Thoughts on the sudden exit of a friend

June 5, 2008, 3:41 PM UTC

Like cans of fruit in the great supermarket of Business, we all have a shelf life… a sell-by date that is stamped somewhere, possibly on the tops of our cans, I don’t know. When that date arrives, it’s time for us to go.

It’s business. It’s not personal.

Still, when they come to get me, I hope that certain forms are honored.

I hope they let me know well in advance that my number is up. This will give me time to think about my departure, to plan for it a little bit, to position the thing with my friends and colleagues. To go is bad enough. To be dragged kicking and screaming out of bed in the middle of the night and thrown off a cliff is much worse. I would hope that my tenure would grant me certain dignity in the means and circumstances of my departure. 

You’d be surprised how often this doesn’t happen anymore. I don’t know why. One guy I know, he worked for his company for 15 years. One day he was called to the corner office. “You’re out,” he was told. He got his stuff and went home. No memo. No nothing. That was that.

So I hope that when the big hand hits midnight there will be just a bit of pomp and circumstance. A lunch, perhaps. Of course there are no gold watches anymore. Why needs them? We all use cell phones to tell the time anyhow. But a gathering of people who are sorry to see me go would not be out of order, I think.

Some sense of decorum, I guess, would be nice. A feeling that sure, my race is run, but it was a good one, and worthy of notice in some way. A stately process, with a beginning, middle and end, not a short, sharp shock.

In that vein, I hope that the number of people who are told of my status beforehand would be very small, and that they be trustworthy people, and not prone to leaking invidious things into the blogosphere, which is often a mean and cruddy place, filled with people who rejoice at other people’s discomforts.

I hope the corporation lies about me a little bit, saying that I am leaving of my own accord, that it was my decision, that perhaps I am suddenly infused with a desire to spend more time with my pet llamas or something like that.

I hope, in the end, I will retain at least some of the friends that I have made along the way. It’s a sorry thing, but most of the relationships we have in this world we work in are contextual. The context removed, suddenly old pals have very little to talk about. Even golf and booze, after a while, are not enough. The good news is that some friendships, improbably and against the odds, do endure.

And of course I hope that I will come through the experience and emerge on the other side with new packaging, in a new supermarket of ideas, with a brand new time stamp on my forehead. Dylan Thomas said that after the first death there is no other. He was wrong, at least where our careers are concerned. You wouldn’t believe the former zombies I see walking around, pumping with new life in a new venue. I always greet them with a smile and word of congratulations.

I hope I receive the same kind of thing down the road sometime, when I need it.