“This is it,” Andrew Parizek said at my desk. I was listening to music in my earbuds, so I didn’t see, hear or sense his approach. By the time he said that, Andrew was so close that he startled me. Andrew was a close talker, but he narrowed his customary gap in this particular instance. “My final farewell to you, my friend,” he added. “I’m leaving the company. I’m on my way out the door.”
“Oh shoot,” I said to my co-worker who I considered a close associate. I don’t know how he would characterize our multi-year association, but when we had a go-between, we spoke every day. When that third party moved desks, I thought the triumvirate was over. Yet, Andrew kept coming over to my desk to talk about the stupid stuff stupid people talk about. “It was great working with you buddy,” I told him.
This “Final Farewell” had been in various stages of an active gestation cycle for about two weeks. The prior weekend, he and I discussed his departure at his going away party, and we also discussed his future at length. We didn’t hug at the end of that particular discussion, but we engaged in a heartfelt, hearty handshake at that going away party that expressed how I felt about him, coupled with some discussion of the good times we shared together, and how much we would miss the little things we both did to brighten the other’s otherwise boring days.
I thought that those final farewells, and all the ones prior to it, were the final farewells, but his presence at my desk informed me that that notion was premature. I told him it wouldn’t be the same at the company without him, as I had in the previous final farewells, but I felt compelled to add original material to this one. Therefore, I added some sentimental junk that I didn’t mean. I was being nice, and I was trying to make him feel important in my life. In truth, I liked the guy, but he bothered me, in insignificant ways, at the same time.
I asked Andrew Parizek if he was excited about his future prospects, and I told him that I was jealous that he was doing something so important with his life. I wasn’t jealous, as Andrew was moving onto a career that I didn’t want to do, but it seemed like a fitting sentiment to add to this final version of our final farewell.
I also told him that I thought he was a swell fella, and a nice guy, and I meant that.
I asked Andrew if he was a little scared about the prospect of leaving the comfy confines our company offered to venture out into an unknown world where the prospect of failure was greater. He said yes to all of the above. Then he launched.
He spelled out for me, in explicit detail, this new venture of his life. He did so with magnificence and aplomb. He was also magnanimous. He spoke about how he thought that I was delightful, and the type that would succeed, and that if I stuck to it, all my dreams would come true. It was sappy and weird. I hid my revulsion for his word choices. He tried to be multisyllabic, and he used as many –ly words as he had in his vocabulary. He tried to instill a sense of timeless profundity to this final version of his “Final Farewell”. If it were a speech, it might have caused great emotion. The audience might have been applauding at the end, some may have cried, and others may have even stood to applaud. The over the top farewell was one that often elicits such near-compulsory emotion. Andrew lit up in moments where ‘dreams can come true’ lines poured out of him. When the line “If it can happen for me, it can happen for anyone” brought him to crescendo, I might have placed two fingers on a handkerchief if I had one within reach.
It was so over-the-top brilliant, coupled with subtle attempts at self-deprecating humor, that I wondered if Andrew plagiarized some of his material from the “Going to War” letters that Ken Burns collected and displayed from soldiers for his The Civil War documentary. If it wasn’t, I felt safe in my assumption that Andrew practiced and rehearsed this speech that day, before a mirror. Whatever the case was, I felt compelled to inform him that I thought this version of the final farewell was an “Experience for anyone lucky enough to hear it,” “Your best, final farewell since final farewell number four,” and a “Tour de Force!” I didn’t say any of this, but I felt Andrew Parizek choreographed it in such a way that it warranted superlatives.
We were fellow office workers, and we were associates, as I said. We got along on those levels, so receiving an invitation to his going away party wasn’t a great surprise to me. When I arrived at his going away party, we said our hellos, goodbyes, and as I said some talk about his future endeavor, but our conversation didn’t last that long. The relative lack of attention Andrew offered me compared to his closer friends, didn’t wound me. I thought he offered me as much attention as our association warranted.
This Casablanca-style parting was just way beyond protocol as far as I was concerned though. I wished him well and all that, and he again went into the same speech he gave me at the party. Andrew also told me that he wanted me to email him, so we could keep updated on each other’s lives. I knew that wouldn’t happen, but I thought it was a nice sentiment. He then concluded with another note about how he was nervous about his future, but he was excited by the prospects of it too.
By the time he began to step away, he was all but yelling good wishes to me. My mouth wasn’t open, but the display did set me back a pace. Then it happened …
Andrew Parizek entered into a wicked case of the leans with my desk neighbor. He was exiting the aisle my cubicle was in, and my desk neighbor was entering into it. He leaned to the left to get by her, she leaned left, and when he leaned to the right, she leaned right. Before they made it past one another, they performed four separate and distinct leans.
If Andrew was extracting himself from a casual conversation, and exiting the aisle in a routine manner, he might have been able to avoid the spectacle that ended up occurring between these two. If he felt no need to execute a departure to be earmarked in the annals of time for all of those “that were there” to witness his ride into the sunset, I suspect he would’ve been the gentleman he was and stepped aside to allow my female desk mate to pass. At worst, the two of them may have engaged in two leans, if it wasn’t Andrew’s hope that this “The Final Farewell” include women waving handkerchiefs and someone, somewhere saying, “You know what, there goes one hell of a good feller.” I assume that Andrew pictured the rest of us as side characters in his exit left behind to chronicle the attributes of the main character of this “The Final Farewell” scene.
I don’t keep a ledger on such things, but I do believe that the Andrew Parizek v. desk neighbor case of the leans to be the most intense I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve been a witness to a number of severe cases in my day, and I’ve ever been a party to a few, but I don’t think I witnessed four separate and distinct leans before that day.
I’ve witnessed two separate leans on so many occasions it’s not worth noting, and I’ve witnessed more than my fair share of three. The one thing we know about the public humiliation such as these is that no one gets out alive, for as the cliché illustrates “it takes two to tango.” I’ve witnessed some scream, “Get out of my way!” in an unsuccessful attempt to blame the other for the tango and avoid personal embarrassment. I’ve seen witnesses laugh and one of those involved turn angry on those laughing to change the subject. None of it works. No one gets out alive.
The only individual able maintain a modicum of dignity following such an episode was a nondescript, middle-aged, paunchy restaurant hostess named Susan.
“Shall we dance?” was what she said.
She said that in the second of what would be a reported, and corroborated, three leans. Susan said it in the midst of what should have been her humiliation. Other witnesses to this episode would later swear corroborated the fact that Susan had a glint in her eye when she said those three words. The glint was faint, and it was a little insecure, but it suggested to those observers that Susan knew exactly what she was doing.
What she was doing is susceptible to interpretation, of course, as this woman named Susan maintained a degree of humility that prevented her from addressing the full import of her purported casual salvo against future ridicule. Those who witnessed Susan issue this phrase will swear, to their dying day, that Susan knew that by saying this, she was setting the rest of us free from the ridicule that follows such an episode. We can only assume that Susan suffered similar ridicule for much of her life, and that it bothered her so much that she sought to put an end to it. If that wasn’t the case, it might have had something to do with Susan’s hope that this line might provide a remedy to so many other future sufferers. Her hope, we can only guess, was that the witnesses of this episode would spread the word to put an end to this scale of human suffering. Whatever the case was, this unassuming restaurant hostess provided those of us who were lucky enough to be there that day, a shield against public scorn that some of us would use the rest of our lives. We might not have carried it off with the grace and aplomb Susan did that day, but we would always think of her, and silently thank her, for freeing us from this ever-present spectacle in our lives.
Had my Andrew Parizek learned of this antidote prior to his case of the leans, it might have spared him the humiliation. I doubted this at the time, and I still do, for I considered Susan’s humorous quip an antidote to two, and in her case three, separate and distinct leans, but I wasn’t sure that even her ingenious response could shield one from the public fallout of four.
Four separate and distinct leans were so unprecedented, to my mind, that I doubt there is a sufficient antidote. Couple that with the fact with the Gone with the Wind-style, dramatic exit that Andrew hoped to execute preceded it, and I doubt that any clever quip would’ve allowed him to save face. His only recourse was to walk away and just hope that witnesses would forget it soon after it happened.
We all want to be remembered, and perhaps that’s all Andrew Parizek wanted when he delivered so many final farewells to so many people that he accidentally said goodbye to the same people more than twice. I don’t know how much preparation he put into his final farewells, but I’m sure he did it so that he could let each of us know how important we were to him and to have the sentiment returned. This is not to suggest that Andrew’s actions were, in any sense, self-serving, but everyone wants those around them to remember that we were here. It is possible that had Andrew escaped unencumbered by my desk neighbor, his final farewell might have had the lasting effect on me he hoped for, but the lasting memory I now have of him consists of him shucking and jiving with my desk neighbor, trying to get past her for a dramatic ride off into the sunset.