January 14, 2001
Divorcing Franz


Well. I did it.

I marched into the Totem Pole Company on Friday morning, without fuss or fanfare, and I submitted my letter of resignation. One copy went to Franz, one copy went to the Human Resources Director Person ... both copies signed and stamped "Confidential." I used the "This decision comes after careful evaluation of my career and personal goals blah blah blah" letter: the one David referred to as 'a masterpiece of diplomacy and bullshidt.'

Driving into the office that morning, David advised me not to rush things. "Wait until this afternoon to give Franz the letter," he said. He felt I should just go about my day per normal: watching people, secretly gauging the emotional *temperature* of the office, waiting for the perfect moment. "Then if Franz explodes," he said, "it'll be time to leave anyway, and you'll have the whole weekend for things to cool down."

But I knew better. I knew that if I hesitated -- if I paused for so much as a bazillionth of a fraction of a second, even if it was just long enough to hang up my jacket and pour a cup of coffee -- I would be lost. I would sit down in Reception Area Hell and look around me and think Maybe this isn't so bad, after all ... and that would be it. I would be weeping over voicemail messages for the rest of my life. So even though my heart was banging around inside my chest like a pair of Size 14 Reeboks in a Kenmore dryer, I went directly to the Human Resources Director Person with my envelopes in hand.

And I did it.

The HRDP was sorry, if not much surprised: if anyone has seen this coming, she has. "I'm going to miss you," she said, simply but sincerely. She asked me if I'd had any other offers. I said that, as a matter of fact, I was looking at a couple of different and exciting opportunities. (I e-mailed another résumé to the Balloon Company, while I was at home sick on Thursday, and I'm planning to buy a Sunday newspaper and cruise the Help Wanteds. So this wasn't a complete untruth.) Franz was scheduled to be out of the office all morning, so the HRDP accepted his copy of the letter. And then she volunteered to track him down on the phone. "Let me break the news to him," she said. He would be in a frenzy to hire a replacement as soon as possible, and she felt she would be able to placate and reassure him more effectively than I could.

I didn't fight her on this one.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

So this is what a divorce feels like.

That's the thought that kept running through my head all morning on Friday, after I submitted the resignation letter. This is what it feels like to ask somebody for a divorce.

I wouldn't know, really. I didn't stick around long enough, the first time, to experience the aftermath of the marriage ending. The fact is, I didn't even ask for a divorce: I simply left, allowing destiny and the legal system to run their course. My divorce was handled with bloodless efficiency from a distance of 200+ miles, mostly over the phone. I wasn't there to see the expressions of hurt and betrayal ... to hear the threats and accusations and slamming doors ... to smell the rabbits, boiling in my ex-kitchen.

What Franz and I have *enjoyed* for the past couple of years, of course, was not a marriage. But it has been a partnership ... and an intense, exclusive, weirdly symbiotic partnership, at that. Regardless of how unhappy I've been, regardless of what a difficult and exasperating employer he can be, regardless of how frustrating and thankless these past two years have been ... he is still my boss. I still feel a *loyalty molecule* or two, floating around there in a vast sea of *I-don't-give-a-fudk molecules.*

I still worry that this is going to hurt him. And, even worse, I worry that *I* am going to have to sit around and witness his hurt first-hand for the next two weeks.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

By mid-morning, news of my resignation had spread across the Totem Pole Company like a Berkeley Hills wildfire.

Jim was the first to make an offer. "Come work for me," he said beseechingly. "I neeeed a SecraTerri." Affable, approachable Jim -- possibly my favorite person at the TPC, after the HRDP and Jen -- was recently anointed #2 man on the Totem Pole. He is now in charge of running all of our offices in Northern California. In fact, he has just finished moving into the very suite of executive offices, upstairs, that Franz and I vacated. His current Executive Ass, David, is interested in doing *other things* within the company.

"You haven't already accepted another offer, have you?" Jim asked, and I said that I was looking at a couple of different and exciting opportunities, but that I had made no decisions yet. I added that I would absolutely think about his offer.

Stay at the Totem Pole Company? Working for someone other than Franz?

I dunno.

Later in the day, another country heard from: the Vice President of Business and Financial Development. "Come work for me," he wheedled. "I neeeed a SecraTerri." The VP of BFD and I have enjoyed a cautiously cordial relationship, over the past two years. I occasionally do a little voluntary admin stuff for him, since (like Jim) he has no staff of his own. In his own way, he is every bit as driven and impossible as Franz is. The difference is that the VP of BFD says "Thank you" once in awhile.

"Well," I told him, "I'm looking at a couple of different and exciting opportunities, but I haven't made any decisions yet." And I added that I would absolutely think about his offer.

Stay at the Totem Pole Company for a while longer? Working in a different department altogether?

I dunno.

This is not a possibility I had even considered until now. It's so new, I haven't had a chance to decide how I feel about it. Wouldn't it be a little bit like divorcing one man ... and then turning right around and marrying his brother?

I have to think about this.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Late in the afternoon, the HRDP gave me a heads-up that Franz was finally on his way into the office.

"He took the news really well," she said. (OK. I was surprised. Relieved ... but surprised.)  "He understands why you want to leave, but he hopes that maybe we might be able to find another spot for you here."

So he'd been talking to Jim and to the VP of BFD already.

I was sitting on the floor in front of the filing cabinet, unpacking and rehanging file folders, when he came in. 

"Hey kiddo," he said, using the Happy Franz voice he trots out for State Senators and new employees. "Don't make any decisions today, OK?" 

He said that on Monday we'll all sit down together -- "we" meaning me, Franz, the Human Resources Director Person, Jim, the VP of BFD -- and then, presumably, the bidding war for my Executive Ass will commence. And then he reached down and sort of ruffled the hair on the top of my head, like Walt and The Beaver. "We would hate to lose you," he said, something almost approaching wistfulness in his voice.

I looked at him ... unblinking, unsmiling, betraying no emotion. "I'm looking at a couple of different and exciting opportunities," I said calmly, "but I'll postpone my decision until next week." 

He nodded -- satisfied that things were still under control, for the moment at least -- and he told me to have a good weekend, and then he was out the door again.

I dunno.

As *divorces* go, this one is already turning out to be as weird and unconventional as the first one was. All I really know is that I'm going to try and exercise extraordinary caution for the next few days. I'm not going to make any decision on the spur of the moment ... even if they offer me a window office AND free unlimited Peet's. I'm going to think things through, as much as possible. I'm still going to be job-hunting like mad, everywhere else.

And I am absolutely NOT going to agree to shared custody of the koala bear plate ... no matter what.

Stay tuned.

right back atcha, sunny

throw a rock