The following Monday was the day I had to break it to my manager. I wasn’t quite sure how I’d explain it, and I certainly had a certain amount of fear that she’d leave me with the options of “don’t do this” or “get fired”.
I waited outside like normal, coffee and plastic bag of lunch in hand. I remember it being refreshingly cool, and I do mean refreshing. The breeze was crisp, happy, blowing by in short drafts that were strong enough to catch your hair but lacking the maliciousness to pierce your clothes. It really was a beautiful day, a pure spring day, where after months and months of Indiana winter, just the sight of the nascent green leaves and multitudes of flowers recoloring the streets and neighborhoods renews your purpose and desire to see the day through. Where the winter provided a soul-depleting tapestry of white and greys and the familiar stink from trampled slush at any building’s entrance, spring, here spring meant something. Which is why I didn’t mind waiting outside like this for my ride.
Several minutes went by before he finally showed up. Michael, Mike, usually referred to by his last name at work, Roberts, showed up at 7:36 that morning in his Honda CRV.
Mike was a good guy. He was the average sort of nice, always had a ready smile to greet you with, brown eyes, hooked nose, and a vague look in his eyes that was reassuringly pacifistic; the kind of person you knew meant no wrong. He was also always ready to help you, so long as it didn’t cost more than two hours time, ten dollars, or cause him to be parted from something that was ultimately an inconvenience. Like I said, an average sort of nice.
As soon as he came to a stop, I got into the passenger seat. My apartment complex was on his way to work, and I subsidized the convenience of him saving me gas and the higher likelihood of a stroke.
“Hey buddy, good morning.” There’s that affable smile, bless him.
“Morning Mike.” The Honda starts moving. “How you doing?”
“I’m ok, ok, uh, had a pretty nice weekend. Me and Alicia had a nice evening downtown, dinner and drinks. Have you been down South Main lately? There’s a lot of new places. In fact, we just stayed around Colfax.”
“Yeah, I haven’t lately, it’s been a while. I’ll check it out though, maybe this weekend. You, uh, read the paper?” Ever ask questions you know the answer to just for the sake of conversation?
“Newspaper?” A chuckle to break his dialogue. “I mean, I read the news.”
“Yeah, I read something about a guy at the hospital who.. um..,” I stopped. At that moment, the words dissolved in my mouth, I couldn’t explain it, couldn’t explain who this person was or why I should even bring it up. This was dumb. “Er, well, I read about a guy,” if I had any commitment to this idea, I had to just get it out, “who sounds like he may be special, someone to really talk to, to meet, um, you know for people who have a sort of sadness in their hearts they want something done about.”
Mike, thankfully much more engaged in a left-hand turn through traffic, nodded thoughtfully. We were almost to the bank. Being a loan officer wasn’t glorious, exciting, or really what I ever imagined I’d be doing in all the childhood years of parents, relatives, school teachers, and kindly pediatricians asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. However, as I said before, I’m comfortable, and I stay fed.
It wouldn’t be until several hours later that I’d have the opportunity to talk to Karen. Karen Whitmore, a Protestant woman of her late-forties, four children, drove a Ford Expedition. Some people would follow up with their emotional description of their boss, great person or tyrant, but to be honest, our interactions were so brief and sterile, I had nothing. In fact, I had no idea how the conversation was to go.
“Excuse me, you want to do what?”
“Karen, I want to take an extended leave from the bank. You know I rarely take vacation, and I want to roll up this and next year’s vacation periods into one.”
A porcelain angel next to a coffee cup full of pens stared at me. Its cherubic face smiled. I pursed my lips.
“Josh, I’m a little upset that you’ve put me in this position of having to tell you that I can’t authorize that. You’ve been with this bank long enough to know our policies. I can’t let Terri be the only loan processor in this branch for that long.”
“Karen, I know, but please remember that I didn’t take any time off last year.” I started to slump in the chair, a little exasperated at the resistance, but I didn’t know how to explain this. This wasn’t me just taking time off for the sake of recouping lost days, this was something that “I need. Karen, I-I need this. Listen, I just need to get out of here for a while, and you know that I’ve been here every day, I don’t linger or take my time with accounts, and I do a good job. I am very detailed and careful with what I do. And, and I don’t ask for anything from you or anyone else around here, but God as my witness, I need this, I’ve just got to try.”
She leaned in from her desk and propped her elbows on the polished faux-wood surface. The wall clock became very noticeable in its time-telling. She was quiet, working her lips around as she was probably deciding if I was worth taking the flak later if someone higher than her wanted to ask a couple questions about staffing allocation and “policy”.
“Ok Josh, fine.” She smiled, with a light irritation still in her eyes. “You have last year’s and this year’s vacation and not a day more. You need to take care of yourself, and if this will help you, then I hope you find that help.”
I sat up immediately, planted my heels into that office carpet, and stood to shake her hand. “Thank you Karen, really. Thank you.”
She wished me the best of luck, and with that I was off.. to finish the work day and wait for my ride.