Archive for February, 2011

Goodbye, Mr. Chips


I never read the book or saw the movie, though I’ve heard the title for years and always assumed it was about a monkey. Maybe because “chips” sounds like “chimps,” but I’m not sure. I finally looked up the synopsis and since it’s about a teacher, I believe the title is fitting.

In a year of saying goodbye to people, I now come to Jerry, friend and former boss, who will be leaving our company on Friday.

Boy. What to say about Jerry. That’s a tough one.

I want to say he’s unique. But we’re all unique. Though some of us are more unique than others.

Jerry is one of those.

In a land where all the aardvarks are walking west, Jerry is the aardvark walking east. (With apologies to Eugene McCarthy.)

Where some of us march to the tune of a different drummer, Jerry IS the different drummer.

It would be lots easier to do the Kabuki around the subject for several more lines while I try to think of a way to address the topic, but I guess the best way to jump in is to jump in. And so I shall.

Jerry knows how to get things done. Whether it’s cooking or building or creating or any other venture, he knows how to get it done. He’s reliable that way. If you ask him to help you with something, no matter how busy he is, he will help you with that thing, no questions asked.

He’s a great cook. Despite his serious sushi addiction, for which I hope he will seek help, he loves to cook and be creative in the kitchen. He once taught cooking classes to a group of adult women, one of whom was me, and we had a blast. After each group cooked about six dishes, we ended the evening by having a group dinner and also went home with lovely little cookbooks. He’s the kind of guy you can call on a Sunday afternoon and say “I’ve got half a pound of bacon, some lettuce and a bag of chocolate chips. What can I make for dinner?” and he’ll tell you.

In a cookie-cutter corporate world of dingy carpet and mind-numbing gray cubicle walls, Jerry commandeered a warehouse space and created a huge, open and beautiful Creative department. We didn’t have cubicle walls; we had deep blond bookshelves between our work stations. We had a space where you could breathe, think, create and contemplate. We laughed. We had a bright sunny yellow kitchen with a huge toaster decal on the wall. We had Vegetable Wednesdays and birthday cakes and potluck lunches and a pancake breakfast that they could smell on the sixth floor, and once we had sushi preparation lessons. If we needed anything, he’d get it.

His sense of humor often kept us afloat. If he had bad days he kept them to himself. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him “down,” though I know there were times he had reason to be. During a re-carpeting event in our old building, he used masking tape to outline a body on the crappy carpet that was being yanked out. When we were released from work early one day (huzzah!) because of an bad gas smell in the building, Jerry put a note on his door reading “I am not, nor do I have any knowledge of the undetermined stench. Go away.” His disdain for animals was well publicized, so when someone left a ceramic dog figurine on his desk, he unceremoniously hurled it out the door. When the woman at the desk next to mine was going through a troublesome pregnancy and I was going through a personal disaster, she and I wept at our desks. Jerry called our area “the black hole of misery,” and avoided it as often as possible. (Yet he did stop by long enough to tell each of us we could go home if we had to, though we figured you could be just as miserable at work as you could home alone, so we stayed.)

He wears some goofy shoes and has about 100 pairs of eyeglasses, which seems odd to me because I have worn the same pair since 1985, prompting his daughter to once say to me, “Your sunglasses are on upside down.” (But I digress.)

He has listened to my personal problems, helped me with prickly problems, and always makes fun of my potato salad or my “Seven Layer Dessert,” where he can only count 4 layers. (Yeah, he’s that kind of guy.) He’s encouraged me to become more crafty (now just 12 steps away from scrapbook freedom) and has helped steer my career into the right lanes. He’s given me advice (and supplies) for craft projects, Christmas presents, and cooking tips.

One afternoon last summer we left work, picked up his wife who had made a picnic lunch, and drove to an estate sale in Lutsen, where we spent the afternoon filling the car with treasures. It is that kind of spontaneous fun that made working with him so enjoyable. If there was any possibility of fun in any venture, he’d find it and make it happen.

Needless to say, I’m gonna miss him. A lot. I’ll miss our lunchtime trips to Goodwill and Salvation Army where we made fun of other people’s junk (and bought plenty of it) and I’ll miss the lunches at the drafty Chinese place with the great egg fu yung, with stops at the “used bread store.”  I can still go there, of course, but it won’t feel the same.

I’ll miss his family, too, when they leave town. He’s got a great family. Beautiful kids who are fun to be around; his wife April, who’s become a good friend and fellow book-lover, and their extended family of friends in Two Harbors. I’ll miss them all.

Currently he’s created a phrase (“You know it!”) that he hopes will catch on, especially in the falsetto in which it’s screamed. So far I’ve heard a few people use it at work. I would, but I can’t get my voice to go up that high.

Well, phooey. There’s lots more to say, but the main point is that I’m sure going to miss the guy. He’s been a dear friend, and mentor, a partner in crime, and although there were days I wanted to strangle him with his own scarf, a lot of sunshine will be gone from my work life after Friday.

So I guess that’s just a small part of what you can say about Jerry:  Talented Artist. Creative Chef. Sushi Addict.

I used to say “If that guy ever leaves here we’ll be talking about him for years to come.” I still think it’s true, but I didn’t want it to start quite this soon. Having him leave the company now is like having to leave a good party before it really gets going. It’s too soon, and it won’t be much fun when he’s gone.

But in the spirit of good sportsmanship, I wish him well in his new venture and his new home and new neighborhood and new friends and coworkers.

They won’t know what hit ’em.


PPS: You know it!

You Give Me Fever.


Maybe not you, but someone did. And not the Peggy Lee kind, which I wouldn’t mind having at this point in my life, but the real kind where you cough and sneeze and feel hot and cold and you sort of wonder if malaria is making a comeback. So someone left a bug somewhere, and when I find out who it was, oh, am I gonna be mad!

I’ve been so careful. I wash my hands a lot. I keep them reasonably far away from my eyes, nose and mouth. I have devised a method of leaving the ladies room at work and getting back to my desk without touching any surface. (It’s diabolical. I should have it patented.) I stay away from people who are sick. I’ve been so damned careful!

And here I am: feverish, sneezy, wheezy, coughing and hacking. I’ve gone through boxes of Kleenex. I guzzle cough syrup, I swallow ibuprofen. I sleep like a banshee, assuming they sleep every moment they get near a bed or sofa. (I’m not sure if banshees have sofas, but let’s say they do.)

Here’s a word that came to me in a fit of delirium that I think is the opposite of how it sounds: Skinny. I heard someone on the radio refer to a certain actress as “skinny.” It makes me think she’s fat. Or just not thin. You know, it sounds like “skin-y,” meaning having a lot of skin. If you said someone was “fleshy,” you’d mean they were not really thin. Skinny should be the same way.

Well, that is my brilliant thought for this day. It maybe my ONLY thought for this day, and so I’m just gonna put it out there.

Take care. Don’t get sick!