A few months ago the employees in my building were dealt a hard blow. Our office is closing. While we were all promised employment at our alternate facility, my home away from home for the past thirteen years will be no more. While most employees have already been relocated, or left the company of their own accord due to the difficult commute, I am one of the last to leave. While the blessing in my stay of execution was that I could prolong my drastic life change until the last possible moment, watching more and more people leave each week was nothing short of painful. Yesterday I walked out those doors for the last time, basically turning out the lights behind me.
The upside is I remain employed. I have work at home options. There are many gainful projects ahead; in reality I have little to complain about. Still, I am heartbroken. As I sat with my husband last evening and expressed my grief, he reminded me of the many amazing times we had in that building, and at the bar down the street. Quite a few of my readers either are or were at one time employees of Workplace, and are no doubt feeling a similar pang of loss.
I was told about the bar down the street during the interview for my first position with the company. The supervisor, whose career was unsurprisingly short lived, recommended that I make a showing on Friday nights after work to mingle with upper management. Who was I to ignore such solid advice?
It turned out that bar was a total dive. It was dark, dreary, dirty, smoke infested, and oh so wonderful. As I made friends we spent many hours there hogging the juke box, playing pool, darts, and Golden Tee. Business was booming and the job was crazy. After many long hard hours that involved speaking with clients all day, that bar and the people in it became my solace. I would walk in from my late shift and my friends who were already there would call out my name Cheers-style. The blessed bartenders on duty would smile and pour my Guinness, no questions asked. More than half my beer never made it on the tab. Many years later a change in management put an end to the dark and dreary surroundings, and the free beer. I miss those bartenders; we sure treated them well.
Friday nights also brought the live entertainment. There was Jim from Dorchester, who played a ton of 80’s music and basically whatever my friends and I wanted to hear. There was the Tom Petty Guy, whose real name I can’t remember but looked a lot like, well, you can guess. He actually played a bunch of Tom Petty too. Since he never seemed to mind that we called him “The Tom Petty Guy”, it pretty much just stuck. Actually, he was kind of creepy, so moving on. There was Peter Mac, who was always drunk and wore overalls, and sang my favorite Cat Stevens song. My friend Jen and I were actually the only ones in the bar who appreciated that one, singing “Father and Son” at the top of our lungs. Then there was Bowser. We would shout with glee on the nights when Bowser showed up. He was fun and flirty with his acoustic guitar, but damn, that boy never got a lyric right.
The culture at Workplace was one of great entertainment in my twenties. A friend who remains dear to this day used to walk the aisles, moving from cube to cube recruiting companionship to the bar at the end of the day. “Are you afraid?” was all he would say. No one, including me, ever wanted to admit such fear; and so to the bar we went. He would later marry one of my best friends. She was also never afraid. Friday night outings turned into the random Tuesday, the random Wednesday, or the random Thursday. My body could never keep up in such a way again, but at least I can say I enjoyed my youth.
In my very first year I was recruited for the company co-ed softball league. With the required female quota, I was practically begged to join. With my teenage softball career long behind me, I was hesitant. But I was promised beer and a good time so I agreed. It was an awesome decision. The years of softball to follow included much camaraderie, follow up celebrations at the bar, encouragement from my boyfriend (he later become my husband) who played shortstop while I was on the pitching mound, and a countless number of Workplace t-shirts that were added to my collection. After my husband left the company and we started having babies I saw an end to my softball career, but the memories of so many awesome times (including mid-day beer runs) remain.
Yet, not all times were good. The day the towers fell, I watched the entire scene unfold from my desk on the call center bridge. Housing one of the main televisions in the building, I was accompanied by peers who stood in grave silence around me. Our parent company resided in one of the towers, and the loss of life was all the more devastating. Seeking comfort in each other, we found ourselves at the bar. The candlelight vigil we held there and Bowser’s incorrect version of God Bless America as we all sang along will remain forever etched in my mind. I can recall holding on to my girlfriends that night as we cried with the knowledge that our world would never be the same, and that the war which still rages to this day was coming.
As the years passed and we grew older, more and more people began to leave the company. Friday night going away parties at the bar became a fashion. Of my close friends, five couples who all met at the Workplace/Bar and wooed and later married, all but two of us remain. Yet when word came down that the office was closing, they all felt the same sadness, the same strange feeling in the knowledge that the place we loved for so long would no longer be there.
As I walked the building on my last day, taking pictures of my cube, my favorite portraits hanging on the walls, and my favorite conference room signs (those on my Facebook were subjected to my fury that the Crispus Attucks sign, a.k.a. Crispy Attack, was stolen before I could forever memorialize it in digital form, as well as my slight embarrassment that my managing director caught me taking a picture of the “DRUGS” sign), I thought fondly upon the many wonderful times I have had there.
The inside company jokes that I cannot produce on page, lest I wish to no longer be employed, remain as such and are told by many past and present employees to this day. I cannot attend a party without being asked to recall the “Ladies Room Poop Incident” which I was horrified to witness from a nearby stall. Those who long to hear it retold again know that I still need a few beers in me before I can relive that shocking and gruesome moment.
The bar is now remodeled, bright, smoke free, and inviting. The beer now costs what it should. The pool tables were moved to the basement to make room for the restaurant. Friday nights for all of us are spent at home with our respective others and children. It may seem strange to make so much reference of our beloved bar, but for many years the bar and the job went hand in hand. We rarely go there anymore, yet these friends, my brothers and sisters, my family, all remain bonded to me for life. Were it not for this place, this company and the bar where we all congregated, my life would have taken a very different turn; one that I care not to question. I will move on as we all should, but what an amazing end of an era. I was so fortunate to have been able to experience and appreciate it for what it was; life changing.