enforcement? “Fate leads the willing and drags along the unwilling.”