We were going out to dinner. That was settled. No wriggle room.
That’s how they did send offs in this company. Left to me, I’d have thrown a sickie on the last day and sent the sweetest email to all staff saying the nicest things. I’d have directed them to my top drawer where they’d find a giant tin of Roses and a list of stationery bequests.
But these folks liked the long farewell. At my last weekly ‘huddle’ (think rugby scrum) words of well were said. I was even moved. Why couldn’t we leave it at that.
But no, I was to endure a presentation over a meal. I wouldn’t get away with a quick lunch either. Practice decreed that it must be on a Friday and it must be after work. I was 37 weeks pregnant and the idea of a boozy late night held no appeal but I knew it had to be endured
Still it wasn’t all bad. The brown A4 envelope – bulging and jingling with gratitude – arrived on my desk one afternoon in error so I discreetly moved it on. One thing my years of office life have taught me is that you are only as good as your collector. And I had the best. Stan* from accounts. Definitely a spectrum kind of guy, no one was exempt from contributing to my leaving gift. He’d been known to stand behind colleagues at the cash point. He’d swoop on pay day as a crowd headed for the pub. Resistance was futile. He went where others didn’t dare to go – to Board members. They’d be tapped too.
There was one slight problem with Stan being at the helm. If Stan collected, Stan shopped. I wouldn’t have wanted the hologram pendent he bought for the last leaver. The third eye was gaudy and pretty creepy. I wasn’t to be consulted. Though maybe I’d be pleasantly surprised. He got it right sometimes. I did get to choose where we’d dine and I went with Thai. Everyone likes a Thai. Not that I wanted to attract everyone. I got 18. Ten would have been better. Ten in to £200 or even ten in to £216.50 is easy to work out. Eighteen was more problematic though not as problematic as I could have foreseen. I was already stressing out over the bill. Premonition, intuition, I’m not sure.
We left the office together en masse. A large table was prepared for us. I sat at the head flanked by my manager and Stan. I survived my bosses sentiments. Nice words were swapped. I survived the presentation too. Stan knows I like to write so he went with a literal translation of that and purchased a very smart Parker pen. It was engraved too thus negating an exchange or re-gift (bummer). But there was more. Stan had done good. I had £80 of Mothercare vouchers.
By the main course, most of my workmates were locked. Some bought their own drinks. Others added it to ‘the tab’ as they proceeded to get more inebriated. The menu was extensive, There were all sorts of combinations on offer. Set meal options (for minimum of 2 persons), platters for 4, and dishes to share as well as personal favourites and the specials.
By 10pm they started to leave in dribbles. Some folk were still ordering puddings. Those departing would stumble up to me, big hugs and fond farewells before flinging down a note or two – their contribution to the meal – worked out by them in some drink sodden haze. How could I query it though my gut told me I should. Some of the cocktails were over a tenner.
With each encounter I became more aware of a possible bill shortfall. Until there were just three of us left. Myself and two office juniors pouring over a pile of notes and coins. Where was Stan from accounts when he was needed? I took my new pen out of the case and started doing the sums. I was £70 short! Obviously they wouldn’t accept Mothercare vouchers. I handed over my debit card. I’d take the hit. And you know what the inscription on the pen read “2002-04. MBS*. We are indebted to you”. The irony.
Note: This is a true story. I’ve mislaid the pen otherwise I’d include a picture here.
*Some names have been changed to protect anonymity.
This is my entry for a competition.