Good To Go
It didn't take long to pack on Friday.
Most of my personal belongings had already been boxed and stashed away
the coat closet next to the front desk, weeks earlier. As
things had started going sour around The Dirt Company, earlier in the
year -- as soon as it had started to look like my days there
might be numbered -- I'd quietly begun packing away books and
photos and Mystic Spirit CDs, a few
at a time, into empty copier-paper boxes, labeled "TLR PERSONAL." On
Friday morning, when JoAnne and I decided that this
going to be my last day, all I had to do was unplug my electric fan,
empty my private hanging
files and pull the last of the Tot
Photos from my cubicle walls.
sniffled, as she stood in the doorway watching me
drop the groovy red
stapler into a box marked "Desktop Essentials."
I hated it too. This wasn't
the way I wanted to leave The Dirt Company. After four years
(and countless Soil Density Reports), I was hoping to leave my
job with a little more ...
I dunno ... ceremony,
I guess. A little hoopla. A little fanfare.
A little recognition for all the years of hard work and
personal contribution and blah blah blah blah blah. Cake and
balloons in the Conference Room, maybe. A
An insincere Hallmark signed by all the nerdy geotechs, at
the very least.
But this was the hand that Fate had dealt me -- this secretive
last-minute exit from a job I have alternately
loved and loathed for nearly four years -- and I was just going to have
to make the best
of it. Although I submitted my official resignation letter to
JoAnne forty minutes after I got into the office in the morning, she
and I both agreed
to keep things
on the down-low, at least until the end of the day. She
wouldn't be faxing a copy of my letter to the corporate office until
late in the
afternoon ... primarily so I wouldn't have to deal
with any sort of
unpleasant last-minute confrontation with Bob, aka Mr.
"Depression-Is-All-In-Your-Head" Temporary Office Manager Guy.
Until then: mum was the word.
"Go away," I ordered my weepy boss, finally, as she stood there
blotting her eyes with a
battered Kleenex. "You're just making things worse."
And I gave her the last two Rocky Road Miniatures from my
middle desk drawer -- who will supply her with her
candy, after I'm gone? -- plus half a
Valium from my dwindling stash. Then I banished her down the
hall to her office,
where she closeted herself away behind closed doors.
For the rest
of the morning, we communicated solely through i.m. and e-mail. ("Do
me to submit a time sheet before I leave?"
"Yes please." "OK,
welcome.") The day
passed in a blur of frenzied, secretive activity, as I feverishly
updated extension lists and deleted old voicemail messages.
I'd been hoping
for two weeks' notice, at least -- time enough to
update the front desk reference manual, to clean out all useless
computer files, to put in a final office supply order, to make
the front desk as user-friendly as possible for my successor, whoever
she may turn out to be (especially if 'she' turned out to be JOANNE).
But with a mere eight hours' notice, there was
for such luxuries.
So I settled for deleting my personal e-mail and clearing out my cache,
hopes that that would be good enough.
At one point, one of the nerdier of the nerdy geotech guys obliviously
me with a report that needed
THIS VERY MINUTE. It was plastered with the usual crazy-quilt
of Post-It notes: Double-sided!
Look for staples! Copy onto SF letterhead! Ordinarily
that kind of condescension drives me batty -- after
twenty-something years of doing this stuff, you sort of already KNOW
to look for staples and double-sided pages, OK? -- plus there was the
last-minuteness of the project, coupled with the
'Drop everything and do it right now' mindset of the typical engineer.
But on this day, the usual annoyances barely
is the last
going to have to do this, whispered
the shaky voice of Impending Freedom in my heart. The
thought filled me with a weird mix of terror and exhilaration.
I finished his
report in less than an hour. Plus I made him an extra copy
for his personal file, without him asking for it, and I put a little
Post-It note of my own on the front page. Here you go! it
said. Let me
know if you need
I didn't bother to
add that if he DID need 'something else,' he was going to have to ask
'someone else' to do it for him.
Still, in spite of all the secrecy and subterfuge and
packing-when-nobody-was-looking, by mid-afternoon the cat had finally
begun clawing its way out of the
bag. Once or twice, during the course of the day, I'd given
in to a quick sneaky attack of The Weepies, whenever I remembered that
I was quitting my job. My eyes were swollen and Maybelline-smeared
as a result. Plus I'd actually broken down and told
a couple of the women what was going on.
"This is my last
day," I whispered to Dawn at lunch. She's leaving the company
herself, next month -- her last day is July 8th -- and I think there
was a part of me that just
wanted to align myself with her, as a member of The Short-Timers Club.
(Actually, there are three women, besides me, who are leaving the
company within the next
couple of weeks. It's one of those mass exodus
situations.) Dawn told two friends, and they told two friends ...
and so on, and so on. By the end of
the afternoon, you could tell who *knew* I was leaving -- and who
didn't know -- by the expression
on their faces. The people who knew looked sad and
sympathetic and encouraging.
The people who didn't know looked straight through me, as though I were
"I think it's probably OK to go ahead and fax my resignation letter
to Corporate now," I told JoAnne at 4:00. By this point, what
do? FIRE me? Plus it meant I was now officially
free to wander around the office and say a few proper goodbyes to the
people who have populated my life, for better or for worse, for the
past four years. I sent out the same all-company 'goodbye'
e-mail that I'd sent when I left
the Totem Pole Company,
a few years earlier ...
the one that ends with the ancient
Tibetan blessing (May
you be filled with loving kindness. May you be well. May you be
peaceful and at ease. May you be happy.) Then I walked around
the office with my cell phone in one
hand and a notebook and pen in the other hand, snapping camera photos
of co-workers and scribbling down personal e-mail addresses.
When I was finished with the goodbyes, I returned to the front desk to
wait out my last half hour. I spent the final thirty minutes
of my Dirt Company career surrounded by the
women who have loved and supported and encouraged me, from Day One:
the lovely Jane (who has promised to
serve as a professional reference, once my job-search efforts begin in
earnest) ... Dawn and Becky, the sweet young engineers who
have served as surrogate daughters
... Carolyn, the gorgeous geological
scientist who I treated very badly, the first few months she worked
here ("I'm sorry for that," I told her, and we hugged each other in
reconciliation) ... Sheryl, the Marketing
Coordinator, who added to my snowman collection last Christmas ...
everyone, in fact, except for JoAnne, who found
the whole thing too excruciatingly sad and left the office early, after
a quick teary hug goodbye. My female co-workers -- none of the
men were there, not a single one -- stood clustered around the
front desk and kept
me company for that final half hour, while I waited for David to come
and pick me up.
are your plans?" they asked me.
I told them that I "plan" to
the next couple of weeks sitting around in my Happy Pants, downloading
porn off the Internet. The truth is a lot less interesting: I
"plan" to go see my nice lady doctor and see what we can do about
chemical help for my depression. I also plan to sleep, write, walk, do
laundry, catch up on e-mail, listen to music, eat peanut butter on
wheat toast, clean out my underwear drawer, organize my photo albums,
ride my bike, finish updating the old journals in my
archives, and basically putter around the apartment in
aimless and unhurried fashion. In a couple of weeks, I'll
dust off the résumé and begin the search for another job
... but in the meantime, it's going to be nothing but rest and
rehabilitation for this very frazzled, very depressed (and it's NOT all
in my head, Mr. Temporary Office Manager Guy,
you big ignorant intolerant SHMUCK).
David showed up promptly at 5:00. I switched the phones over
to Night Bell, hugged my co-workers
goodbye, loaded the boxes of my personal
belongings onto a handcart and walked out the
door of The Dirt Company for the very last time.
It was professional. It was calm. It was dignified.
And It left me feeling as though maybe these last four years
of my life weren't such a waste, after all.
Still ... a couple of balloons would have been nice.
to throw a rock?