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Last Day

25 October 2008
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Yesterday was my last official day at my Indian workplace. I have to say “official” because of course I’ll be back in a number of times over the next four days. After all, I have to finish rewriting that brief where that woman I don’t know but am seriously pissed at misspelled “emperor.” Or, as I like to think of it, finish beating my head against that big ol’ wall of stupidity. And I didn’t clean my desk, and it’s just not right to leave that jar with one tablespoon of peanut buttery goodness at the bottom that the ants are trying to claim (I swear I saw itty-bitty jackhammers this morning). Plus there were a couple people I said goodbye to but it just didn’t feel heart-felt enough, so I think I should torture all of them just a few more times or at least until I get it right. For everyone else, I’ll just shun them, like the Amish do. It’s like slapping them with silence.

I seem to have a lot of trouble leaving jobs, even after I’ve bid them good riddance. I think it started back in college after waitressing for a summer at that awful country club where the rich lawyers and trophy wives from the North Shore came to drink too much and neglect their bratty children (I really, really hated lawyers back then … does this mean I am doomed to become what I hate?). On my last night there, after hitting a large wild animal on my way home and sobbing on the side of the road for 30 minutes about how I had just killed an animal and deciding to become a vegetarian or at least not eat any roadkill, I vowed to never go back to that awful job. But then being bored and broke at Christmas, I returned for New Year’s Eve. Then I spent the night praying I would finish serving these people and get out of there before they did because 200 bottles of $100 champagne among 50 adults plus unimaginable numbers of double Absoluts on the rocks with a twist cannot do anything good for people’s driving ability. My driving ability, however, had vastly improved, and I killed no animate objects that night.

This reluctance to really leave a job has continued over the years, even up to my last job, where, after giving nearly four weeks’ notice even though only two were required AND spending two weeks in Europe, I still returned nearly a month later to train my replacement and finish reading and approving French youth protection policies (and this after the French threatened to sue me for daring to tell them that they needed some way to protect vulnerable 16-year-old girls living with leering French men). I apparently really enjoy that stupidity wall.

So really, it’s not so strange that, despite yesterday being my last official day, I will still grace the office with my presence probably every day until I leave next Wednesday. But yesterday had to be the official last day because my co-workers had to throw my official hour of farewell awkwardness. I am totally being unfair, I know, but the farewell parties at my office are a bit like high school youth group “forced fun.” Everyone has to go through the same agonizing steps until they can officially say goodbye.

First, we sing a song, which is usually either a) something everyone knows and we sing all the time so that it’s so boring people don’t really try and it sounds a bit like a funeral dirge or b) something so awkwardly new that only a few people know it and then the guitar player gets the rhythm wrong and the singers and the guitar compete for the title of “Song rendition so awful it makes our eardrums bleed.” Okay, it wasn’t that bad; we actually sang something people knew but was different enough from singing “Give Thanks” for the umpteenth time that people gave it a reasonable effort.

Second, there is the reading of an encouraging Bible verse, preferably from Isaiah, and the short prayer that has to be encouraging but not so much that the pray-er at the end has nothing left to pray about. For my farewell, the usual Bible verse reader had just had a tooth pulled by the American dentist who is in India to assist with a medical camp for our clients. Great service, but it left H. with a mumble and an inability to string together coherent sentences. So S. read it instead, except that in the middle of it, she got a phone call she had to take because you can’t turn off your mobile phones here; it’s practically sacrilege.

Next comes the part I was dreading – the sharing of good thoughts, funny stories, and encouraging words. I have sat through a number of farewells where the silence after the M.C. introduces this section is so heavy that it sits in your stomach like too much pasta at Maggiano’s. What if no one had anything to say about me? Or worse yet, what if the things they did say made me cry? And that’s what happened. I was all trembling lips and watery eyes, even when O. said she used to “hate people who moved away from their spouses” until she met me.

And then I had to speak and, what with all the trembling lips and watery eyes and snot gushing from my nose, I started rambling about how much they all mean to me and how I am so glad I came and if they ever come to Chicago they can sleep on my couch and play with my dog. Surprisingly, not many people seemed to be excited about that last part.

After I shut up, they started the picture slideshow. Despite the fact that they had just tested the sound 30 minutes before, it still did not work. C., the maker of slideshows, was so frustrated. I told her later that it would not have been a slideshow with our organization if the music had worked on the first try. I’m still digging those eye-daggers out of my skin.

Finally, we ended with a prayer. Usually an easy part, quick and simple, since everyone is thinking about the snacks on the other side of the conference room door anyway – did they get the strangely spicy egg-rolls or the bland American food? Maybe it will be samosas this time… man, I love me some samosa. (Okay, so maybe that’s just me and my lack of ability to focus when food is about.) This time, as we prayed, A. who was sitting next to me, suddenly stands up and opens the cabinet above my head and starts searching for something. Which left me in an awkward position because our staff numbers have grown so much and the conference room was so crowded that I couldn’t even shift a few inches to the side, leaving me thinking not about the prayer or even the possibility of yummy Indian treats but rather the uncomfortable proximity of A’s stomach to my head. Turns out that A. was looking for energy bars to feed another staff member who had passed out in the hallway because she didn’t tell the American doctors that she had not eaten all day before they administered lidocaine.

However, despite all the hiccups, it was a great farewell. I feel appreciated and loved, and it was much better than when I left Zambia, where my parting gift was the advice to tuck and roll as they pushed me out of the moving car at the airport. (I’m just kidding!)

Man, I will miss these people. And that’s why I’m going to keep going back until I just can’t go back no more.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Unity permalink
    25 October 2008 6:45 pm

    I cannot believe that you had your last day already–wow! It is amazing to me that we shall see you soon–very excited about that. Hope you have a fantastic time enjoying cooler temps in the UK & reconnecting with Mike (he is uber excited!). This cracked me up:
    “I’ll just shun them, like the Amish do. It’s like slapping them with silence.”

  2. Ana permalink
    26 October 2008 7:54 am

    Did you kill any inanimate objects? Is that even possible !?

    P.S. We have a date – me, you, Chilly (the dog, not the kind you eat although food would not be unwelcome) and your couch. Date TBC.

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