Letting Go: Retirement

Retirement from a job to which you devoted 35 years can’t come soon enough.

By John Walters

Leaving a job to which you devoted 35 years. Farewell to colleagues who, in an earlier, happier time, you thought of as family; you were delighted to lunch with them; have drinks with them; welcome them enthusiastically into your home; even happy to have photos of their kids and pets pressed upon you.

Retirement, Office jobYou recall that back then you even believed in the perfectibility of human kind; you could state unequivocally, with pride and without hyperbole, that you harbored no ill will toward anybody. Work place was a happy place. You walked cheerfully through the corridors, welcoming each collegial encounter along the way.

Over time, however, you find these once cherished colleagues emerging in your daydreams as the objects of unspeakably horrific acts of violence, of which you invariably are the perpetrator.

You transform your work place into an elaborate obstacle course. The trip from break room to office, which used to take seconds, becomes a terror-filled interminable journey, taking you through obscure parts of the building known only to the janitor.

Your highest priority—your greatest challenge—trumping all things work related, involves evading (avoiding) Deuche Bags and Jerk Wads (hereafter DBs and JWs), that is, 99 percent of your colleagues.

Bathrooms are particularly problematic. The worst of the DBs and JWs always use the bathroom located no farther than 20 feet from your office, even if several floors separate you from them. The women, you are convinced, use this bathroom solely to take dumps, perhaps to give floor mates the illusion that their butts emit nothing but Chanel #5. Whatever the reason, pooping on your doorstep only deepens your contempt.

The presence of unwelcome squatters, who seize YOUR BATHROOM in a hostile takeover, complicates bio-emissions of your own, which thanks to an ancient prostate become ever more spontaneous and less controllable. You use YOUR BATHROOM only in the direst of emergencies, opting otherwise to seek out a bathroom beyond the range of DBs and JWs, however distant from your base. This requires strategic planning, a skill you never thought obtainable, or even desirable, a skill that you happily could have gone to your grave never having developed.

In the course of detailed reconnaissance, you are delighted to discover that people (even the most deplorable of these) truly are creatures of habit, that they tend daily to occupy the same space at approximately the same time, and that, given even a narrow window, it is possible to reach a safe bathroom without elevating your blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Retirement draws near. With merely days remaining, you note a discernible thaw in your feelings toward your colleagues, even as you observe a palpable hardening in their feelings toward you. You find yourself frequenting the break room that for years you had scrupulously avoided. You initiate conversations that, oddly, nobody seems to hear or acknowledge. You use the nearest bathroom, without regard for its likely occupants.

The day of your retirement party arrives. Your mood, festive, as you anticipate a throng of well-wishers. You bring hand sanitizer, expecting to shake hands like a pandering politician. As you enter the hall, prepared to receive and acknowledge thunderous applause, you find a mostly empty room, save for the few persons charged with arranging your party, to whom you apparently are invisible.

You take a seat (there are plenty to choose from). A few persons of note appear briefly, mostly to dine and dash. Others linger a long while, not the ones you admire and hope to see, nor the ones who should admire you for enabling their careers, but the ones you always see at any event providing an escape from work, the ones who would celebrate Hitler’s birthday if it afforded a day off. On this, the final day, your hostility is fully restored. It takes you a full hour to find safe passage out the building.

You officially are retired. You eliminate chance encounters with former colleagues by relocating to a neighboring state, a new town. You find a favorite coffee shop, where the regulars are delightful, the kind of people you consider family, with whom you’d like to lunch, have drinks…

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