The Junction
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The Junction

Conversation with My Wife (152)

“I suppose you’re all wondering why I called you here. Actually, I guess it’s just Jack.”

Deb & I don’t do surprises for each other. Well, not the kind where the victim gets led blindfolded into a dark room where people jump out and yell “SURPRISE!” and the honoree has a small heart attack. Our surprises are more along the lines of “Here’s your gift!” “I thought we weren’t buying gifts for each other?” (long pause) “SURPRISE?”

So when “Dinner with friends” shows up on our shared iCloud¹ calendar, I know she must have explained it to me at some point, and I forgot. Or (this also happens) she explained it to me in detail, only I wasn’t there at the time (she does this, she knows she does this, and while she’s a tad embarrassed about it, we hardly ever have anything awful happen). So a few days before the scheduled event I ask for a reminder.

Screen capture by author. This is what I had to go by.

ME: The dinner with friends this coming Friday?

DEB: Uh huh.

ME: At the Belvedere Inn downtown?

DEB: Yup.

ME: (waiting for more information)

DEB: (doing whatever she’d been doing before, and NOT being informative)

Fine. She’s being cagey. Not a problem. She’ll spill it all before Friday, never fear.

Which brings us to Friday evening, driving into Lancaster city, and I still have not even a little clue as to who the “friends” are. Out of town visitors? Old classmates? Quakers (this IS Pennsylvania, remember)? My ex-wife and her fiancée² happen to be in the neighborhood?

ME: So, the friends.

DEB: Yes, honey. Thank you for going along with this! I appreciate the trust!

ME: Of course, Debster!

Because at this point my options are what?

So we park in the parking garage next to the restaurant and walk over. As we pass by the back of the restaurant, I see a guy who kind of looks like one of my old IT colleagues, but it’s dark at a distance and a lot of guys with beards and winter coats could look like Ron, so what?

As we start into the restaurant I try one last time.

ME: So, I am definitely going to recognize these people, right?

DEB: (getting a glimpse of the couple waiting just inside the door) I’m pretty sure, Jackster!

RYAN: (grinning like a madman) Hi!

And, it turns out, this was all a plan by my old IT gang from my last (and final) company, where I’d retired in December 2019. Charles (my boss), Chaz, Ryan, Ron, and Connor³ decided that I needed a better farewell after eleven years at the company than a bye-bye card signed by the employees.⁴ So Ron coordinated with Deb to pick a date, location, and “what would Jack want as a farewell gift, realizing that you two are talking about downsizing and don’t need More Stuff.”

The IT gang, on the day I retired. Charles, Ron, me, Ryan, Chaz. At this point, Connor had left the company but not yet returned. (Photo by Chris Harsh.)

So they decided on one of our favorite restaurants, Ron got reservations, and he and his wife arranged for The Gang to pose for a farewell shot. Which they (and their significant others) presented to me during dinner.

The group photo gift, framed. Charles, Ron, Chaz, Ryan, Connor (he’s back, people!). Apparently other company folks were worried that day when the entire IT staff showed up looking like they were heading for a funeral. (Photo by Denise Mont, Ron’s wife.)

The food was great, the illumination not spectacular (hence no event photos), and it was nice to talk to the guys, catching up on things since I left. “Remember how that program you wrote was doing [this thing], and [senior exec] said he needed it to do [this other thing] so you rewrote it, well he decided after you left it should really do [something else entirely] but we think we got that working. Finally.”

I have a home office, which has what is fondly referred to in the Navy as an “I love ME” wall (actually two walls — see below). Certificates, plaques, fine things I’ve done, you get the idea. So now it also has a photo of my final IT coworkers, the only group photograph to grace my ranks of accomplishments. I don’t see myself adding anything after that.

My office, in all its rumpled glory. Picture of the gang at the far right. Photo by me.

Thanks, guys!

¹You’ve heard of shared calendars? Stored in the cloud, available to two or more parties? OMG, they’re wonderful, especially for couples and families. Apple does it via iCloud, but Google also has shared calendars available.

²I mentioned this possibility afterwards.
DEB: You really think if Linda and Carol were visiting I would keep that from you? Why would I do that? And we’re going to see them at their wedding at the end of February anyway!
ME: Ummmm…

³Connor had left the company in July 2019 to spend time getting his own business up to speed; in January 2020, the company asked if he would come back as a consultant to help with a project—not an IT project, just one that had gone very, very badly across several departments and needed someone with a good head on his shoulders to sort the mess out. Independent reports (okay, his old IT gang) say he’s doing great.

⁴To be fair, I had requested that I get none of the usual company farewells. I was not always in a Good Place at work, mentally, towards the end, and it could have gone badly.

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Jack Herlocker

Jack Herlocker

Husband & retiree. Developer, tech writer, & IT geek. I fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches. Occasionally do weird & goofy things.