Jason grabbed the coffee pot from the maker, filled up his cup, and returned to the circle of conversation with his coworkers at the break room table.
“No way we’re having another Bay Bridge Series this year,” Kevin said. “Really, that was just luck.”
“Oakland, possibly, but not the Giants,” Larry said. “And that’s too bad because I liked all the attention we got. Even with the East Coast bias we couldn’t be ignored.”
“I don’t know if it’s bias,” Phil added. “They’re going to sleep over there when our night games are still playing.”
“I think it was the earthquake that got us most of the attention,” Kevin observed.
“It was both events,” Larry asserted. “The Fall Classic and a natural disaster happening at the same time, and right in the first inning! What are the odds?”
“I don’t know, I’m not a bookie,” Kevin said.
“Point is,” Larry began, “no Bay Bridge Series, no earthquake, god forbid.”
“Makes sense,” Jason added.
“You just wait until the Sharks start playing next year,” Laura said, “then you’ll see some real athletes.”
“You think it’s easy hitting a ninety five mile per hour projectile?” Phil asked.
“I didn’t know you were a hockey fan,” Kevin said to Laura.
“I’m from Michigan,” Laura said. “Hockey’s very popular back home.”
“I’m just happy that we finally got a big league team,” Jason said. “That way I don’t always have to travel fifty miles to see a game.”
“Well we’re only the biggest city in northern California,” Phil said.
“Have you seen the new arena lately?” Larry asked. “Coming along nicely.”
“Yeah, I know,” Laura said. “I drive by it every chance I get.”
“What was there before?” Kevin asked.
“You know, I can’t even remember,” Larry said.
“Whatever it was, it stood in the way of progress,” Phil said. The telephone outside the break room rang.
“I just hope the arena looks a lot better than the convention center. What an eyesore,” Kevin bemoaned. Everyone nodded in agreement.
“Whoever designed that was either blind, stoned, or just bored with their job,” Phil added.
Everyone laughed then another employee poked her head into the break room. “Jason, telephone call.”
“Thanks, Gayle.” Jason left the break room and went to a wall telephone out in the corridor. He picked up the receiver and hit the hold button. “Hello.”
“Hi, honey, how’s work?” Christine asked over the telephone.
“All right,” Jason said happy to hear Christine’s voice. “Just hanging out in the break room with the rest of the crew.”
“Good. I thought I called too late,” Christine said. “I tried to call earlier but we got a visit from these big shot clients, so we had to work into our lunch hour and give them the red carpet treatment.”
“Yeah, got to please the money people,“ Jason said.
“They’re all in a closed door meeting now, probably something really important,” Christine said facetiously.
“Maybe it’ll be good for business.”
“Good for business means I’ll have to work more hours.”
“But at least you’ll get overtime,” Jason reminded.
“I’m salaried, I don’t get time and a half.”
“Well, I’m sure they’ll notice you working hard.”
“Good one!” Christine laughed.
“Just trying to help.”
“And I appreciate it, but I work for sharks,” Christine said. “So I was wondering if I should get anything for the party?”
“It’s okay, I already got Todd’s gift.”
“But this is an important birthday. I was thinking of a little something extra.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Something that will last. Your gift won’t make it through the night,” Christine kidded.
“Then it’ll be a very memorable party,” Jason promised.
“Or everyone is going to be too hammered to remember anything,” Christine laughed.
“I’m good either way.”
“Oh, guess who called me earlier.”
“Cece? Hmm.” Jason tried to remember her.
“Yeah, don’t you remember her? She’s one of my best friends,” Christine said excitedly. “We used to hang out all the time. I guess that was before we were together. I told her about Todd’s party, she said she’d try to make it.”
“Oh, yeah, Cece.” Jason finally remembered her from a party where she drank a lot and acted crazy. “Yeah, she liked to party.”
“She’s a wild one. But did you know she just graduated from Chico State and now she’s going for her master’s? Go figure.”
“How did that party animal find time for school?”
“Why do you think she went to Chico?” Christine said knowingly. “She’s probably staying in school so she doesn’t have to go out in the real world.”
“And she’s getting a grant. She won’t even have to work. Of all the luck.”
“I could use some of that luck,” Jason said glumly.
“Hey, don’t feel bad, if she can do it, anyone can. You almost have enough units to be a junior,” Christine said hopefully. “Think of all the money you’re saving right now.”
“That’s true,” Jason agreed. “But I don’t want to wait too long. State schools cost over five hundred a semester now, and U.C.’s are at least double that.”
“You know much it is to go to Santa Clara? Fourteen thousand a semester.”
“Whoa, I’m not that ambitious. I’m just a regular guy looking to go to a state college.”
“One of the partners is sending his daughter there,” Christine said. “He complains about how much it’s costing him, but it must be nice to be able to spend that much on your kid.”
Jason thoughts then went to the previous day’s basketball game. “Still feeling pumped about that game me and Randy played yesterday.”
“You should’ve seen us school those two punks.”
“I know,” Christine said. “You told me all about it last night.”
“Yeah, and I wish you could have seen it. An epic battle. I got to play more often so I don’t get out of shape.”
“I’d say you’re in plenty good shape,” Christine said suggestively.
“Thanks,” Jason smiled.
“So did you get a chance to talk to your supervisor?”
“Yeah, we talked, and he was cool about it. He said I’m a good worker and he likes my dedication. He even said if it was up to him I’d have a raise by now, but you know, workplace bureaucracy, chain of command, all that. But I think it went all right.”
“That’s good,” Christine said. “It has been over a year now. They at least owe you a review. I’m pretty sure that’s the law.”
“Yeah, it’ll happen soon,” Jason said trying to sound upbeat. “John said that things are kind of up in the air right now because they’re looking to get some new investors, plus all the other changes happening in the world right now, but everyone is positive. I even told him about my credit card debt and how I’m trying to save money for college. He said he was sympathetic.”
“I’m not being too pushy, am I?” Christine asked.
“No, it was my idea,” Jason reassured. “I’ve got to make it happen, and like you said, they do owe me a review.”
“Yeah, but I was thinking that maybe you got the idea when I told you about my rent going up.”
“Just a coincidence,” Jason said. “Besides, I’m not the new guy anymore. I’m due, and high rents are the just the reality of living here or anywhere in the Bay Area. We all need a raise.”
“That’s for sure,” Christine agreed. “And you know, you can always tell them you have other job possibilities.”
“You mean your Uncle Ray?”
“Well he has been busy since the earthquake, and he’s looking for more workers.”
“But he doesn’t pay what I’m making now,” Jason reminded.
“I know eight an hour doesn’t sound like much, but it’s under the table so you’ll actually be taking home eight an hour.”
“That kind of sounds like a temp job.”
“All his workers start under the table, but it can easily become permanent,” Christine added. “If he likes the way you work, and I’m sure he will, he can take you on as a regular employee, and then you could be making at least twice that.”
“Yeah, we talked about it last night. It’s something to think about, but it sounds like a lot of hours, and I don’t know if I can do that and go to school at the same time. Also there’s also times when there’s not enough work, especially in the winter. I think I should just stay here for now.” Jason decided.
“Well, okay. Just thought I’d mention it,” Christine said nonchalantly.
“Yeah, sure. I mean, it sounds all right, and I know you’re trying to help,” Jason leaned into the wall and spoke quieter. “It’s just that I can’t be talking about that kind of stuff right here at work. We’ll talk about it later, all right?”
“Yeah, of course. No big deal,” Christine said. “I guess it is kind of a dumb idea.”
“No, it’s not a bad idea,” Jason replied a little irritably. “It’s just that I should stick with what I’m doing right now. We already discussed this.”
“You’re right,” Christine accepted, “and it’s not like a take it or leave it right now kind of thing anyways. I guess I was thinking that it could be a plan B.”
“Yeah, sure. Doesn’t hurt to have options.” Jason thought more of the idea and still did not feel inclined.
“Okay, I better let you go now. Don’t want to tie you up. After work I have to go to the store for my mom, and then I’ll have to get ready for the party.”
“First the raise, now this?” Jason pointed out.
“I knew it! I am being too pushy.”
“No, you’re not being pushy,” Jason insisted. “It just sounds like a mixed message.”
“It’s about having options,” Christine insisted.
“But why now? When things are going good?”
“Look, this is what happened. I was talking to my mom earlier this week, and while we were talking she mentioned how busy Uncle Ray is right now because a couple of his guys quit, and I just thought I’d mention it you. Honest, there’s no conspiracy.”
“If I was wanting a new job, I would have said something,” Jason stated.
“But you know how things are always changing in the technology field,” Christine emphasized. “It doesn’t hurt to have options.”
“Everything is going along fine here,” Jason said a little louder. “There is no need to stress.”
“But you don’t always know what’s going to happen down the road.”
“Chris, there is nothing to worry about,” Jason said with finality. “And if there was something to worry about, I’d be doing something about it.”
“But what if it’s something you can’t see? Mom and Dad wanting me to take care of cousin Stephanie’s baby shower because Aunt Rita just got out of the hospital, I didn’t see that one coming. Plus we have to get our guest bedroom ready for Grandma, and the firm may want me to work more hours…”
“All right, all right,” Jason interrupted. He noticed people leaving the break room. “Lunch time is over, I better get off the phone now. I’ll call you when I get home.”
“Love you,” Christine said sweetly.
Jason huddled around the telephone. “Love you.” He hung up and joined the stream of coworkers as they headed back to work.
“Talking to your better half?” Phil said to Jason.
“Yep,” Jason said as he tried to refocus on his job.
“I’m on marriage number three right now and it still hasn’t gotten any easier,” Phil said. “At least you’re at the beginning, the honeymoon period,” he said longingly. “I envy you young newlyweds.”
“We’re not married.”
“Oops, my mistake,” Phil apologized.
Everyone dispersed out of the florescent lit corridor and into the main work area. Workers maneuvered through large computer mainframes and work tables with printers, monitors, and other electronic equipment and gravitated to their work stations. Past a far glass wall at the end of the work area was an office with a small maze of cubicles and desks.
Jason went to a black screen monitor, looked at a wide printout of data next to it, and typed a series of line commands onto a keyboard as he fell back into work mindset. A series of words and numbers scrolled upward on the screen. He typed a save command and a light on the disc drive lit up as it hummed. He entered some more data, then worked with a couple of technicians disassembling a component of a larger mainframe. Some other coworkers came by, observed, and commented with advice. After a while they got the computer working and it began to print out a detailed satellite image. A couple of the employees looked at and commented on the image as Jason returned to his computer. He spent the remaining hour entering more data and chatting with coworkers. The mood of everyone lightened from the approaching weekend.
At 5PM Jason shut down his computer and walked with his coworkers through another corridor to the entrance. People were gathered around the time clock and getting out their time cards while talking about their plans for the weekend.
“So any big plans this Friday night?” Stan asked Jason.
“Going to a birthday party,” Jason said while he reached for his time card.
“Really, for who?”
“A friend of mine.”
“How old is he going to be?”
“He’s still young.”
©2016 Robert Kirkendall