Wednesday, July 02, 2008

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?"

Doh!

"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.

Gah.

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.

9 comments:

The 4th Sister said...

Good for you!!!he's an ass

Lola said...

You are the coolest guy on the planet. This is my favourite (OK, favorite) blog in the world. I so understand your pain:
1. A goodbye lunch with people you have never met
2. A goodbye lunch with someone who you don't like and who doesn't like you
3. A goodbye lunch a week before you leave
4. A goodbye lunch where your thankyou speech makes everyone look shiftily at their feet.

Keep up the good work. I can't wait for the future stories when you actually have to interact with coworkers ALL DAY!

Sue said...

You seem to be helplessly addicted to stating the raw truth in inappropriate settings. Don't you know how to fake it? C'mon1

Mike said...

4th Sis, nah, no one was an ass there, unless you're referring to me.

Lola, I'm the coolest guy? This is your favourite blog? Me thinks you need to get out more, or at least go visit some other pages on the web. It's a great big world out there!

Sue, I WAS faking it. I don't really like all those people! Most, yes. All? No way.

loveyh said...

Poor Mike. Awkwardness redux sucks. I feel your pain...like the time a lackey fired me over the phone and I confronted the ass manager about it. Then, I had to return to the place to get my last paycheck.

New job will be better. :)

Mike said...

Lovey, yeah, prolonged goodbyes are just ridiculous. My final lap here at work will be more like the case where you say goodbye to someone, and then still have to walk down the hall, and into the parking lot before you actually part ways with them.

Avery Gray said...

I had a rather awkward goodbye lunch AFTER I left a company. Awkward because my boss, who was already banging my replacement, brought his wife to it. At least the focus wasn't on me, right?

Ms.PhD said...

Great post.

Look at it this way: only one more awkward goodbye to go.

I would soooo love to be making a hasty exit from my job. I have to live vicariously through your blog.

And I so look forward to the day when I too get to tell everyone the truth- that I love the work, and it's the only thing that made me put up with all their unbearable personalities!

Would so much rather work from home in my pajamas...

Mike said...

Avery, your boss was so lucky. I've never gotten to bang a coworker, and given that since at my new job I'll be surrounded by people who would rat me out to my wife in a heartbeat, this won't be my big chance.

Ms. PhD, sounds like you and I should have done the Freaky Friday thing. I could have "accidentally" offended all the coworkers you hate with my inappropriate comments, and you could have settled into a workday in your jammies. Let's set something up next time.