By the time you read this, two things will have happened.
It will officially be my eight-year anniversary at work, and Barry our mail room guy will have retired.
Barry was MORE than the mail room guy. He was at my workplace for 25 years, and was the right-hand man of the owner of our company. He played Santa at our Christmas party every year. He hauled desks around and set up meeting rooms. He did everything, and he was immensely likeable.
He also knew all of you a little too well, because any time you ever send me anything it comes to my work address, and he’d be all, “More stuff from your readers” and kind of shake his head, like, What in THE Sam Hill is the world coming to.
“And none of these people have ever met you, right?” he’d ask as he set another huge box on my desk.
Anyway, we all knew Barry’s retirement was on the horizon. April 30 would be his last day, followed by his retirement lunch May 1. On that last day when I snapped this picture, I forwarded it to a bunch of people at work. “Oh, that reminds me,” the head of my team, the head of THE CREATIVES, wrote back.
It always kills me that they call us THE CREATIVES.
“I won’t be able to give Barry his gift from THE CREATIVES,” he wrote me. “Can you present it to him, instead?”
Coincidentally, the guy who is the head of
started work the first day I did: May 2, 2011. We nervously oriented together, and sat in the same area once they gave us desks. I’ve always felt a bit of a kinship with him as a result, and said of course I’d present the gift to Barry at his retirement party.
I’m not really afraid to speak to crowds, especially the crowd at work, because I know all of them, and they all adore me.
[This may or may not be true. It is what I tell myself whenever I have to speak before all of them, so give me my illusion, will you?]
In my mind, which is a place no one should ever be, I was just going to kind of walk over to him at the lunch and place it in front of him and people would half listen while I gave him the gift. It would all be very low key.
On May 1—the birthday of Barry Gibb’s dog, Barnabas, which is neither here nor there but I remember it every year and yet we are also lucky if I remember to put on pants. (In fact, I’d asked THREE people at work to remind me that I was to give the gift to Barry [the mail room guy, not Gibb] at the lunch “because you know how I am.”)
ON MAY 1, as I was saying before I distracted my own self, I started getting a flurry of emails about my “presentation” and got the directive that I was to stand right behind the owner of our company, a flawless woman who is immaculate and perfect and basically all the things I am not. I was to present the gift after she spoke.
“Oh dear god,” I thought, rushing to the bathroom to see what condition my condition was in.
I totally had ramen noodle hair. When you have curly hair, the exciting part is you never know what it’s gonna do. I involve myself in a million activities to make it not shocking, to look less like Albert Einstein, and yet some days, no matter how much I condition it and gel it and wrap it in a t-shirt instead of a towel and gently scrunch it and light a candle for it and start a prayer chain for it, some days it dries like noodles.
Other days it dries like an agitated horse tail. And some days I’m all, welcome to my dead dandelion impression.
The point is, Wednesday was ramen noodles day.
“Does anyone have that foil packet with spices in it? I’d like to sprinkle it on my noodle hair,” I said the room at large, particularly the three people who dutifully remembered to remind me I had to give the gift, like one of the Wise Men, except I was more manger straw than Wise Men.
Oh, I fussed with it and thought about it and got it as acceptable as possible. I added a little lipstick to my look, because nothing compliments a head of noodles like a pink lip.
Finally it was time for the luncheon. I managed to remember to head to the room with the gift in hand, and I got in line for food, because nothing gets between me and a free lunch.
“You dropped your fork,” said a coworker. “Oh, heck,” I said. I had the gift, my plate, a napkin and of course the serving spoon in my hands, because see above re me and a free lunch.
“Can you hand me another?”
Then it was time to stand behind the flawless leader of my company, and she gave just a lovely speech, and she and Barry hugged, and then it was my turn. I took my place in front of the hundreds of people who work at my work.
“This gift is from THE CREATIVES,” I told him. “I hope when you look at it, you remember that you brightened the days of everyone you encountered here. Not everyone has that ability, but you do.”
Everyone clapped as we hugged, and I couldn’t believe I’d managed to wear pants, and remember I was giving him a gift, and to not blurt out anything stupid, and basically pull the whole thing off.
I walked about the room after, talking to this person and that, reminiscing about Barry and his antics, and finally I went back to my desk.
And it was only there that I discovered I’d stuck a fork in my back pocket, the fork I’d dropped. My whole plan was to stick it back there while I was in line for the food and throw it away right after, but you guys
And the fork was, you know, STICKING OUT of my back pocket, like I was prepared for any fork emergency that might come up. The tongs had oh-so-carefully lifted the back of my shirt up to reveal my delicates not one time, not two times, but three different times, each tong offering a new and exciting peek at my undergarment, which of course had a Steely Dan hole in it because that damn creature chewed a hole in everything.
And that is how I spent my last day in polite society, for I now give up and will never leave my house again.
Stick a fork in it. …Oh, I happen to have one right here.