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We'll Be Just Fine
We’ll be just fine. My dad sat at the table thinking this to himself, waiting. The clock ticked on, counting down the minutes. He waited. He worried. He thought about what he was going to do, how he was going to feed his children, where he was going to go. He depended on this. His livelihood depended on this. The company had to get this contract. Or else. “What will I do if I’m out of work?” he thought to himself. The clock read six thirty in the morning. Dad stood up nervously. Buttoning his cuffs, fidgeting with the crinkles on his shirt. One last look at the clock- time to go. Shaking off the worry, he told himself we’ll be just fine.
At work, he waited. His day passed normally as it usually did, completing documents, pushing papers, directing the workers. But this day couldn’t be further from normal. By two, he would know. He wouldn’t have to wonder anymore if he had a job to come to tomorrow- it would be nice to finally know. In the break room, he was greeted by sullen faces. Silence filled the air. The other workers, too, waited. Nerves kept their lips sealed. All were waiting to find out, their stomachs in such knots that work was impossible. They couldn’t lose. Too much at stake. No one could concentrate now. He picked up a donut to steady the nerves. Back in his office, he ate and he worked. He worked like a machine, going through the motions, but not. Pink and red sprinkles from the donut scattered across his lap as he chewed and typed, but he did seem to care or even to notice. He had too much else to think of. The robot typed, answering one e-mail after another, his thought somewhere else. He struck one key and then another and kept at his work, the whole time worrying. To him, each keystroke sounded like the tick on a clock, counting away the time, bringing him closer to the deadline, closer to knowing. Twelve o’clock. Two hours before he would know, before he would feel a sense of security. Or not. His stomach churned and he nervously picked at his donut. He worked and he waited. Everything will work out, he told himself. I’m a little worried now, but we’ll be just fine.
In class, the teacher droned on, but today, I did not listen. I had other thoughts on my mind. I glanced behind me, at the clock ticking away to the deadline. Twelve o’clock. It was two hours until my dad would find out if we had won. Two hours until we knew we could relax. Or two hours until we had no idea what to do. I stared at the clock, waiting for the hand to move on, wondering why today it was moving so painfully slowly.
Answer number five on the board, please.
The teacher had noticed that I was not listening to him.
Could you repeat the question, please?
Pay attention next time.
I scribbled on my notebook as the teacher surveyed me to see that I was working, and moved on around the room when he was satisfied. I waited until I was sure he had zeroed in on another victim, then turned around again and resumed my practice of staring at the slowly moving clock, fully invested in each tick, waiting impatiently for the next strike. I shouldn’t be worried. We’ll be just fine, I tried to reassure myself, all the while staring at the clock.
My dad stared ahead nervously. Only one hour had passed, so why did it feel like a thousand? He was worried. He was worried of what would come once this next hour passed, because he did not know where it would leave him. He needed this job. He had children to feed, to send to college, and to provide for, a mortgage to pay, and bills that were due. All his coworkers and him- they needed these jobs to survive. They couldn’t bear the thought that their lifelines might be ripped away from them. All of the workers had put everything they had into this contract. All that time they spent, the energy and the effort. It could not all be for nothing. They had to win this. But it was not up to them. It was out of their hands, the hands that had toiled restlessly at work for months, and in the hands of the company, the hands that did not care about all that hard work and integrity. Because a company does not care about such qualities of humanity like a person would. A company only cares about the profit. Revenue- to a company, that is all that matters.
The man waited, wondering about his job. The clock struck one thirty. Only half an hour left. We’ll win, he told himself. We have to. We’ll be just fine.
Tapping my foot impatiently, I waited for two o’clock to come. So as not to get in trouble this time around, I humored my teacher and at least gave the semblance of paying attention. I was split into a group and assigned questions to answer. I nodded and wrote on my paper, pretending to listen to the discussion. I knotted my fingers in anticipation, tangling them up in the hem of my t-shirt. Only five minutes had passed. I began to nervously pull at my fingernails. Turning back from the clock, I noticed blood where I had been pulling at my nail, but I didn’t care. I had bigger problems now. I turned to the group and acted like I was hearing what they were saying, but I was all the while watching the clock out of the corner of my eye, watching every second as I approached two o’clock. It’ll be okay, I told myself. We’ll be just fine.
Two o’clock. Time to find out. The man waited to hear the decision, just as he had waited all day. And just as he had waited, he worried. He did not know if his job was about to be taken away from him or if it would all work out. He sat and waited, the nerves setting in deeper than before. Everything was going to be okay. They would win. We’ll be just fine.
A new quiet settled over the workers. Now they knew. It was not anxiousness that silenced them now, but defeat. The security of work and pay vanished from their midst, and a silent panic grew in its place. Everything was not okay. They had lost.
What are we going to do?