Circling back concerning my PTO

Annie Mattea

It was hard to wake up after I learned the world would be ending next week. It was all over the evening news, a meteor set to hit the Earth and end life “as we knew it” entirely. Fox News, of course, claimed it was a hoax by some liberal scum at NASA, trying to spite Americans for not caring enough about the climate. CNN was more honest, but tried to be too hopeful about our chances. Social media was a hilarious mess, with tweets and photos making it all into a big joke.

The world was ending next Tuesday, and my first thought was to take a few days off. But when I messaged my boss, she said my request was too late. “All PTO must be approved at least two weeks in advance,” she said, linking me to the employee handbook page. I wished she could show some compassion and wondered why she hired me.

The company did not care that the world was ending. We had metrics to meet and clients to satisfy. “Anyway,” my boss said. “Maybe the media is wrong. Since when do you believe journalists?”

I sat in my home office on the Wednesday before, the last Wednesday ever, opening up Teams on my corporate issued Laptop. I drank tea out of my corporate issued mug and pointedly ignored texts and calls from my mother, who begged me to drive home. At lunch time I made a frozen meal, some pasta I bought from Trader Joes and thought it was pretty good. Next time I got groceries, I would get some more. 

When 5:30 p.m. rolled around, I got ready for the gym and went outside. I was disappointed to learn not only was my world ending, but Planet Fitness was closed. I drove home and got out my bicycle, thinking it would be a suitable alternative to the workout video series I had planned to follow.

I biked my usual path, enjoying the birds and plants I passed by. The endless text messages irritated me. As soon as I got home, I checked them. 

From mom: “Where are you? Why aren’t you responding?” That one was too much to deal with. I was sure she would claim that was abandoning her by not responding. “You’re my only daughter,” she would say. Give it a rest, I thought.  

From my ex-girlfriend: “I wanted to let you know I am still in love with you, just in case you wanted to get together.” She dumped me. Why was she still so obsessed with what I was doing? Some sort of guilt, I guessed. 

From my doctor, an automated message: “Our records indicate it’s time for a checkup. To schedule an appointment, please visit our website or call (323) 238-8121.” I called the number and was met with a robot, asking what time I would like to come in. I suggested some time next Thursday.

After all my messages, I found myself drained and fell asleep on the couch watching some Netflix series. In the morning, I repeated the routine of getting on Teams and putting out ‘hypothetical fires’ for my all-important company. And I did this again, for several days, up until Tuesday.

Around mid-day, nearing our final moments, my boss unexpectedly called me to inform me I had been let go.

“You just don’t seem to have the passion the company wants,” she said. I asked if my PTO would be paid out, and she said that was not part of their policy. 

“Please mail the laptop and monitor back to us by the end of the month,” she continued. I thought about smashing it in front of her but remembered they would probably take the cost out of my paycheck. After the call wrapped up, I got into the car and drove to the post office, corporate issued merchandise in the backseat. 

Of course, as was common at this point, nobody was in the post office. I shoved the monitor and laptop into a mailbox and did not leave a return address. I drove home and laid down on the floor. I called my mother. 

She did not answer, and I listened to her voicemail.

“Unfortunately, I am not at the phone right now. But please leave a message and I will get back to you when I can. Okay, bye!” her recorded voice said.

I called again and I kept calling until I wasn’t, anymore.