Remembering happy days at work

I don’t know if I should start with the meeting in the Cape Cod conference room or the insomnia-induced emails that got us to that point.

Either way, I must include that Saturday afternoon, when I was interviewing for a job in a T-shirt and jeans because the offer for the interview came up while Suzi and I were house-hunting after she got a job on the Cape and therefore we were going to be moving from where we had been living outside Albany.

And while that was going on, my father-in-law poked his head in to ask if there were any restrooms in the building.

I got the job, but not before Suzi’s pending job was canceled while I was in the middle of a three-day trial … a few days before we were going to close on our new house … on Christmas Eve … with a snowstorm forecast for Christmas Day at my parents’ house back in New York.

It was interesting, to say the least.

Not being one to often avoid loud arguments in those days — I was actually kind of legendary in my office for the occasional dustup with callers whose complaint styles rubbed me the wrong way — I gave as good as I got until the local state representative sitting nearby with his wife and young son came over and made the peace as best he could.

The entire blog post from Johanna of Quite Simply Jo was one question: “If you had to (choose) an event in your life to write a memoir about, what event would you choose?”

While I probably could have chosen any number of topics, but I settled on the 16 years and nearly eight months with the company which first hired me after that informal, unusual encounter in that otherwise empty building.

(My mate Gardner —who took the picture at the top of this post, me cutting a piece of cake at my going-away party when I was moving to a new office as my replacement held the box — and I once talked about doing a musical spoof about the company, but this is something totally different.)

From starting on Cape Cod — where “washashores” are frequently viewed with skepticism and I first learned that what I thought was a vanilla upstate New York non-accent was near-indecipherable code when it came to my name — through the South Shore to the area west of Boston where I live now, I think there would be enough stories to make a rather enjoyable tome.

After all, they always get a reaction when I tell them. For example, there was the day the governor came to my office before a meeting he was having with local business and political leaders at a nearby restaurant.

I attended that meeting, and after it was over, an elected town official convinced that I had kept him from meeting the governor back at my office, and not the large men with guns he would have encountered had he rounded one more corner, decided he would start a shouting match with me in the middle of the restaurant.

Not being one to often avoid loud arguments in those days — I was actually kind of legendary in my office for the occasional dustup with callers whose complaint styles rubbed me the wrong way — I gave as good as I got until the local state representative sitting nearby with his wife and young son came over and made the peace as best he could.

And then, when I wrote on Facebook that night that I had both met the governor and gotten into a public shouting match with a local official, so it was an interesting day, a regular reader of my chronicles here and elsewhere who I call “Mom” was very concerned that I’d get in trouble until I shared the entire story and assured her multiple witnesses would be able to vouch that none of it was my fault.

Yet I think there could be more to this memoir.

Even when I first got hired on the Cape, the boss told me that the woman whose presence in the office seemed to change the way the molecules flowed (and in her modesty would absolutely despise that I described her that way) liked me, and that mattered.

Although this is my story, I would not do those 16 years justice if the only tales I told were my own, for that time in my life was defined both by the things I did and the people I did them with.

I’ve written and talked about some of those experiences, but it really was a special environment. Even when I first got hired on the Cape, the boss told me that the woman whose presence in the office seemed to change the way the molecules flowed (and in her modesty would absolutely despise that I described her that way) liked me, and that mattered.

Naturally, the presence of my coworkers of course is fertile ground for even more stories, like the time a young woman fairly new to the office confided in me, by that time a manager for several years, that she was worried being called to meet with our boss during a round of layoffs meant she’d be let go.

Not only was she not laid off — the purpose of the meeting was to tell her she was being reassigned to a more-important role — she eventually moved on to bigger and better things and spent the beginning of last year on the front lines of the presidential primary in New Hampshire.

She’s going to go far, and I’ll be able to say “I knew her when.”

Oh … who am I kidding? I already do.

But even a memoir full of reminiscing about good times with coworkers and bragging on their accomplishments still doesn’t get us there.

We figured out our problems, came up with our solutions, taught each other what we needed to know … all while enjoying the hell out of each other’s company as we did it. Work wasn’t fun just because of the work, but because we were doing it together.

I moved from Cape Cod to the South Shore at the same time my company was merging with another, so while staff members from the two nearby offices were moving into the same space, I was coming from a different unit altogether.

One day, I was talking with a woman who worked for me and someone who had moved with her from the other office when it finally dawned on her and she said, “You didn’t have anybody.”

Nope, I didn’t, but even though there were sometimes awkward moments wherever I went, people came and people left but the unit remained strong.

When outside people in the company issued decrees, we incorporated what we thought was necessary and tossed out the junk, although I’m sure outside would have disputed the proper important-stuff-to-junk-ratio.

We figured out our problems, came up with our solutions, taught each other what we needed to know … all while enjoying the hell out of each other’s company as we did it. Work wasn’t fun just because of the work, but because we were doing it together.

And that leads us to what I’d want this memoir to explore … How? How did I end of in these offices with such strong camaraderie, such chemistry?

Working with great people helps, and over 16 years, if the number of people whose company I didn’t enjoy could fill more than one hand, they wouldn’t fill two. However, for things to work so well, for so long, with so many people, there has to be something else at play.

I’d be fascinated to try and figure out what that was.

Oh yeah, there’s one more thing to address.

The story doesn’t end well.

I’m aware that’s a spoiler, but then again, by the end of the opening number of “Hamilton,” Aaron Burr informs those not already aware of the events of July 11, 1804, in Weehawken, New Jersey, that he was the “damn fool” who shot Alexander Hamilton, and that show has done reasonably well.

I always figured I’d leave after finding a place worth leaving for or, my race having been run, I decided it was time to sit under my own vine and fig tree.

It didn’t work out that way.

There was one more scene in a conference room, but instead of representing the beginning of the story, it was coming to an end.

8 thoughts on “Remembering happy days at work

      1. Yea. We; that sort of happened to me. It was a deal where they furloughed me because of covid. Called me back to work for three months before furloughing me again. Funny thing is I was the only person I knew who they were ping ponging. So I retired.

        Liked by 1 person

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