I hugged my curly colleague. I haven’t seen her for a while. We air kissed as we said hello (it’s how we roll) and both laughed.
She’s been on maternity leave for a few months and her hair looked different. Was it longer? Or was it just darker?
Darker I decided. It was a different shade. As always she was casually well dressed and looking both summery and relaxed. However – for her as well as the rest of us being in the office today wasn’t just a chance for reunion but also to discuss endings.
Forty nine people from different teams and shift patterns stood together in the same room for probably the first and last time as we all waited for our HR department and VP to arrive and give us details about what would happen to our jobs.
I looked around the largely empty room (so many have gone already – it used to be filled with life and energy) and I knew all of them by name.
I also know in a lot of cases the names of their wives and husbands – even the names of their children and siblings.
I remember some of them back when they had no significant other, and in the case of the ladies quite a few when they had different names.
I’ve seen them angry, sad, happy, bereaved, getting married, celebrating, commiserating, falling in love (sometimes with eachother), arguing, saying sorry, getting drunk, getting sober, working, playing, doing naughty things in Amsterdam and just generally being lovely people.
I could leave my wallet wide open on the desk in front of any of them and I’d come back a day later to find it exactly as I left it.
Many have offered me and eachother help in times of trouble and given liberally what they had to people who are in essence like family to eachother.
Out of work I know some of them as best friends – confidants who can be trusted with the most personal of secrets. They have shared their weaknesses and faults with me as I have shared mine with them.
They aren’t complete saints though. They’d all have stolen my milk from the fridge without blinking an eyelid.
When it comes to cow juice they all turn into cat burglars.
They’ve also led me astray in the past and on several vaguely remembered Christmas parties, weddings and in Dutch coffee shops (back when I partook of alcohol and cigarettes) we have encouraged each other to drink and smoke waaaay more than was a good idea.
We’ve also shared hangovers.
All of these thoughts and more crowded into my mind in one go, and I instantly felt overwhelmingly and desperately sad.
I can get another job but I can’t replace these people. They’e all unique, and it feels right when they are all together like this.
The news was not good. Every last remaining part of my business unit in the UK was to be dismantled. In two months the office will be silent – the fridge empty and the non existent milk un-pilferable.
My curly colleague (who used to delight in bringing order to this often chaotic communal penicillin factory) will have to focus on her own fridge, and not the one in our rest room.
Initially the reaction was quiet. Some hushed whispers behind me voiced dissent in angry tones, others eventually asked blunt questions and queried the wording of the news.
Some challenged the wisdom behind the decision – others asked whether there was any chance the company would change its mind.
There would be no reprieve, came the answer – and no stay of execution.
Some ‘lucky’ people may (they said) be able to transition elsewhere in different parts of the business but it was made clear that such positions were few and far between and no preferential treatment would be given.
The vast majority of us therefore (if not all) would have to hand back company property, clean our desks and go in under two months. In the meantime it would be business as usual – although I’m really not sure what ‘usual’ is now.
Everyone seems to have had the stuffing knocked out of them. Myself included.
So – that’s that. I’ve zero interest in staying to be screwed over further down the line and I’m not convinced I could stay even if I wanted to.
This it seems is an end to it, and we will all have to decide individually what to do next.
Thankfully an end these days isn’t what it once was. Facebook exists, e-mail exists, mobile phones, text messages and chat apps exist. People don’t loose contact any more – or disappear like they used to when I was younger.
We all have a digital presence and since we’re all already connected I dearly hope that we manage to remain in contact – and occasionally meet up as a group to remember the good times.
Although it might not seem like it today – there were a lot over the years and I wish there had been time for more of them. Maybe before we go our separate ways we will manage to fit in a few new memories to take with us on our travels.
Hopefully when the day finally comes it will all end with a smile and not with sadness.