Saturday, June 16, 2007

I retire.

On Friday, I finished cleaning out my office. Hadn’t seen the bottom of the in-basket for many years, although it had never really held much of a stack. I had taken my share of kidding about that over the years. Other managers commented on the lack of clutter in my office, claiming that it offered evidence that I did not have much to do. I would level them with my reply. “I get paid to manage. To make the correct yes/no decision. I’m not here to do staff work. If that were the case, why would we be paying all those people in those rows of cubicles on the other side of that door. If you want to do the work of all the folks assigned to you, fine, but not me. I’m gonna sit here and read the paper until they bring me another decision to make, and when that moment comes, you can rest assured my decision will be the right one. Always has been. Always will be.”



Some of the other managers, the stupid ones, considered me arrogant or lazy, but in their hearts, they envied the fact that I could run the show without breaking a sweat, and with easy humor. They did not understand why it was that my staff had been loyal to me. They did not understand the fact that key decisions: hiring, promoting, mentoring, rewarding, getting rid of and streamlining – made less than a dozen times a year – make all the difference in the ease of one’s job. Now the rumors about who will succeed me run like electricity throughout the building. Managers who have rarely stopped by have visited me this week, pretending to say goodbye while asking about the future of my assigned parking spot in the basement garage, while coveting the view from my windows and sizing up the wall space for the photos of their pasty-faced no-necked distempered spawn.

At the end of the day, I am the last to leave. The send-off parties are over. The hugs and “remember whens” are done. I will miss my team. So competent. So able to make any task enjoyable.

I take one last look at my view of the Wretched Little City.



Twenty-five years have gone by in a flash. I think about the day I was hired. Delighted to be making $14,000 a year! Figuring I’d stick it out for six months and then leave it for something more glamorous. It’s not like I had any better offers. A degree in theology coupled with an allergic reaction to organized religion can leave you on the street. Perhaps the fact that my extra-office life was such an elaborate distraction actually helped my rise from intern to CFO. My detachment may have been viewed as level-headedness. My total disinterest in the business of my agency may have been viewed as unflappable calmness, the obvious strength of a leader. Maybe my time in the Vatican, scurrying around a pope, and making me totally unimpressed with the needs of a governor, made me seem competent and able to handle the servicing of the largest fish in this tiny pond. Perhaps it was simply the fact that I was amusing, and the only man to notice and to be unafraid to comment on someone’s new jewelry and the fact that turquoise is a color that works for her. Perhaps it was the fact that I had our largest conference room done over in rich ebony and high-backed black leather, and put the lights on five pre-set dimming patterns that I could control remotely from my office, throwing someone else’s meeting into semi-darkness whenever I felt like it. Tee-hee.

I take the elevator down to the basement and I begin to feel the headrush of freedom. This must be how it feels to end one’s time as an indentured servant. What’s the worst that can happen to me for the rest of my life? C and I will now have free health care and dental coverage forever, and a check will come in the mail monthly. Granted, taking the earliest possible retirement option vastly reduces the size of that check, but so what if I still must find work to maintain our current lifestyle? This time around, I’ll do something fun, something more creative. Something that doesn’t involve a suit and regular hours. Something more playful. Truth to tell, I’ve always watched with fascination the men who repair stucco in Florida. I think I might enjoy that. And, during the hot months, when we are in New York, I could do Venetian plastering in the apartments of the wealthy. There. The next ten years are settled.

At home, I take a moment to pick some roses before going inside. This one is called “The alchemist”. Each blossom’s color changes from a budding orange to peach to a blushing pink as it unfurls. If you don’t know this, you’d be perplexed to find flowers of so many different colors on the same bush. “Cosi va la vita mia” I think to myself with a laugh.



Inside, C has prepared a surprise to celebrate this long-awaited moment. It’s been twenty-five years since I last launched myself into uncharted waters. This time, I am not alone, and I am entirely without fear. The possibilities are exciting. This is the right decision.

20 comments:

Chris said...

Wow. How exciting. A new chapter....oh how I wish. See, someone is already envious. Congrats and good luck.

Blobby said...

This is SO cool....the post, the prospects, the time you've done and how you've done it.

I'm a little envious. Or a lot.

Glenn said...

I did the same as you effective this past January. I have not regretted my decision once. You will have a slight period of adjustment and then bliss, sheer bliss. Enjoy the rest of your life - and have fun!

circleinasquare said...

Congratulations!

BigAssBelle said...

how divine! congratulations. and is that you wearing a suit and tie behind that camera? i just can't imagine it. so many questions, not a single answer. it's part of the great mystery of the farmboyz that keeps me coming back (along with the fabulous writing).

i "retired" two years ago, leaving my state agency to run my business as a full time (but much less than full time) venture. i haven't regretted it for an instant. i think i would slit my throat before i'd do that kind of work again or even work for another.

cheers to you and c in your new life. plastering would have its appeal; for me it's a longing for my own carpentry shop where i'd work with exotic woods and french polish and where i'd have something to show, in my hands, for the effort. about half of my kids after 16 years of work are locked up in prisons or buried. never go back. do something real. good for you.

tornwordo said...

I'm quite envious! Good for you. That plastering idea is great, I bet you could make your nut with just a few months of work per year. Are you coming up for Divercité?

R J Keefe said...

Oh, T, so beautifully written as always. I wondered with a pang if, had you stayed with the Church, you'd have been a bishop who kept the little churches open (an anti-Egan, in other words). Maybe you'd have made everyone happier about the inevitable.

Congratulations!

John said...

Great news. Congratulations! Good luck on your new adventures.

Willym said...

Congratulations. You've got so much ahead of you. Somehow I have the feeling you'll never be at a loss for something to do.


I'm retiring next month for the third time and heading with spouse to Rome for four years. I keep vowing that this time retirement is for real but then I find myself tweeking my CV.

All the best to you and C.

copperred said...

Congratulations. I find your approach to your retirement holds something to look forward to, as I can imagine in 26 years having the same desire. Oh hell I have it now, there's just no money for it.

If you do become a plasterer for the rich, beware those young, bored, looking for amusement in all the wrong places sons who will lust for you, and corner you under the stairs.

Mike said...

Best wishes and all that. I envy you.

B. said...

!

Michael said...

Congrats!

evilganome said...

Congratulations. 2 of my best friends took early retirement and neither have looked back. I shall, alas be working till the day I turn up my toes, but such is the indiscretion of youth which comes back to haunt us in our maturity. I am all envy and wish the very best for you and C. Bask in your new found freedom.

David said...

Envy, envy, green and vivid.

Stash said...

Congratulations, though I should say you're very brave. More than I.

Spamwise values stability. He would be terrified.

tater said...

Congratulations on this new page in your life. Stucco and palster work, while certainly noble professions, would steal time away from a talent I hope you will now have much more time to explore. I am, of course, referring to your talent as a writer. I am hoping you might choose to embark on a glorious second career as a novelist.

Michael said...

Talk about timing! I've just started making contributions to my 401(k). I hope to retire by the time I turn 45 or 50.

I can't wait to hear stories of your continuing exploits. :)

Cooper said...

At home, I take a moment to pick some roses before going inside. This one is called “The alchemist”.

How very apt! Through your words, I see a man who creates "gold" wherever he is ... of every hue and nuance ... and the minute observations of your daily life brings that "gold" to all of us.

A Happy, happy retirement to you!

Joshua said...

Congrads!
How exciting!