By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: I have never done anything unpredictable, but that changed today when I woke up, packed a bag, went to the airport and randomly bought a ticket to __________.
I’ve never done anything unpredictable—I was the mom who ran the carpool and remained president of the PTA while all three kids were in school, for heaven’s sake—but this morning I knew I had to change that.
I couldn’t go on like this. After almost 30 years of marriage, I had to make a change. This time, though, I made the change for myself. So I went home, packed a bag, went to the airport, and bought a ticket to New York City.
Contrary to what you might be thinking, I didn’t exactly run away from home. I’d told Dan this might happen. He probably didn’t believe me all those years when I brought it up at the dinner table or when we went to lunch with friends, but…well, I mean, he can’t complain that I didn’t mention it.
It started on Friday morning. I walked into the bank and went into the back to put my purse away. I signed on to my computer and had just started checking my drawer when Adam called me into his office.
I went in, and he had a broad grin on his face as he gestured for me to sit down.
“So, Carly, your baby has finally flown the coop, huh?”
I smiled back. “Yup. Got her all settled in. Her courses start next week, and the twins said they’ll check in on her. Sure helps now that they’re all in the city together.”
He nodded. “I get that. So…”
He waved a hand in a circular motion as if urging me to go on.
“You know what.”
I rolled my eyes. “Come on, Adam. Are you still on that?”
“What? You said that once the kids were all out of the house, you’d go up to corporate in the Big Apple for the training program. You’re always talking about how you wish you could help your regular clients do more than just make change and cash out their paychecks. Being a loan officer lets you do just that, and now there’s nothing at home holding you back. What gives?”
I shrugged. “I just…I don’t know if this is the right time.”
Adam shook his head. “I don’t get it, Carly. You’re the most devoted teller I’ve ever seen.”
“Thank you,” I said, my cheeks flushing.
“That wasn’t exactly a compliment.”
I blinked once or twice. “Uh…okay.”
He got up and started pacing alongside his desk. “What I meant was, I’ve never met someone who was so dedicated to staying in a teller’s position. Don’t get me wrong, you’re excellent at what you do. Better than most, in fact. But everyone else either moves up or moves out after a couple of years. You…come on, Carly, after 15 years at the same job I think you deserve better. Don’t you?”
I’d heard the speech so many times that I could have recited my counter arguments in my sleep, but he’d never asked me that last question before. I opened my mouth expecting something intelligible to come out, but it didn’t exactly happen. Truthfully, I’d never considered the question either. I mean, I had. But I hadn’t.
My phone buzzed in my sweater pocket, and I glanced at the large clock on the wall. It said 9 a.m. on the dot. I pulled out my phone and looked at the screen.
“I better get to my window,” I said in a quiet voice. “Don’t want to keep anyone waiting.”
He stopped next to my chair and patted me on the shoulder. “Just think about it, okay? Talk to Dan. I know once he hears how great this opportunity is and what an asset you’d be to the bank in the new position that he’d go for it.”
I stood and dropped my phone back into my pocket. “Sure, I’ll think about it.” Just as I turned toward the door, Adam stopped me.
“Look, Carly, I’m saying this as your friend too. You. Deserve. This. Besides, there’s only so many more times you’re allowed to win the Employee of the Year award. There’s a cap, you know.”
I couldn’t help it; I had to smile at that one as I left his office.
No one had come to my window yet, so I pulled out my phone again and swiped the screen. It was a text from Dan. “Call me when you can.”
I picked up the landline sitting next to my computer and jabbed the numbers for his line at the office. After two rings he answered, his echoing voice telling me he’d hit the speaker button.
“Hi, hon,” he said. “Do you have a minute?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
“Well,” he said through a sigh, “something’s come up in the Seattle office, and they need me out there next week. Looks like I’m going to have to fly out on Sunday and spend the week there.”
“Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Dan said. “You know how it goes around here. Same old, same old. How about you, how’s your morning going?”
“Pretty good, actually,” I said, happy for the opening. “Adam called me into his office. He wants me to go up to New York to the corporate office to train to be a loan officer.”
“It would be for a couple of weeks, and after I came back there’d be a significant bump in the pay. I’d also have more flexibility with my hours. You know, set up client meetings when I wanted, really spend time with people to help them.”
“I thought your hours were already pretty flexible.”
I chuckled. “Well, not exactly, hon. I mean, I’m on my feet for most of the day and I’m essentially on a shift. I can’t exactly go off and take a two-hour lunch.”
“Would you even need a two-hour lunch?”
“No, that’s not…I was just using that as an example. The point is, this is a big step up. And,” I inhaled long and deep for the admission to come, “it’s something that Adam’s been bugging me about for a while now.”
“Really? How long?”
“Couple of years, at least.”
“So why didn’t you take him up on it?”
“With Tracy at home, I just thought my focus should be on being there for her. Now that she’s at school, I thought it might be nice to do something different. You know, change up the work day. Stretch myself in a new direction, professionally speaking.”
“I’ve kind of been thinking about that too, actually, and I was going to suggest you just stop working at all. I mean, it’s not like you’re exactly running the bank, right? And if you quit, we’d have more time together. You could come to Seattle with me.”
I frowned. Had he heard what I was saying? That my boss had wanted me in this position, that I actually did want to keep working, that I’d put the family first, always, and now wanted to put myself first?
“Um…let me think about it,” I said.
“Sure, that’s all I’m suggesting,” he said. “Look, someone’s beeping me on the other line. I gotta go. We’ll talk about it tonight, okay?”
He hung up, already on to the next thing. Suddenly, I wanted to go on to the next thing too. I didn’t want to go to Seattle. I wanted to go to New York.
Customers had started lining up at the window, so I greeted some of the regulars and helped the new ones with their transactions. About a half-hour later I caught another break. I went back to Adam’s office and tapped on the door.
“Come on in!”
I pushed the door open and stuck my head around it. “Hey, Adam, if I wanted to go to New York, do you think they’d be ready for me on Monday?”
He grinned broadly. “Let me make a call.”
“How about if I quit at lunchtime and go pack a bag?” I said, still keeping a serious look on my face.
“Anything for the perpetual Employee of the Year.”
Finally I smiled back. “Thanks.”
I spent the next few hours working and preparing my drawer to close for the day. Just before noon, my landline buzzed. The ringtone let me know it was a call from inside the bank.
“This is Carly.”
“It’s Adam. You’re all set.”
“Thanks, Adam. I mean it.”
“Knock ‘em dead out there.”
Then, before I could think about it much harder, I closed out my drawer and speed-walked to the car. I didn’t drive too fast, but I did turn up the music louder than I normally would to drown out all the doubts. All the second-guessing.
I went home and went straight to the closet to pull out a suitcase. Still speed-walking, I darted around the bedroom and bathroom to grab essentials for a two-week stay. Then I locked up the house, drove the half hour to the airport, and went to the airlines that commandeered all of our frequent flier miles. Within minutes I had a ticket to New York City.