October 3, 2001
A Totem Pole Farewell


They threw me a surprise farewell party: cake, flowers, speeches, 'For She's A Jolly Good Gender-Nonspecific Fellow'  ...  the works.

Was I surprised? 

You'd better believe it. This was totally unprecedented. Usually when somebody leaves The Totem Pole Company, it's with as little fanfare as possible. (And ocasionally with a police escort.) So to be fêted and serenaded by my co-workers was not only a surprise, it was totally one for the record books.

(The whole time, of course, I'm thinking I don't deserve this! I'm not worthy! I HATED this place, forcryingoutloud!! But I was still incredibly touched.)

Both of my Totem Pole bosses -- both Franz and Jim -- got up in front of everybody and said a few words. (And the 'few words' they said were mostly complimentary. That was the biggest surprise of all.)

Then they asked me to say something.

"Wow," I said tearfully. "You've caught me off guard." And I stood there, looking around the room at this sea of familiar faces: people I have worked with and commiserated with and laughed with (and engaged in occasional hellacious battle with) for the past two and a half years. They were all there. The Human Resources Director Person. Danny. Joni. Cathlene. Martina. Bradley. Bob The Engineer Guy. Bob The Other Engineer Guy. The Office Gossip. Naomi The Payroll Person. The Little Accounting Manager. Neil The Incredibly Groovy Graphics Guy. (I could even 'see' people who were't actually there in the room with us: The DRIP ... The SCROD ... Jen ... Joan ... Alice ... Ned The Receptionist Guy ... ghostly faces of former co-workers who had either jumped or had been pushed off The Totem Pole before me.)

"I'm glad to have had the chance to work with all of you," I said finally. This, at least, is the truth. And then I thanked them for their friendship and support ... attempting, through melting Maybelline, to make direct eye contact with each person individually, one at a time.

(From the corner of the conference room, George stabbed at his cake with a plastic fork and glowered.)

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At noon, Jim took me out to lunch at a fancy-pants Oakland waterfront restaurant.

Over Chinese Chicken Salad and iced tea -- no wine menu, thankyouverymuch -- we talked about my lack of immediate career plans, and about how it's necessary every once in a while to just stop and take a good deep breath. We gossiped about The Office Gossip. We talked about other people in the office, and about how so many of them are leaving the company. ("Look what you've started," he said.)  Jim even admitted that he's thinking about leaving soon, himself. (Wow. Really? I had no idea.)

"I want you to know that you have been the best boss I've ever had, " I said, 87.6% sincerely.

"Thank you," he lied right back at me. "And you've been the best Executive Ass I've ever had." And then we sat there and sort of beamed at each other for a minute, before finishing our lunch and heading back to The TPC to finish out the day.

It was a moment straight out of a Kodak commercial.

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The rest of the day passed in a blur of paperwork and farewells. Lots of hallway conversations. Lots of e-mails. Lots of hugs and handshakes. Lots of intercom calls. The Human Resources Director Person came upstairs to bring me my 401K stuff, and to look at my wedding album. Danny, my admin partner and pal, came by my office and I gave him the URL to *FootNotes.* (Hiya Danny! Whut the hell is 'za-za,' anyway?)  I gave Cathlene my new cell phone number and one of my 43,897,621 top-secret personal e-mail addresses, telling her "not to hesitate" to contact me next week if she has any questions. (As long as ... y'know ... they're not questions about WORK or anything.)

Joel called in the middle of the day to sing a song he'd composed for the occasion:

Congratulations! You're leaving,
No crying, no grieving,
You get to leave that TP mob,
Soon you'll have a better job!
Congratulations! You're leaving!

Late the afternoon, I sent out the requisite sentimental 'all-company' farewell e-mail. It read:

Today is my last day with The Totem Pole Company.

Before I go, I'd like to take a moment to say 'thank you' to everyone I've worked with, these past two and a half years, for the kindness, friendship and opportunities you've extended to me during my time here. It has been a pleasure knowing you, and it has been a privilege to be a member of The TPC team.

May you be filled with loving kindness. May you be well. May you be peaceful and at ease. May you be happy.


      *      *      *      *      *      *

By the end of the day I was a useless puddle of spent *emotion molecules.* Saying goodbye is hard work.

But I also felt unexpectedly relieved. Somehow -- don't ask me how: whether through a miracle, or through good timing, or through plain old dumb luck -- I'm managing to exit The Totem Pole Company in a blaze of warm-and-fuzzy glory. Frankly, I don't believe that would have been possible, had I stayed there much longer. I was just inches from a core meltdown: sooner or later, most likely sooner, I would have done something stoopid and gotten myself fired. (Or -- in their zeal to cut back on administrative costs -- they might have decided that my position was extraneous and laid me off.)

This way, at least, I'm leaving with my reputation, my résumé AND my final paycheck intact.

At 5 p.m., I packed up the last of my stuff: my radio, my portable desk fan, my faithful bottle of Calistoga. I tucked my paycheck securely into an interior pocket of my purse. I turned off the computer and the overhead lights. Then I looked out the window one last time (Goodbye, lovely view of Lake Merritt!) ... switched my phone over to "GONE HOME" ... closed the door of my little office ...

... and headed for the elevator.

throw a rock