Jeff, my buddy

Thursday, a dear friend of mine will retire, after 30 years at our company. It’s a “voluntarily-forced” retirement, in that he’s not really to go, but will do so to save some other person’s job. His home is paid for and he’s within 3 years of retirement so it was the choice they made together. Another friend and manager told me “Heather, it’s going to happen whether we like it or not, so we better make the best of it”…and he was right. From that moment on, I have tried.

I was put in charge of Jeff’s going away bash and we were lucky enough to find the best gift ever. Jeff’s been a longboard surfer for more years than I’ve been alive and with a little pleading…and money to back it…we got him into a session with Robert August, making his own board. Mr August is a legend in the surfing world and Jeff will be in 7th Heaven. That makes me so darn happy…because there’s no better heart on the planet… and he’s like family to me.

I just finished the last details (the surf guitar legends music) and I’m hoping that everyone that has a Hawaiian shirt, skirt or flowered swim trunks will wear them. I did warn the owner so he wouldn’t think he’d arrived at some frightening version of spring break or a time share meeting.

When I look back at the years I’ve worked with Jeff, I have so many great memories…the kind that only people who were there (in that moment) can laugh at and understand…but there’s one I think worth sharing. It goes back some 12 years or so… at a time when I was just getting back from a 3 week vacation.

Now some people, when they go on vacation, they still think about work and what will be there upon return. I am not one of them. When I go, my mind forgets what day it is, where I live, work or what I do for the living that allowed me to take the vacation in the first place. I’m a clean, blank slate.

It was my first day back…the “fog day”. This is the day I walk around in a vegetative state trying to remember how to use my phone. It’s where I repeat the same stories, of what I saw and did on my time off, for no less than 40 people. It was on this day that the owner decided to have a meeting. Now the owner is a very nice man and rarely, if ever, gets mad about anything. When he does, his face turns a really bright shade of red…and then it’s time to stop talking or make up some really good BS.

This particular meeting was about some signage…you know..the kind that says inspirational work type stuff like “Having fun getting it done” or ” We find a way”…meant to rally the troups. We had apparently decided on some really big signs that were going to go over all the entrance ways in the bindery and pressroom, so that even those with bad eyesight could see them clearly, without a bit of squinting…

We were all gathered into the conference room to sit and listen to the latest. The owner started talking about the new signs and about possible slogans that would lighten our hearts and make us work happily, diligently and content. He read off some of the better choices and that’s when the problem started. He looked me in the eye and asked me my opinion…

Now you have to picture 10 people sitting around a table very close together…each waiting to give their serious views…but…it was sadly me who was asked first. I stared round the table for one revolution…and then burst our laughing. Now, I don’t mean a sissy, quiet little laugh…I mean a whole body laugh… from the soles of my feet, up through the diaphram and out my big, damn mouth. Have you ever had a moment where you knew it was innapropriate…but you couldn’t, even to save your life (or career), stop laughing. That was my moment.

Just when it was getting really bad, when his face was the brightest red I’d ever seen…when people were starting to look scared…God bless him…my buddy Jeff (sitting directly across) came to the rescue. He kicked me really hard, in the shin, from under the table. I think I owe him my last 12 years of employment because I finally shut up and the meeting was abruptly abandon. I never saw that group of people move faster before or since that day. And, after all these years, all I have to do is say to Jeff “remember the sign meeting?” and it will get a chuckle out of him every time.

I probably won’t mention this story tomorrow. I believe the owner has finally forgotten…but I never, ever will.
God Bless you Jeff…in your future endeavors and I’ll see ya on the outside 😉

4 Responses to “Jeff, my buddy”

  1. Juliane Says:

    Oh my gosh, that is a crack up! I can just see you doing just can’t stop…well i guess the truth of the matter had to pop out. How bought .
    The Dots are here
    We do the job
    Were Proud and happy too
    Dots are great! Dots are strong!
    Were the best at what we do
    I bet he would like that.
    To Jeff..good surfing…what a nice guy Jeff is, I remember him with a nice friendly smile, he is the kind of person you just feel comfortable around first thing. All good wishes to you Jeff…do some things you have been wanting to do but have not had time to. You may find a whole new Jeff there. So much good luck to you in the future. Julie

  2. What a wonderful story, Heather, and a phenomenal thing you guys did for Jeff. All I can say is, Thank God you were put in charge. I know it will be stellar.

    I laugh inappropriately all the time, and good thing I wasn’t in that room because even if you stopped laughing thanks to the kick in the shin, I wouldn’t have.

  3. It turned out wonderful yb. He was so happy! and if you had been in the room with me. we probably both would have been fired. Funny thing is…while the owner gave his speech about Jeff today, he asked for stories…I was really tempted…but didn’t. I did go up to Jeff afterwards and just whisper “the sign meeting”…

  4. I’m sure the party was awesome. I can’t wait to see Jeff’s custom board! If it’s done, he must bring it over when we all get together (when H is feeling better).

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