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Jumped The Gun

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1904 Olympic sprint

Sheldon was a support engineer at Generic Media Co. In his 6 years with the company, he'd enjoyed working for several great managers—but then came the reorg. Once the dust cleared, he found himself in the wrong department, reporting to one of the most loathed individuals in the entire organization.

Gene was the type of manager who believed his fancy title awarded him instant respect. No engineer who spent any time working with him had anything good to say. Sheldon went in hoping for the best ... but Gene's relentless micromanaging and childish stunts quickly ground Sheldon's optimism into dust. When it came time for Sheldon to go on an extended vacation, he felt like a shell-shocked veteran limping out of the trenches.

The months away were bliss, but Sheldon couldn't enjoy the last few days out of dread. To his surprise, though, Gene wasn't waiting at his cubicle with twelve urgent tasks upon his return. There hadn't been a peep from Gene all vacation long: no emails, no meeting requests. It was getting close to performance review time; nothing about that, either.

As Sheldon worked through his vacation backlong, it became starkly apparent that he was being allowed to work through his vacation backlog. No panicky IMs, emails, cubicle pop-ins. The radio silence extended into days, then weeks. Sheldon began to wonder whether Gene even still worked there. Not wanting to kick a potential sleeping dragon in the nose, he asked his coworkers instead.

"Of course he's still here," one of them grumbled. "If they haven't canned him by now, they're not going to."

Soon after, Sheldon found out he had it exactly backwards.

A meeting invitation from Gene landed in his inbox. Catch-up meeting, tomorrow. No agenda, no room booked. Distracted with work, Sheldon didn't immediately accept the meeting. By the end of the day, his desk phone rang.

Gene. When had Gene ever phoned his desk? Frowning, Sheldon picked up.

"I need you to accept the invite," Gene blurted with no preamble.

It was then that Sheldon's paranoia clued him into reality. Gene still works here. I'm the one who's out. Gene's extended avoidance had been just another of his immature games. They'd never even done that performance review, had they?

"I'll be there," Sheldon muttered.

All that night, Sheldon tried to put a positive spin on the situation. A job he'd enjoyed had been ruined by a terrible manager, it was true. But he'd soon be free to look for a better job and a better manager.

Sure enough, once the meeting began, Gene smugly informed Sheldon that his role was going offshore, making him redundant. (Sheldon later found out that the offshore bit was a lie, but you didn't hear it from us.) Sheldon hoped this would be the last of their interaction, but it wasn't to be.

Fast-forward to Sheldon's second-to-last day, 4:00 PM. Sheldon was leaving to pick up his kids from school. He was on a tight schedule, as he had a train to catch. He hurried to the lobby, summoned an elevator, and darted in.

Just as he turned around, he spied Gene entering the lobby from the stairwell. Gene saw Sheldon as well, and flashed him a big smile.

Not to be cowed, Sheldon smiled right back.

Gene frowned, confused. "Do you have a minute?"

"No," Sheldon answered honestly as the elevator doors began to close.

"I need to collect your badge!" Gene yelled.

The doors shut, and the elevator began its descent. You're a day early, Sheldon thought to himself, shaking his head.

He made it to his train and boarded just in time. While shuttling along, he grabbed his phone and sent Gene a quick message via Google Hangouts. I'll be in tomorrow. You can have my badge then.

The message seemed to have trouble going through. A few moments later, the Hangout closed. You have been successfully logged out.

Strange. Sheldon switched to Slack. You have successfully signed out.

"What?" Sheldon blurted aloud.

It got him thinking. Gene had just seen him leaving the building in a hurry, grinning like a fool. Did he think Sheldon had planted a bomb or something? Sheldon had no bombs, but he did have admin access to plenty of important systems. Had Gene gotten his account terminated in a panic?

Sheldon called the IT department and confirmed his suspicions. There was even a note attached to his account, from Gene: DO NOT RE-ENABLE.

"What am I supposed to do for my last day?" Sheldon asked.

"No worries," the tech replied. "I'll roll it back."

Upon returning the next day, Sheldon learned his security badge didn't work, either. The security guard at the front desk had to call Gene for authorization. Still too much of a wimp to show his face, Gene just told him to let Sheldon through.

"He couldn't even get my last day right," Sheldon said with a chuckle.

Gene kept his distance whole day. Sheldon left at 4:00 PM again, this time headed for the whiskey bar with a few ex-colleagues to celebrate freedom.

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