When it went up on the board that my train would be delayed even longer, I began to become more anxious. I spent several minutes following the flow of my breath and repeating my mantra and thankfully it gradually started to calm me down.
I was new to all of this and after several weeks of mindfulness training I was having mixed results. I was taking the training because my doctor sent me to talk to a psycho therapist to see if they could help me overcome my new invisible companions; anxiety and worry. He didn’t think it was a good idea to continue prescribing anti-anxiety medication. It was giving me headaches and making me sleepy not to mention that I was averse to taking any kind of pills.
I never had a moment of anxiety or worry in my life and now at the grand old age of fifty four I couldn’t shake it. Seemingly, I had gone through my years ignorant of the panoply of subjects to worry about. This all changed one winter night when I was lying in bed and for the first time ever could not fall asleep. First it was too hot, and then I worried about the heater, and then wondered if I paid the bill. Changed the oil in my car? What if I die, how will my family get along? What if my wife dies? What if my kids die? This thought shot me out of bed and onto my feet. What the hell was I thinking this kind of shit for? I walked around the house for a few minutes trying to shake the feeling and at the same time not wake anybody up.
Everyone woke up anyway and I made a lame excuse about needing a glass of water even though they all knew that I always kept a glass of water on the nightstand next to the bed. The next morning they questioned me again and I just said that I had a disturbing dream. In fact it kind of made me wonder if it had really been a nightmare after all.
The train arrivals and departures started flashing and scrolling on the screen behind the main desk like a video game gone berserk. When the letters and numbers settled there was another fifteen minutes delay added to my train. I approached the reception desk and walked up to a short stubby man in an Amtrak uniform who was trying his best to ignore me. “Excuse me sir, why are so many trains delayed this morning?” I tried to hide my aggravation as I politely asked. “There’s an issue just north of Wilmington”, he grumbled. “What kind of issue”, I asked “do you expect it to be straightened out anytime soon?” “I’m really not at liberty to say sir and I have limited information, seems to be a mechanical problem. Everything should be getting back to normal soon”. Looking at me like I was a great annoyance he turned away again. He was acting like I wanted to extract one of his teeth rather than a little information about my train.
I shrugged resignedly, walked back to my bench and sat down heavily. Breathing in and breathing out, paying close attention to my breath, trying to concentrate only on my mantra and following the ebb and flow of my breathing. Noticing my thoughts but letting go of them as I refocused my attention to my mantra. It sounded so easy but my mind kept going back to the train being delayed and how this job interview was really important to me. My brother told me that I should go up to New York City the night before the interview so I didn’t have to worry about being late. I reminded him that the interview was at 1:00pm and that I planned to catch the 9:00AM Amtrak. I would have plenty of time. He thought I was being cheap and even offered to pay for my hotel room. Of course I got mad and told him to shove his hotel room. No doubt, if this train doesn’t roll in soon, as usual, he might be proven right. With less than $5,000.00 left in my bank account and a family counting on me I calculated I was approximately three months from financial collapse. I didn’t think it was a luxury I could afford. I will have plenty of time. I insisted that easily, by 11:30, I will be comfortably seated at a Starbucks a few short blocks from my interview. At 12:45 I will pack up my laptop and head to the site and do my best to impress my prospective employer. I had already sent samples of my work and they liked them, otherwise, I would not even be invited. It didn’t hurt that I had several good references from top people in the industry. The company I worked in was moving to Austin, Texas and closing its Philly location. They were consolidating their territories and mine was being swallowed up by a southeast tech rep from Atlanta who had more clout than me. Being the son of a company big shot was all the clout he needed. I didn’t like Jason much, his knowledge of locking hardware and master keying systems couldn’t fill a small teacup and his ego and braggadocios personality couldn’t be contained by Madison Square Garden. I burned some bridges pretty well with his father when I found out that his son was getting my territory in the shakeup. I would be out of a job in two weeks because I refused to uproot my family and become a tech rep in the Midwest. It would have been a lateral move and my wife would never leave the area because of her tight knit family and our kids were in school, well established and thriving. It would be too traumatic for all of us and the battle would just not be worth it. Telling a VP to go “fuck himself” is never a good idea, especially when it would create a gaping hole in my resume. Fortunately I had some others inside the company who would quietly give me high recommendations. There weren’t many openings for master keying specialists and there was intense competition for any that opened up anywhere in the country. There had been so much upheaval and so many traditional jobs lost in the hardware industry as a result of the digital age. Computers have become center pieces everywhere and lock technology was no different. Technicians who were losing their jobs to attrition and worse were older guys like myself and the people coming into the field were more computer hardware and software specialists. People like me, who understand how hardware actually works and can communicate with end users about high security key systems, card access, retina and fingerprint readers were still invaluable to the manufacturers.