Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Retirement Letters

Twelve years ago, after 26 years of employment with the same company, my job was eliminated. "Why am I telling you this now?", you might ask. Well, it's simple. I wasn't blogging twelve years ago.

I was 55 years old at the time, and my job had long since ceased to be fun or rewarding. More and more, the work I had done was being transferred to other company locations. Toward the end of my employment, I dreaded even going in to work. Often, there would be nothing to do on my job, leaving me to make the rounds of my co-workers, asking if they had any jobs I could do for them.

The company had announced that a major layoff was coming. The date of the layoffs, and even the number of jobs to be eliminated, was announced in advance. But the employees who were to be terminated were not given notice.

The tension was thick on the dreaded date. Each employee who was to be terminated would receive a telephone call to come, individually, to the conference room, where the news would be formally delivered by departmental management.

Every ear was tuned to the ringing telephones.

It came as no real surprise to me when my telephone rang. In the conference room, I met for the first time my supervisor's boss, who had come down from the company's Chicago-based headquarters to deliver the news that my services were no longer needed.

After that brief meeting, my supervisor escorted me to the staircase leading to a second-floor office, where each of the terminated employees was to have a mandatory meeting with a representative of an outplacement agency, who would help them find a new position if they so desired. It was a small office where these meetings were taking place, with no privacy if two employees happened to overlap.

Well, when I arrived upstairs, I found the outplacement lady busy with another employee, whose back was to me but who I instantly recognized.  Embarrassed at intruding on what should have been a private interview and not knowing what to do, I stood quietly at the back of the room for several minutes.  Finally, the lady, who had had a clear view of me the whole time, asked if she could help me.  I told her I had been sent up and asked if she'd like for me to step out onto the landing.  She said I could wait in one of the offices up there.  As she got up to show me into another office, I walked over and wordlessly extended my hand to the other employee.  As he took it, his eyes filled with tears; and he gripped my hand as if it were a lifeline.   

My appointment with the outplacement representative didn't take long because I wasn't interested in seeking another full-time job. As I left that second-floor office and descended the stairs, I saw my supervisor waiting for me at the bottom of the steps. It was his assignment to escort me out the door, presumably so that I couldn't steal anything or otherwise cause trouble.

Five weeks after the layoffs, apparently as an afterthought and perhaps in an attempt to make up for the abrupt ending of so many careers, a group retirement luncheon was held at a local eatery for those who had been eligible for retirement at the time of their layoff. My age and company service qualified me for inclusion in that group. Speeches were made and retirement plaques were presented.

As I said earlier, my job had ceased to be fun; and I had begun dreading even going to work. So I welcomed retirement. I confess that I didn't relish the way it was done, but I was glad to be out of that environment.

One of my co-workers was my best friend and fellow blogger, Sandra, from Add Humor and Faith...Mix Well. She survived the layoffs, and we continued to meet regularly for lunch. At some point, about a year and a half after the big layoff, I made a passing comment to Sandra that I hadn't really minded not having my own retirement party. I did, however, regret missing out on the tradition of the retiree's being presented with a book of letters from his fellow employees. Since the circumstances of my rather unorthodox retirement had prevented me from saying goodbye to friends in our local company offices or to contacts from other company locations, those letters would have been an especially nice memento.

A few weeks later, Doug and I had a date to go out for supper with Sandra and her Hubby. We arrived at their home during a heavy rain, so Doug and I sat in the car, waiting for them to come out. Then we saw Sandra waving to us to come into the house. Thinking they weren't quite ready yet and wanted us to wait inside, we grabbed an umbrella and made a run for the house.

As we entered, though, Sandra's Hubby was standing in the kitchen with a video camera pointed at us. Either they were really excited to see us and wanted to record the moment for posterity or something was up.

Well, Sandra had taken my passing remark about the retirement letters and turned it into a personal mission to collect letters from as many of my former co-workers as she could. She led us into the dining room for a little presentation ceremony, seated us in assigned places around the table, and began an on-camera interview with me about my career at the trucking company. Then she followed that up with a reading of excerpts from the letters she had collected.

What a friend, eh? Everyone should be so blessed.

I'm posting that video in its entirety. I couldn't get it to post in one video, so it's in two parts. The total length of the two segments is about 18 minutes. I realize that some of you won't have the time or inclination to watch the entire video. Don't feel badly about that. But there may be some who will find it fun.

Since our careers go back a ways, you will hear references to such things as shorthand tests, mag card typewriters, and keypunch operators.

You'll also get a glimpse of what a thoughtful, fun, and creative friend I have been blessed with in Sandra.


  1. I love stories with happy endings. What a great friend yu are blessed with.

  2. You are so blessed to have a loving and caring friend like this and I might add so deserving of this honour.

  3. what an incredibly sweet friend you have, to do that after the fact. :)

  4. Wow, what a heartwarming story! Sorry about the way you were treated at the company, but this allowed your friend to bless you in a very special way. I am really touched. :)

  5. I enjoyed seeing the tape but I was really distracted by how long the interviewer's nose is. Too bad she didn't have something done about that.

    Seriously, it was fun and easy to do this because you were so well thought of ... and also because you are my friend. We are blessed, dear friend.

    1. Hmmm. I've never noticed anything unusual about the interviewer's nose before. But I HAVE noticed that she has an inordinate amount of personality. You don't suppose there's a correlation there, do you?

      It really was a wonderful gift you gave me in that book of letters, as well as the gift of friendship that motivated you to take on the project, especially in light of how much time had passed. Thank you again, my friend.

  6. What a beautiful gift. Why am I not surprised that Sandra would think of and execute it in such short time. You two share a beautiful friendship and history. I loved seeing and listening to the both of you. That video is a wonderful gift.. and not just to you. Thank you, both. :)


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