August 9, 2001
Postcard From Bavaria


At first, I'm convinced that it's a mistake.

The postcard  --  a lovely photographic montage of thatch-roofed European villages, sky-blue lakes and towering snow-capped mountains  --  is addressed like this:

c/o The Totem Pole Company
1234 Somewhere Street
Bay Area, CA 98765

On the back of the card is a cramped and scribbly handwritten message ... something about arriving in Bavaria on Wednesday night, after visiting Zurich, Lucerne and St. Moritz. "We have had perfect weather," it reads. "Great for viewing the Alps." The writer goes on to say that tomorrow they're leaving for Elsace-Louraine, and that they hope that all is well.

Of course I would recognize that constipated handwriting anywhere. It's a postcard from Franz.

Why it's coming to me is the mystery.

"He's misaddressed it," I tell myself. This is the only logical explanation. He intended to address it to the attention of "Joni"  --  the name of his current Executive Assistant-slash-Dwarf-Schleffera-Caretaker  --  but he wrote "Secra" instead, out of habit. (Either that or else he's been indulging in a little too much of that Schöfferhofer Auerbraü again.) But then, at the very bottom of the postcard,  hidden beneath the Post Office machine stamp, I spot the teeny-tiny P.S., addressed specifically to me.

"Congrats on your wedding, Secra,"
it says. "Hope you enjoyed it tremendously." And it's signed by both Franz and Mrs. Franz.

Wow. I am genuinely touched. And surprised.

(And suspicious. What can I tell you? Old paranoias die hard.)

Franz and I have seen each other, face-to-face, exactly four times this year ... ever since our traumatic *divorce* in January. I know the exact number of times we've seen each other because I've been keeping track: I've got a Post-It note stuck to the wall next to my telephone, and every time we've run into each other, I've made a little notation. Hallway in front of conference room, 3/14, it says. Elevator, 4/26. Elevator, 4/27. Drive-by/honk & wave, 6/29.

Frankly, I've seen more of my ex-HUSBAND this year  --  he hugged me at my wedding last month, as a matter of fact  --  than I've seen of my ex-boss.

Partly it's a matter of logistics. Franz and I work in a large office building with several floors between us. He doesn't come upstairs much, and I rarely have occasion to visit the first floor anymore. (Read this: if I need the Accounting Department to make a timesheet adjustment, I mail the request.) So we're simply not in the same part of the building very often. 

Part of it, too, is Totem Pole Company culture. Once I divorced Franz, I left "Corporate" and rejoined "Regional." (A move that some of my co-workers -- and the little Self-Esteem Demon, sitting on my left shoulder -- still privately view as a demotion.) We are talking about two very separate worlds here: the first floor world of Corporate (Armani, Ahi Salad, Peet's Coffee) versus the fourth floor world of Regional (shirtsleeves, tuna sandwiches, Smart & Final Restaurante Blend). With the exception of the occasional Enforced Happy Doodle Fun Time Event  --  like last month's disastrous "potluck" (three baked bean casseroles and a box of plastic spoons), Corporates and Regionals simply don't mingle.

And part of the reason that Franz and I have seen so little of each other this year, I believe, is the inevitable emotional fall-out following any break-up. One of us was blindsided by the split, after all, and felt extremely hurt and confused and traumatized afterward, and needed ample time and distance to heal properly.

(The other one of us sits upstairs in her fourth floor office every day and says thanks to God for small favors ... and multi-story buildings.)

It's not like Franz has never sent me a postcard, of course. While I was his Executive Ass, he sent me postcards from all of his vacation destinations: Germany, Ontario, Australia, TicTac ... even the restaurant across the street from our office, once. (True story!)  But this is the first time that I can remember him sending a card specifically to me ... a card not intended eventually for the company bulletin board, so that everyone at the Totem Pole can see what a swell guy he is, sending his SecraTerri a postcard from the other side of the world/other side of the continent/other side of the street. This is different. This is clearly more personal. There appears to have been more care involved here -- and more emotional generosity -- than usual.

(And although I sense the gracious hand of the lovely Mrs. Franz in all of this, I am touched, nonetheless.)

In fact, I'm just about to pick up the phone and call David to tell him how touched I am by this unexpectedly thoughtful gesture from my former boss ... a boss who routinely left used Kleenex in my *In* Box, once upon a time ... when I spot the P.P.S. It is scribbled in even teenier-tinier handwriting, running vertically up the middle of the postcard between the message section and the address section.

"P.P.S.," it reads. "Please post on lunch room bulletin board."

one year ago: the conversation

throw a rock