Background: I used to work in retail advertising in Boston with a group of awesome people. It was the kind of place you only work once, where you make friends for life, and every other place you work after that pales in comparison.
I left my happy cocoon of employment shortly after hearing that another retail giant was going to purchase the company. Mr. KK and I were headed back to Connecticut anyway, so I left right after the announcement. Some people took positions around the country with the new company. Many stayed on and worked until the doors closed.
Have you ever been to a high school reunion? Where you’re nervous and excited (well, mostly nervous), so much so that you have to pry your hand off of the car door handle? You fix your hair a thousand times, curse the frizz-causing misty weather, and apply another coat of lip gloss. You repeat, “You are being silly! You have nothing to be nervous about!” over and over to yourself. You flashback to all the faces you knew, do a quick mental tally of anyone you might have pissed off, and contemplate whether or not they might still hold a grudge against you.
(No? You don’t do that? Just me?)
That was last Friday night.
It was a night of mixed emotions.
It was great to see my friend Joss, with whom I share the awesome shopper gene. We haven’t seen each other in a while, so after the hugs and squeezes and squeals died down, we were on our way.
First, we met up with another former coworker, T, whom I was also excited to see. I could've stayed at the bar with just those two and my dirty martinis and my night would have been complete.
But, duty called.
After building up some liquid courage, we headed off to the reunion.
The reunion was held in a “hall” (think: Knights Of Columbus or Sons Of Italy). Nothing says par-tay like paneling on the walls, worn brown carpet on the floor and two locals “tending” bar.
(Case in point: I ordered a vodka and club soda. The semi-toothless bartender hands it to me and says, “That was made with allota love.” I take a sip. Funny, it was also made incorrectly. I HATE tonic.)
I was hungry, but scared of the “hors d’oeuvres” that looked like they’d been sitting out since 1982. (Also, how is a hoagie an appetizer? Sure, there's nothing easier to eat than a 8 inch sandwich while you’re balancing a plastic cup cocktail and trying to have a cohesive conversation with someone you can vaguely put your finger on, while they rattle off details about you and your life that proves that they certainly remember YOU.)
I’m awful with names. Joss, who had worked at this company since she was 16, knew EVERYONE who worked in the building. So I created a little plan in the parking lot on the way in.
ME: “When you say ‘hi’ to someone, can you also say their name, so maybe I can remember who they are? And what department I would know them from? For example, ‘Hey, John from coats, good to see you! Is that Mary from costume jewelry over there?'”
If you ever want to feel better about having a job you dislike, talk to people who don’t have a job at all.
I felt dirty and yucky for having spent so much time riding around in limos and eating filet mignon in the middle of the day while these ex-coworkers – with whom I had shared so many happy memories – STILL didn’t have jobs.
It was almost like they hadn’t recovered from the company takeover. They were loyal to the last minute, and then everything just ended. They were the last ones to leave the building. They actually shut the lights, like that poignant moment on a TV show. (But, they also took home all of the leftover office supplies – boxes and boxes of staples and paperclips. They joked they'd be writing on Post-It notes when they were eighty.)
They were SHOCKED that I still had the same job that I left them for three and a half years ago. (I’m shocked I still have the same job, too, but for far different reasons.)
But perhaps the WORST part of the weekend was having lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, and ordering the pumpkin cheesecake (my absolute FAVORITE), and for the second time in a row being told that they were out of it.
They only have pumpkin cheesecake two months a year. I go to two different restaurants, in two different states, at two different mealtimes, and they are both OUT?
(Hello, you are called 'The Cheesecake Factory'...shouldn't you be able to factorize more when you run out???