I reach my boss' office. A laminate oak door is closed, a small, gold tinted aluminum name plate has her name engraved in black, bold font. I knock, faintly, in case she is on the phone. Everything with her should be done with caution.
"Come in," she replies from her office, voice muffled by the closed door. I step inside.
To her credit, she's done her best to make her office seem more like a room and less like a cell. But there's only so much you can do with ceiling tiles, florescent lights, grey file cabinets, and a large, laminate desk, parked squarely in the center of the floor. The walls and the carpet retain the exact same features as the hallway. Some plants and flowers are tastefully assorted throughout the room. Pictures of generic motivational posters hang from the wall. A bookshelf in the corner carries a selection of cheap business advice books that people read to feel smarter about themselves. A mini-fridge rests against the far wall, underneath the lone window. The blinds are shut, allowing only faint sunbeams to remind us that an outside world exists.
I walk inside and plant myself to be, what I hope, is a respectable distance from the desk. Not too close to cause discomfort, but not too far to make it look like I am scared. These are the types of calculations that I make every day here.
"Hey," she says, quickly siphoning papers from one side of her desk to the other. She looks up.
"You wanted to talk?" I replied, trying to sound innocent. I raised the pitch a bit because apparently that's what innocence is.
"Yeah." She stopped her paperwork shuffling and leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms against her chest. "How long have you been working here?"
"Uh... about six years now. Actually, yeah. Six years exactly, starting next month." I found myself slowly rocking back and forth on my feet, but I couldn't stop. Nerves. Meds. Habit. Who knows at this point.
"Hmm," she responded. She wasn't moving. I imagined her sizing me up, analyzing my body language. "Have you ever thought about moving up in the company? Or running it?"
There were a lot of things I have been called into my boss' office for. Never for something like this. The surprise hit me hard, froze my brain. A cascade of uncompleted thoughts began forming. Words fought for space in my head.
"I.. I can't say I really have, honestly. Why?"
"Well, here's the thing. I am almost 60 years old. I've been doing this for 30 years. I'd like to move into a more part-time roll with my work-life."