One of my co-workers organized a "goodbye" lunch for me today. I've still got nearly a week left on my job, but today was the convenient time for everyone, so I drove my ass down to the office and had me some lunch with the gang.
Given that I work from home, and that I've probably only made it into the actual office once in 2008, having a goodbye lunch felt strange. It would have made more sense, and made me a lot more comfortable, if they had organized a "remote" lunch where I'd call in from my kitchen while eating leftovers from the fridge. Since I rarely see any of these people in-person, I didn't know who would even be interested in attending my lunch.
I got to the restaurant early and greeted folks as they came in. One guy looked unfamiliar but I eventually identified him as my product manager, whom I had met once before. Another guy was a complete stranger, so naturally I got seated directly across from him (and next to the product manager). It seemed rude to ask "Do I know you?" at your own goodbye lunch, so I sucked it up and made generally impersonal conversation.
After about 10 minutes of this nonsense, the stranger asked me, "Mike, do you remember meeting me?"
"Uh, um, geez, I'm not quite sure," I replied, elegantly strolling right into the landmine.
"It's me, Hinar!" he exclaimed, grinning broadly.
Hinar! This was the dude who, through no fault of his own, had been a complete thorn in my side for the last six months, and had indirectly contributed to me leaving the company more than anyone else. He was a good guy, and a hard-working guy, but due to budget cuts was being assigned the work of three engineers. Consequently, he routinely pushed the hottest and most unpleasant issues over to my plate. As it turned out, doing Hinar's job was WAY worse than doing my job, which wasn't a picnic to begin with.
In the past six months we had never met, but we had exchanged countless tense emails and played exhausting games of to-do ping-pong. And here he was! At my goodbye lunch! Weird. Anyway, I complimented Hinar on his ability to perform one of the toughest jobs in the company and we avoided discussing the simmering tension between our teams. Good enough.
Meanwhile, Ron, my long-time coworker who had organized the luncheon, was in a thoughtful mood. He launched into stories from the first time we had worked together and generally tried to turn the conversation into something significant and befitting a goodbye lunch. Thus I was forced to bat sex jokes at him. I'm classy that way. He wrapped up by asking me if I had any words to say to the group.
I hate this kind of thing. I hate ceremony, forced sincerity, and formality of any kind. I am the guy who got married in Vegas after all.
I gritted my teeth, stopped gritting my teeth, and then somehow said, "From day one on my current project, I hated the software I was working on. It is the very worst piece of software I've ever seen, and it was going to make me quit long ago. The only thing that kept me here all this time is the people that I've been working with. You guys have been great, and I thank you."
Then there was an awkward silence. I had destroyed the very levity I had been working so hard to establish. We wrapped things up shortly thereafter.
That awkward moment would be a poignant end to my career at that company if it weren't for the fact that I've still got a few days left, and I'll have to go back into that damn office again next week to return all my equipment. The only thing better than an awkward goodbye is an awkward goodbye that you get to repeat.