diamond geezer

 Saturday, April 29, 2017

On my final day at work, I made the schoolboy error of arriving at the office at the usual time. The usual time's quite early, far earlier than the rest of the team, because I've always liked to get stuff done before they arrive. Being the final day there wasn't much stuff to be done, but still, my routine kicked in and off I went.

Walk here, stand here, change here, stand here, whoosh. All perfectly executed, as you'd expect, because I've long had my commute to work down to a fine art.

Arriving at the office I fished my security card out of my pocket, and looked down at the fresh-faced photo of a man in his thirties, which had somehow never got round to being updated. I waved the card for the penultimate time, stepped through and pushed the button for the lift. I thought I'd get it to myself, but no, another early starter followed in behind, and blimey, it was the boss's boss's boss.

"Hello, how are you?" she asked, in a bright cheery Friday morning kind of manner. "It's my last day," I said. She seemed embarrassed at this revelation, having completely lost touch with how the redundancy she'd set in motion had been progressing. After a brief pause she proceeded to thank me profusely for all the work I'd done over the years, and wished me luck, and kept talking until the doors opened on her floor. I was left alone in the lift pondering all the things I should have said back, but it's probably just as well I never got the opportunity.

I made a cup of tea to start the day. I checked my emails, not that I discovered anything new. I tracked down the latest version of my CV and emailed it to myself. I made sure I'd downloaded all my payslips, because the company switched to paperless a while back, and I realised I'd never have access to the electronic versions again. I cleared out some of the darker recesses of my desk drawer, and found some pennies, a long-past-use-by aspirin, and a box containing hundreds of recycled paperclips. I'd removed these from reams of shredded documents over the years, but never quite got round to using them again, and now I never would.

The rest of the team arrived late, safe in the knowledge they would never be reprimanded. One was calmness personified, while another had suddenly realised how few minutes were left before the final deadline and how many urgent actions she still had to complete. I smiled, because even on the last day both were acting entirely true to character. And then I made another cup of tea.

Because of the restructuring there'd recently been a desk move, and we'd been shifted into a different part of the building where they needed some spare desks, but not until next week. This was all well and good, except it meant our immediate neighbours were now people we didn't know at all. We could have have been anyone to them, so they had no emotional attachment whatsoever to our situation, and the fact it was our last day completely passed them by. They kept their heads down and worked, and we packed away stuff and refreshed the BBC News website.

Many years ago, when my team was considerably larger, we'd always make a big fuss when anybody left. There'd be a whip round for a present, and a big card which everybody signed, and on the day itself we'd all gather by the desk of the departing colleague. Someone would give a stirring talk filled with amusing anecdotes, and there'd usually be some cake or nibbles, maybe even a drink if it was late enough in the afternoon. I've attended dozens of such gatherings in the past, and paid up for dozens of leaving gifts, but nobody organised anything for us. If you go to enough of your friends' funerals, I mused, eventually there's nobody left to come to yours.

I made a final cup of tea, then cleaned the mug and put it in my bag of "stuff I couldn't take home until the last day". I went to say goodbye to a former colleague on a different floor who'd been transferred out of the team at an earlier date, and had therefore survived the cull. And I flicked through my email inbox for the last time to check I hadn't missed anything important, because at the end of the day some IT operative would be deactivating my account and deleting the entire archive. All that once-crucial accumulated expertise, extinguished in seconds.

The team decided to go out for lunch, and make a meal of it, because Friday's fish and chips in the canteen is always a disappointment. We also realised we didn't need to come back afterwards, because there wasn't any work to do, and because nobody was taking an interest in our departure. So we powered down our computers for the last time, picked up our coats and bags, then headed downstairs to hand in our ID badges. At least the ladies on the reception desk were expecting us, but I guess they'd seen a lot of badges handed in of late.

We stepped out onto the street as former employees. The building that had long been our workplace was now just another private space, with security barriers we could no longer activate, stairwells we would never again climb, and desks that were no longer ours. Obsolescence doesn't take long.

It was a very nice lunch, mixing gossip and reminiscence. It went on a bit. It seemed by far the best way to have spent the afternoon. And once the bill was settled we left the restaurant, said our goodbyes, and went our separate ways. I'm sure we'll see each other again, somewhere, sometime. But it seems strange to know I won't be seeing any of them on Tuesday morning, or indeed any morning, as enforced freedom replaces familiar routine.

As soon as I got home I took off my work shirt and work trousers and put them in the washing machine, even though I'm not sure when I'll need them clean again. I took my work mug out of my bag and put it in the cupboard, where it can stay, because I don't need a regular reminder of my former life. And I felt a unexpected sense of independence, because the future was no longer governed by objectives, hierarchy and business needs.

Instead of viewing Friday as the last day, I decided, far better to consider it the first.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream