I was recently promoted to a manager at work and I’ve always had a close and trusting relationship with my boss. I have also always known my place in the office and known the difference between things that are only meant for my ears or things that can be discussed with others. Working directly with a general makes one a little more privy to such information.
My boss’s name is General Beckman and her colleague is James Uppton. General Beckman and James had a special assignment that required a farther out look of our planet and I was lucky enough that they invited me along. My role at the company is very employee focused so I haven’t been as involved with many high clearance outings. However, I absolutely welcomed the opportunity and looking back, I’m not so sure it was my best decision.
I was briefed on the outing and was informed that we would be taking our aircraft just outside the earth's atmosphere for an observation project. I truly felt like all my secret keeping had finally paid off and this was truly the opportunity of a lifetime considering minimal people even know we have an aircraft that can travel beyond the earth’s atmosphere. As usual, if I had a secret from work that I couldn’t tell anyone else in the office, I would tell my trustiest friend, Rob. So I did just that. I called up Rob to share the exciting news of my upcoming adventure. He was incredibly shocked and had a thousand questions but had only requested that I send photos, which I figured I would do anyways. I agreed and then tried to calm my excitement enough to sleep through the night.
The following day, Beckman and I boarded the aircraft and lifted into the sky. It was just like the futuristic shows I’ve seen, a slow and smooth vertical rise through the clouds. We stopped after a few minutes to take in the absolutely breathtaking view of Earth. As General Beckman relocated to the other side of the aircraft, I retrieved my phone and discreetly sent a video to Rob. Once the video was sent, I quickly put my phone away, not just because I didn’t want to get in trouble, but also to fully immerse myself in appreciation of this once in a lifetime experience. General Beckman returned to my side in front of the window and indicated that it was time to go home.
I hopped off of the aircraft thanking General Beckman repeatedly for the opportunity and invitation. As I walked back to my desk, my phone buzzed reminding me that my friend Josh was returning from the National Guard and I needed to get to the pier for his homecoming. I grabbed my ticket from my purse and hustled to find my seat.
I got to my spot, seat 81, just as the troops were exiting the ship. I noticed almost immediately the difference in emotion exhibited by the troops vs their loved ones waiting to greet them. While the crowd was smiling, whistling, and cheering, the troops appeared sad; much too sad for just completing their training and returning home. Each one of them walked with their head hung low like an ashamed puppy for tearing apart the trash. I still hadn’t seen Josh but after about 50 people filed off the ship, everyone’s attention was turned to a voice that rang over the loud speaker. It said “All homecoming festivities will be cancelled today due to insubordinate and inappropriate behavior exhibited by the members of this National Guard platoon. Please evacuate the premises immediately or face arrest.” What.. the fuck… I needed to find Josh and I needed to know what the hell happened.
As I contemplated my next move to either find Josh or just grab my stuff and go, I was bumped in the shoulder by none other than Josh. I basically screamed in his face asking him what was going on. He told me a quick couple stories about how a pre-homecoming celebration got so crazy and out of control and that they were all threatened to be discharged from the program. He begrudgingly departed to wait for his orders and left me to pick up my things and go.
As I began walking toward the exit, I saw Rob and I eagerly ran over to him. I excitedly asked what he thought of my trip into the sky but almost immediately noticed the somber look on his face. He told me that Beckman and Uppton found out I had sent the video. Holy shit, I was in such trouble. Rob’s focus changed from my face to looking at something or someone behind me. I reluctantly turned around to face General Beckman and James Uppton. They began speaking to me and, I assume, scolding me for my breach of confidentiality. My shame, embarrassment, and sadness clouded their words so that I couldn’t even process anything they were saying. When they were done, I was waiting for literally anything to come out of my mouth, at the very least, an apology but I was speechless. An entire career of following the rules and I felt in my soul I was about to get fired. The pure disappointment on Uppton’s face and the disgust in Beckman’s voice would haunt me for the rest of my life. It was like slow motion watching them turn and walk away. I was unable to defend myself because there was truly no point. This exact feeling is why I follow the rules.