Saturday, December 23, 2006

last day (pt. 1)

it was raining on my last day of work. i was already in a bad mood due to a series of events that included someone feeling the need to vacuum at 8 a.m. and someone else feeling the need to clean the bathroom right when i needed to shower in order to leave on time. it didn't matter anyway, because i had to stew in gridlock traffic and was late anyhow.

on the fourth floor-- the heart of the tower-- the majority of people work in one colossal room roughly the size of a junior high school gym, in cubicles with walls that come up to my hip. it's like one big bustling, phone-ringy, television-buzzy, chattering classroom. except when things are really busy and there's either an eerie hush or else the whole joint is going berserk. i'm really going to miss that.

my last week i was scheduled to work in another section, tucked away in an alcove in the back. the people who work there are serious, and there is very little idle chatter despite a constant and generous bounty of sugary snacks, cakes and cookies. my friend mel says every time she works back there, she can feel herself gaining weight and i'd have to agree.

i thought being back there was a lucky place to finish out my contract. the shifts usually end earlier than in the big room and there's a convenient side door through which you can get right onto the street. i was planning on finishing up and escaping for a nice fat cheeseburger at Boston Blackies with mel before we met up with the coworkers. after i sent my last report to the dungeon, i wrote a brief email saying it was a pleasure working with everyone and all the best during the holidays and the future. i hit send, then put my nameplate in my bag and put on my hat and coat. mel said we had to make a stop in the big room to arrange where we'd meet up with the the crew later.

8 p.m. was probably a good time to make an exit, because that's when things are pretty calm in the big room. and it was thursday; nearly everyone in the office was present, save for the really important folks who tend to work 9-to-5, have weeks off during the holidays and their own parking spots in the lot. standing near jeff's desk, a few people came up to me for hugs and to wish me well and ask me where i was going. unobligated people, too, who surprised me by telling me the company was making a mistake by letting me get away. i cherish these remarks because as a worker ant in a gigantic company like that, you often can't gauge how well you're doing and i tend to assume everyone thinks i'm a moron. i said my see-you-laters and my happy-holidayses and thank-you-so-muches, turned and started the long walk across the big room to the elevator.

as i started to walk away, everyone in the room began to applaud. i'm talking everybody-- my colleagues, the cleaning staff, people in the back who i had never even met and even the higherups. i had seen this happen a few times before, but the recipients had been important, high-ranking, long-term people and i know they don't do it for everybody. i had just assumed i'd sneak out of there without incident. i was shocked and overwhelmingly honored.

it was like something out of a movie, and i saw it in slow motion. people hooted and whistled and some even stood up. i didn't know what to do, so i just kept looking back and waving. and each time i did, i'd lock eyes with a different person: man, i'm not going to see that guy amble over and say "yell-lo" in his radio voice again. oh geez, she won't be showing me her Spanish homework anymore. dude, i had only just discovered that those two could discuss America's Next Top Model with me. damn, i didn't think that cranky person who liked to yell at me would be clapping, too. whoa, i didn't recognize her as a blonde. it was surreal. during those 12 seconds, all the crappy shifts, broken promises, commuting, parking, psychotic schedules, times i'd missed with family and friends to allow this job to consume my life, all the insecurity i'd had about how i was doing or if these people i find so intelligent and intimidating regarded me as anything other than a peon seemed resolved.

my eyes welled up. even if it were just for a moment, i felt validated. and i can't think of a better way to go.


The Stormin Mormon said...

Damn. Doesn't sound like a bad way to go out.

I think that me leaving my company would result in cheers AFTER I made it out the door, and not on the way to it.

jazz said...

can't think of anyone who deserves it more!

Syar said...

That's just awesome. I didn't think that really happened in real life.

kaiyareturns said...

it was cute to hear you describe it as a felt-like-a-celebrity moment. and the gleeful giggle after you said it.

cus after all you went through.. you really deserved seeing what people really thought. truly the way to leave and enter into your next adventure.

Radioactive Jam said...

Now *that* is totally cool. Way to go!

Jon said...

It was only a matter of time before you were properly recognized.