Need Food for Thought? Chew on this!

Updated: Nov 7, 2020

"Chew on This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder", a book of inspirational short stories by Gary Brock and Kelly Tuck, and is available for purchase here and in our Shop!

*Words of wisdom for inspirational thought are at the end of the story!

The Worry Gang

The Worry Gang traveled silently through the office complex, plotting and scheming as to who they could attack next. Passing by dozens of opened office doors, they listened in on the conversations between employees and peered over people’s shoulders to read their emails. After gathering intelligence about every employee throughout the company, they found just the right person to mess with: Brad Workman, the division manager of the company.

They overheard him explain to his wife over the phone that if the company did not hit their profitability numbers this quarter, the CEO and Board of Directors would more than likely ask for his resignation. They heard his wife say, “Oh, honey, don’t worry. You built that division from the ground up; it makes more money for that company than all of the other divisions combined! You’re just going to stress yourself out.”

Brad sighed heavily. “You just don’t understand. It has become a ‘what have you done for us lately’ type of mentality around here, and if I can’t – ”

His wife gently interrupted Brad’s worries. “Breathe, just breathe and calm down. Get up and out of your office. Walk around a little and I think you will feel better.”

“You’re right. Maybe I’ll just go to the gym early and work all of this out of my system.” Brad ran a hand over his face. “Thanks, honey. I will see you this evening.”

As Brad turned to his computer to key into the electronic employee calendar that he would be out of the office for the next hour, the Worry Gang seized the opportunity to pounce. They settled heavily on his shoulders to whisper in his ear. “Are you sure you want to do this?” they hissed. “You might better stay and grind out some more work so the powers that be don’t think you’re just cruising along. You know they are watching you. They have spies in your office... Haven’t you noticed every time you log out of your computer and turn the light out in your office, people in the other offices watch when you walk by? They are keeping tabs on you. Are you sure you want to do this? It’ll be one more thing for them to whisper about as you walk out the door...”

Brad shook his head. Stop, he ordered himself, stop with all of this. Pushing up from his desk, Brad switched off his office light and began heading down the hall. All of a sudden, a voice called out from one of the side offices.

“Brad, will you be back today?” asked Ken, one of the junior project managers.

“Certainly,” Brad replied in annoyance. “I’m just taking an early lunch. Is that okay with you?”

“Well, excuse me!” Ken stepped out of his office to confront Brad’s obvious snark. “I was just trying to make sure we had the proper coverage this morning if you were going to be out.”

“I’m sorry,” Brad offered sincerely. “Don’t pay any attention to me. I’ve not been sleeping well and it’s showing. Sorry.”

“No worries,” Ken waved as he turned back to his office. “It happens to the best of us.”

Brad soon stepped out of the building with the Worry Gang perched deftly on his shoulders. “We told you,” they mocked. “They are watching you. They are out to get you. They are waiting for you to slip up. And don’t let Ken’s nice guy persona fool you. He only wants your position. He’s tired of waiting for his turn to have the big job in the company. He is gunning for you, just waiting for you to make a fatal move. He knows it’s coming. He knows it’s only a matter of time.”

Blowing out a large exhale, Brad quickened his pace as he made his way down the couple of blocks to his gym. He knew a hard workout was just what he needed to take his mind off all the stuff bouncing around in his mind...if only for an hour. The slight relief Brad felt as his feet stepped through the threshold of the gym doors almost knocked the Worry Gang off his shoulders. As soon as he scanned his membership card at the front, Brad’s eyes landed on the TVs in the aerobics area, several of which were showing CNBC.

All of a sudden, a ribbon stating BREAKING NEWS streamed across the screens. Brad’s heart skipped a beat as he saw ABCD, the stock symbol for his company, showing a big red arrow pointing down with a huge 20% beside it. Brad froze. Oh no, the stock is down twenty percent! This is not good, not good at all.

The Worry Gang clawed its way up until they were wrapped around Brad’s neck. “The company is going to cut!” they hissed in both of his ears. “The company is going to cut! You’re fifty years old. They are going to cut you! They can pay that thirty-year-old half of what they pay you and his benefits package will be less. That means cost savings to the company and increases to net income.”

Perspiration rolled down the inside of Brad’s upper arms as he continued to stare blindly at the screens. I need to get back to the office. I can’t workout now! What if the Regional Vice President calls and I’m not in? Beads of sweat dotted his forehead. Calm down. Remember what Jane said. Just breathe. Brad’s chest tightened in another bout of anxiety. Lord held me, Cindy’s college tuition payment is coming up soon, there’s that mortgage payment that never goes away, not to mention still paying for Christmas... He swallowed hard. Well, there will be severance and vacation pay – that should get me through a couple of months. The job market is okay right now, but I don’t want to have to move. Brad’s head continued to spin round and round while the Worry Gang chuckled in amusement.

Brad blinked rapidly, startled to find himself staring into an empty locker. His mind was so clouded with gloom and doom he didn’t even remember walking through the gym into the locker room. Brad decided since he was already at the gym and in the locker room to go ahead and change. He’d get on the elliptical machine for thirty minutes or so to try and work some anxiety out of his system. The Worry Gang changed into their workout clothes and hung tight with Brad as he headed to the Matrix elliptical.

About twenty minutes into Brad’s workout, he glanced up and noticed that all seven of the aerobic room’s TVs were playing the local news channel. Reading the subtitles, Brad became interested in the local economic forecast. Unemployment on the rise, read the subtitle.

Brad felt a tight knot form in the pit of his stomach. Forty- five to sixty year olds feeling the brunt of the unemployment and underemployment trends, it continued to read. The knot shot from his stomach to his throat. He tried in vain to swallow against it.

The Worry Gang beamed. They were having a field day with Brad! They had definitely chosen the right victim. The more Brad attempted to put out the fire of worry, the more they fanned the flames. Finally, with two minutes left on the elliptical workout, Brad couldn’t take it anymore. He decided to stop, get cleaned up, and head back to the office. There was no use in avoiding the inevitable when it seemed to be everywhere. The Worry Gang hung heavy on his sweat-soaked shirt as he trudged back to the locker room.

As Brad walked back to the office, his mind traveled to the early years of his career and soon he thought of all the accomplishments he had made. The more he focused on the positives of his thirty-plus year career, the looser the grip of the Worry Gang became.

“Hold on, guys,” the leader of the Worry Gang ordered to the others. “He’s trying to shake us off. Dig deep! Hold tight! Don’t let loose of him!”

As always, Brad strode past the elevator to climb the steps to his fourth floor office. He started off taking one step at a time, but as soon as he reached the second floor indicator the Worry Gang felt a definite shift, causing them to slide a little further down Brad’s shoulders. Brad squared his shoulders, puffed out his chest, and drew in a deep breath.

“Bring it on,” he said aloud and began taking two steps at a time. Brad grinned to himself. He felt as if he were finally channeling some of that swagger he’d relied upon to climb the corporate ladder. Stay determined. The door to the fourth floor was in sight. Stay focused.

Soon stepping into his office, he retrieved the most recent profit and loss statement for his division. As he surveyed the expense items, he zeroed in on the column that reflected other expenses. Focusing on the itemization within the column, one category caught Brad’s eye. Hmm, he thought, leaning in closer, what is that? Brad immediately picked up the phone and called the warehouse manager to ask him about the additional storage charges shown in the category.

After discovering the storages charges had been increased because of an automatic escalator clause overlooked by corporate finance in the lease agreement when the lease had originally been negotiated, Brad dove into work. The Worry Gang whispered from over his shoulder. “You cannot do anything about that — it is in the contract. What will you actually be able to do? Don’t even try.”

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Brad placed a call to the Real Estate Management Company and discussed the escalator clause. After several conference calls throughout the day between Brad and the Real Estate Management Company, he was able to negotiate a fifty percent reduction in the automatic escalator payment. During the entire negotiation process, the Worry Gang’s whispers soon turned into shouts full of doubts and reasons why it couldn’t or wouldn’t work. But the entire time, Brad continued to shake off the Worry Gang. Slowly but surely, their grip loosened and they fell to the ground with a thud!

Brad phoned his Regional Vice President and advised that at the beginning of next quarter his division would report a twenty percent increase in profitability due to his renegotiation on storage expense. The Regional Vice President was elated and congratulated Brad on a job well done. The Worry Gang raised the white surrender flag of defeat and scurried from Brad’s office in shame, all the while searching for another victim to pounce on. Brad’s head whipped to the side, thinking he noticed some movement on the carpet in the doorway of his office.

After hanging up the phone from the conversation with his boss, Brad pushed away from his desk, leaned back in his chair, and smiled to himself. Wow, he thought with satisfaction, what a day. Once again, worry met its match because...

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*Chew On This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder is available for purchase here!

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