HERE’S A NOTE I SENT to my Seattle Times colleagues Tuesday morning:
“Yesterday afternoon when I should have been carefreely cleaning out my desk on my way to a happy-go-lucky retirement, I instead spent several agonizing hours in the Swedish Hospital ER with a highly unpleasant kidney-stone episode. If you thought I disappeared without saying goodbye, you’re right, because I could hardly speak by the time my dear wife arrived to rescue me around 1 p.m. It was my first time for such an episode, but I’d always heard they come on like a speeding dump truck and that it feels like you just got run over by said truck. I can now attest to that!”
So the final day at the Times didn’t quite go as planned, and I got one of those “you’re not a blooming youth anymore” reminders. (It’s one good reason not to wait too long to ditch the office, fellow codgers.) This particular reminder came with really stupid timing.
I was back in the office on Wednesday. Barbara kindly joined me to help clean out my desk since I was still feeling tender.
When the time came I bid goodbye to some of my co-workers, and as we started to carry out a couple of boxes full of my desk detritus – family photos, old postcards, travel sections I wanted to keep, etc. – something happened that I totally didn’t expect (and doubt that I deserved): My newsroom colleagues started applauding. It started in one corner and spread across the room as we walked, until it was almost overwhelming.
I looked around at the many smiling faces. Maybe they were glad to see me go, my wife joked. But I knew the truth: They’re just nice and decent people. That’s the Seattle Times way, and I was honored and touched by the gesture of camaraderie. It reminded me that ditching the office has its tradeoffs, because I no longer have that roomful of good people watching my back — not just professionally, but emotionally as well.
Now it’s Friday, a beautiful, sunny spring morning at Shilshole Marina and it feels like the real first day of our new life.
For the next couple weeks we’ll be clearing out the sailboat for daughter Lillian to move aboard, and getting many other ducks in a row (have you ever tried herding ducks?). Next stop: the San Juans.