Ignorance is bliss

Spending time with her family in New York, Zara Lopez stumbles on some
unwelcome news about her future

May 3rd 2001
Stress levels: higher than ever Time spent on the phone on work-related
business: several hours a day (despite the fact I’m on maternity leave)

We’ve been in New York for nearly a month now, where I’m supposed to be
enjoying a carefree maternity leave. But chance would be a fine thing.

Stupidly, I agreed to continue to be on call for Isabella, who’s covering me
until I return to work. She’s on the phone to me for hours nearly every day. I
wouldn’t mind if she wanted help with the job in hand, but most of the time she
just ends up giving me the latest office gossip. Her mind isn’t exactly on the
job either as she’s heard rumours about the Latin American operation being
downsized. "There’s lots of speculation about who’ll go first. I know I’ll
be the first out," she sobbed, the other day.

I knew there had been talk about streamlining the Latin American operation,
but I wasn’t aware that things were this bad. I tried to console her, told her
not to worry and to try and concentrate on the job – partly for selfish
reasons, as I don’t want a backlog of work to go back to. That said, some
clients have been e-mailing me for advice and support, rather than Isabella.
So, I’ve been consulting while on my maternity leave – a job that Isabella is
supposed to be doing on my behalf.

Just as well my mum’s around to look after baby Jade – and Jasmin and Jad
too, who, to my amazement, cut short their visit to see their natural mum as
apparently they were missing me. Wonders will never cease! Of course, James disapproves
of all the work I’m doing on my maternity leave. He’s complained that I’m
spending more time communicating with Isabella from New York than I did back in
Venezuela, and calls me a "soft touch". But as I’m genuinely
concerned for her, I don’t mind too much. We’ve become close friends and I know
almost every member of her clan – in fact, I’m practically one of the family.

This whole saga started keeping me awake at night. Although no one in
Caracas knows exactly what is going on, they’re becoming anxious about all the
cutbacks being made. Morale is low and not a lot of work is getting done – not
that there is much work to do, as several more clients in the region have cut
back on our e-services and training.

But if things are as bad as Isabella says, my days will also be numbered,
won’t they? So, the other day, even though I had a couple of weeks to go before
I returned to work in Caracas, I decided to find out for sure. My project
manager at HQ had asked me to drop by with the baby if I "happened to be
passing". So I did, with an ulterior motive. I wanted to know exactly what
was going on and whetherI did, in fact, have a job to go back to.

After the usual pleasantries, and the oohing and aahing over Jade, I sat
down with that slave-driver boss of mine and confronted him about the
situation. He, naturally, told me there was "nothing to worry about".
"Probably just office gossip. Of course, you have a job to go to, and in
the event something like that should happen, there are plenty of other posts you’d
be suitable for within this firm. Relax, and enjoy the rest of your leave. And
do pop in to see me before you to return to Venezuela," he said, adding,
as I turned to leave, "There may well be a promotion that might interest

Hmm. His being too nice made me rather suspicious. So I looked in on a few
of my other colleagues, spotted my old pal Sally and invited her out for
coffee. She accidently let slip that she was looking forward to having me back
in New York soon. After that, I got all the juicy details. It appears I am
going back to Venezuela, but probably not for much longer. Isabella’s fears
were confirmed. I’m annoyed at my boss for lying to me, but I have to keep
stumm and play ignorant as Sally has sworn me to secrecy.

I face a real dilemma. Do my loyalties lie with my friends or the firm? If I
confide in Isabella and tell her the truth, I could ruin my chances at work.
She’d never keep quiet, and if word got round, there’d surely be a revolution
in the Caracas office. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Now I know the score, I wish I didn’t. Perhaps I should just throw in the
towel and become a full-time mum. Mind you, the prospect of being at home with
all three kids somehow just doesn’t appeal. Anyway, it wouldn’t be feasible
even if I wanted to, as James isn’t in full-time employment. Oh well, just two
more weeks to go before I return to work and face the music.

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