Live and learn...

it's important to remember that not matter how much we have already achieved, we still have so much left...
(short story)


1. This is not high school

The sun was high up in the sky when Ben woke up. The big, usually noisy and full of people house was now empty and silent. The cars from the driveway were gone. Couple of dishes in the sink. It surprised Ben. For the first time in his life he had no plans, no schedule. Just graduated from high school he was thrilled to start his new life.


With an average height and a serious face full of self-confidence, Ben was the ideal candidate. The ideal student, the ideal son, the ideal person. He was used for people who respected and were impressed by him. In school he was picked as the most promising student. The teachers said that he has an extreme potential, that he will surely will become a success. Now, when high school was over, Ben waited for all of this to happen. His father found him a position in the company he worked in and even though Ben had no idea what is he supposed to do in his new job he was sure he will do it perfectly.


Ben walked back to his room his head full of thoughts. In his mind he imagined himself, as the man he was going to become. There were no questions about it. Never were. Ben smiled to his reflection in the mirror on the wall and entered his room. Everything in his room, from the full of diplomas wall to the big black office table fitted him perfectly. He sat in his big chair presses his fingers against each other, his eyes inspecting the room with satisfaction.


As he was looking on his table a small folded yellow note caught his eyes. Curious, he picked it up, unsure what to think. The note appeared to be from his father. In a very quiet and polite way, almost like he was afraid to upset his son, Mr. Miller asked Ben to come to the office around noon. “Due to change of circumstances” said the note.


Growing up in a house of business people Ben understood what it means. They want him to start working today, they wanted to test him, see if he really is what they were told. This thought angered Ben. It’s his first day of freedom! How could they be so inconsiderate? For a moment his fist clenched in frustration and anger. For a moment. And then he took a deep breath, shook his hands and started to dress up. They wanted to test him but he doesn’t need the test. He has nothing to worry about. Ben looked at the diplomas on the wall. He could do it. Not matter what they would give him to do, he could do it. It was always like that. First in any subject, he knew everything the teacher said. His tests and project were always the best and he made sure that everyone around him knew that.


It was almost noon when Ben finally left the house. He wasn’t nervous. Wearing a new black suit that fitted him perfectly he was headed to his first day in work. The main office was an impressive building in the business center of the town. Large golden letters said “Jones and Thompson co.” Two guards stood in front of the building, warning. Ben got out of his car, smiling in confidence to the distant guards. As he entered the building he walked straight to his father office, thrilling to show him, to prove him wrong.


The office, however, was empty. So was the room next to it. Ben started wondering in the big building, checking the offices he passed by. Part of them were empty, part were full of people who loudly argued with each other. None of them was familiar to Ben. couple of times the cleaning woman asked him whether he needs help, maybe she could guide him find what he was looking for. Ben ignored her.


He doesn’t need help from a cleaning lady. He grew up here! The cleaner made him angry. Walking around, thinks she owns this place, when in fact, she probably doesn’t even have a high school diploma. Mumbling angry words towards the rude cleaner, Ben hasn’t noticed he arrived to the other side of the floor.


He looked around, looking for familiar faces in the crowd of working people. The rooms here were not offices but discussion rooms and one of them was particularly noisy. Using the large window in the side of the room Ben tried to identify the people that were talking inside.


Around a large circle table sat a large group of people, loudly talking and arguing about something showed on the big whiteboard behind them. One of them stood up from the table pointing with his finger towards the board, explaining something. It was Ben’s father. Finally! Thought Ben as he was fixing his suit, which managed to become a mess during his short adventure in the building.


As he finished he looked at his watch, smiled to his face’s reflection in the window and opened the door to the discussion room. At once, all the voices it rooms became silent. Confused by the sudden silence the speaker next to the whiteboard, Mr. Miller, turned his look to the door where Ben stood, his hands in the pockets, scanning the room with an arrogant look.


Mr. Miller smiled to his son, stepping closer to the door looking to his friends with a guilty look. “Well,” he said, filling the silence with his quiet voice “this is Ben. My son. He will be working with us”. No one answered. The whole room remained silent as about twenty pairs of blaming eyes stared at Ben.


Another person would feel uncomfortable, guilty for interrupting these people. But not Ben. He looked at these people, and felt that his moment has finally arrived. He stepped closer to big table, opened his mouth and started talking. He told him about himself, about his achievements.


He talked about this “great opportunity” and how he could help this company with his wide knowledge. He smiled at them as he explained how lucky they are for having him in their team. He didn’t know what he said and honestly saying, he didn’t care. The staring eyes seemed to him like interested faces, the sound of a pen falling on the floor seemed to him as applause.


He talked and he talked and he was just in the middle of a sentence when a strong deep voice stopped him. “That’s enough.” said someone. Like he was awakened from a dream Ben stopped his speech, looking around, trying to find the person that was rude enough to interrupt Ben. The man, however, wasn’t hiding. He stood up from the table as his coworkers following him with their look. “That’s enough” he said again, “I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. But as long as you work with us you will report to me. Now, do you know what are we doing here?”  


He turned back, to his father, but Mr. Miller was no longer there. For the first time in many years he felt unsure. “My father...” Ben mumbled quietly. “Well, for now you will be working with us. We are making an advertisement for our company. We are brainstorming some ideas and later you will get your assignment”. Ben nodded, sitting down on one of the chairs, joining the renewing conversation.


They sat there for couple of hours. Raising ideas, drawing and erasing, discussing. At first, Ben sat quietly but soon he got more and more involved. He thought of an idea and carefully drew it on a piece of paper. It was perfect. He raised his hand and explained his idea, expecting everyone to be shocked and excited. But no one was.


They listen to him and argued and explained why it wouldn’t work. He was furious. For the rest of the conversation he sat there, angry. When someone brought an idea he criticized it, saying that his idea is much better. By the end of the work day they had decided on a main script, set deadline and arranged assignment for everyone in the group. Ben didn’t listen. He didn’t care.


Ben returned home angry. He hated the thought that his idea wasn’t accepted by the group. The thought of giving up and “surrendering” to the group’s decision sickened him. Suddenly he had a plan. It was so clear! This project, he thought, is the same as the ones I had in school. There is no reason why same tactic that worked there couldn’t work here. This plan calmed him down as he sat down to his computer and started working.


Every day when he came to work, Mr. Thomas (the same person who stopped him in the middle of his speech on the first day) would ask about everyone’s progression. Ben would nod and smile, assuring him that everything would be ready on the deadline. Meanwhile, he worked on his idea. He is going to show them. He arranged interviews, took pictures, wrote everything by himself so when he deadline arrives they would see what he did and understands the seriousness of this. He waited to this moment like a little boy is waiting for Christmas. The deadline arrived. Everything was ready. Mr. Thomas invited guests and possible clients to present their final product. The presentation was ready. The speaker finished his speech; next the presentation began but stopped in the middle.


For some reason nothing worked. The crew ran from the lecture hall to the next room trying to find the problem. Ben didn’t know what the problem is. He waited patiently so he could show them what he did. But he couldn’t. The main presentation was ruined and the system didn’t work. One by one the guests started to lose their patience and leave mumbling something about amateurs and charlatans. When Ben went out of the lecture hall Mr. Thomas stopped him and asked him to follow him to his office. Ben didn’t know what Mr. Thomas needed him for. He went, however, waiting to tell Mr. Thomas about his little project.


“You are fired” said Mr. Thomas when they arrived. Just like this. Without any explanation or preparation. Ben didn’t understand. He waited, for something. A word, a smile. Something. “Look” said Mr. Thomas, “I don’t know you. I don’t know what you did in school, and honestly, I don’t care. This, problem, is your problem. This failure is yours. It was your work, your assignment. And you failed all of us. You are fired”.


“But,” answered Ben “but you don’t understand, I...” but Mr. Thomas didn’t let him finish “No, actually I do. Because I was like this. Best in school. Potential. I thought that I know everything. That I am the best. But I was wrong, and so are you, because this, this is not school. If you want to succeed you don’t have to be the one with best grades at everything. You need to listen to others, let them help you. Maybe they know something you don’t. You need to be considerate, and not always ask from everyone else to be so. You need to remember that there’s a team. It’s not just you. You need to work with us, not against. You need... You need to grow up. And when you will, then we will meet again and talk. Grow up Ben, this is not high school”



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