Freudian Slips: Calling It A Day

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

June 02, 2008

Calling It A Day

He was a brilliant man born with a briefcase in his hand and destined to be a social worker who could advocate for the disabled. Promoted to middle management late in his career, he ventured away from his forte and I think he realized this mistake one promotion too late. So he fought a losing battle to attrition's burn-out at the hands of a bureaucracy that quite possibly lost too many tenets for his good heart to embrace. Let it be told that his demise was never greatly exaggerated. Regretably, I watched the decay of this fellow worker without reaching out to him the way a friend should.

In his heyday, I admired his reliable instincts about people and human behavior. As you might imagine, these strengths aided him in performing social work so much so that many people overlooked the fact that he beat to a different drum with highly idiosyncratic ways. He thought nothing of interrupting my live work-related telephone calls to ask me non work-related trivia like the square footage of my home or the career on-base percentage of an obscure utility infielder for the 1974 Atlanta Braves whose name escaped the catacombs of his mind. In his office, he would constantly stare at the ceiling in solitary confinement for reasons unknown. I thought that his once great mind had left his body for something better to do than what he must have considered stagnate desk duty. He carved his own canoe from a fallen tree and built his own motorized go-cart out of junkyard metal. In the absence of water and off-road access, he rode his bicycle to work in the death-defying shoulder of a highly congested road. He once played soulful Taps on his bugle in the office parking lot after hours as a tribute for all of the disabled clients and staff members who died over the years. His invitation extended to nobody proving by the sound of it, if nothing else, that this was a private ceremony by a man cut from a different cloth.
Our careers had never crossed paths when rumors circulated about him considering retiring. I knew something was up when he shaved his signature beard. In my mind, one thing was missing from my career at the evening shade and five o'clock shadow of his career - he and I had never shared responsibility on a case together because he had never been my supervisor. Low and behold, there we sat next to one another for the same meeting on the same side of a contentious situation regarding one of my clients who got himself into criminal trouble.

Before the meeting commenced, I turned to him with a twinkle in my eye. “With my supervisor out for the day and you dispatched to this meeting in her stead, this means so much to me.” I outstretched my hands to the heavens. “The Gods of social work have lined up the planets to place us in the same meeting room on the same case. I feel blessed. I wanted this day to happen before your retirement and it has finally come to fruition. Let’s have a great meeting.”
I wondered whether his hearty laugh mirrored appreciation for my sentiment or if he knew something that I did not. In either case, he leaned over and my ear crinkled to hear any keen insight and advisement that he had to offer. I had longed for this moment but feared that I had got to him too late. I could hear his throat form his first syllable.

“Joe, I am going to just sit here. You do all the talking.”

While standing pat was not what I waited a career to hear, it was not a fair litmus test for someone who had nothing left in the tank. Even his trusty bicycle was running on empty. A shell of his former self who showed classic burnout symptoms, it begs speculation that he could have been an ultra private man with too much pride to admit to being beaten down ingloriously by a flawed system.
After that meeting, I never saw him again at work and ceiling tile has not looked the same without him. You see, he retired the following Monday without saying goodbye to anyone by basically calling it a day. This twist of fate still rattles me. If I could play Taps, I would have done so years ago.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Evil Chicken said...

...And I would be proud to stand next to you in that parking lot as we listened to the tones from the bugle.

He was a good man and he’ll be missed.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

evil,
Yes, indeed.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous et said...

Joe, beautifully written, you outdid yourself on this one!

As I read the last line, it dawned on me that my mind went blank; it had become thoughtless.

Not the kind of thoughtlessness that arises from not thinking in a proper manner, but rather that your essay left me stunned into silence. It was a silence more poignant than the soulful melody of taps....for I felt the man’s long, painful journey into oblivion.

Hopefully, this person retrieved his misplaced spirit of life and found a more meaningful existence in his retirement.

7:51 AM  
Anonymous marcus said...

Many have gone the same path in different styles. We all beg the question. How will we go?.......me?......I WANT TO PARTY!!!!!!!!

8:33 AM  
Blogger Pax Romano said...

Joe,
This is a gorgeous and a fitting tribute to my "late" boss. I hope he some day reads this.

I will miss him. He was a colorful figure and someone who (as you stated) was beat down by a heartless bureaucracy.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

et,
thanks.

marcus,
We all fight that same battle against attrition, the struggle to get out of bed every morning to put in an honest day's work wothout giving up or losing ourselves in the process.

Pax,
Thanks for the West Coast slant. lol

7:27 PM  
Blogger mommanator said...

What a beautiful post. I am sure he would have a tear in his eye if he read it! He was complicated, but sincere & kind! I just wished the beauracacy hadn't melted him down!
I can't even imagine him shaving!
I truly hope he enjoys his retirement he deserves it!

3:42 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

mommanator,
Not your average guy to say the least.

7:20 PM  

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