Retirement Ceremony

by on August 8, 2023 :: 0 comments

photo "Working hard? Working on it." by Tyler Malone

We planned the retirement celebration for 10:30 in the morning before lunch on Thursday to have the largest number of employees. Too many took off on Thursday at lunch, if they had expendable leave, and didn’t return until Monday; had we selected another day and time, many would still grumble because that’s what they did. The grumblers had been the children who at six years of age in school whispered back and forth how stupid their teachers were, like their parents and their parents before them back through time. Their ancestors survived dinosaurs, floods, and famines, not because they were smarter, but because they’d been good at follow the leader.

Chubs in HR (not her real name, but a nickname she’d adopted in school, and it’d stuck) had ordered the big sheet cake, and the bakery had put the company’s emblem on top in patriotic red, white, and blue icing. The cake was enough to feed one hundred, but typically forty might show while others claimed they couldn’t leave their phones for fear of lost orders and poor customer service, or they couldn’t leave the assembly lines because of failed processes that would cost the company precious profit, not for employees, but for the CEOs who were in Africa, we imagined, on big game hunting trips, or sprawled out in hot tubs in exotic islands with naked young women and sipping martinis. The leftover cake, however, would be in Chub’s office for a week after the party for those snackers who had sweet teeth until the cake became too dry and crumbly and the icing hard.

We planned for the retirement celebration to last two hours, so as many could come by and wish the employee well in his final sendoff while alive. It would be no different than a high school graduation, minus robes, except the supervisor’s speech might have a good story, but not good enough that anyone would remember a week out. The good stories were the ones caught on cameras that employees forgot were there, and while nothing was usually done from management, the film was in their back pockets if needed.

“Morning, Melvin.”

“Am I early?”

“Yes,” I told him, “But being early is better, right?” As the IT guy, I had to be there to make sure the microphone and technology worked.

Melvin chuckled out a “yeah” and gazed by the window. He’d always been early, the kind of employee who felt that might give him a leg up compared to others who were lazier and later, but in the end, he was getting the same certificate all the others would get, the same amount of pension which coupled with his Social Security, might help he and his wife Melba pay their taxes, buy groceries, and keep up the insurance on his truck and her Buick. Melba had driven seven new Buicks with a four-year life span each during Melvin’s career. Before she traded up to a new model, Melvin scrambled to volunteer for all the overtime he could to pay off one only to get a larger payment the next go around, and after thirty years, he’d lost something in his get along that made him slower and drag more.

Melba, on the other hand, drove her new Buick with style, her neck craning this way and that, trying to keep other cars from getting too close to hers. When others had switched to Japanese, she hadn’t. She might’ve had a new car, but she wasn’t immune to aging. The hairspray didn’t keep her hair from thinning, the toenail polish didn’t outshine the blue varicose veins in her feet, and the rouge on her cheeks didn’t cover the mole on her chin that sprouted a lost hair that didn’t quite make it to her scalp.

Melvin had asked about part time after retirement, not because his exhausted body wanted to return and work but because Melba had told him he wasn’t interfering with her soaps and to find a way to get out of her house; management declined his request because of noticeable signs of mental decline.

“Oh, look Melvin, there’s Mr. Simpson, our former training and education supervisor.”

Gazing toward Simpson’s truck, Melvin asked, “Did he work here?”

“Yes, remember, he retired last year.”

“Don’t believe I knew him.”

“Sure, you did. He covered safety for your maintenance crew and then did that sexual harassment update after your HVAC technician made comments about that young lady’s breasts.”

Melvin muttered uh-huh.

When the cake and punch were served, the manager thanked Melvin for his service, said how his behavior had been a model, and how he wished him the best in the years to come, not knowing within a year Melvin would be a zombie with home heath until his wife had had enough, packed a bag, and loaded him into the Buick for a quick ride to the nursing home where he’d gaze out the window, talking only to the LPN who he thought was his mother who’d been planted years earlier after having become a zombie to Alzheimer’s.

At 12:30 sharp, Chubs paraded down the hall with the hacked-up cake on a rolling cart while Melvin said goodbyes to coworkers. None of them knew the plans management had set in motion to relocate the company to Mexico, where the CEOs would make even more profit. Their thirty-year free lease of the land was up, the agreement for discounted water and sewer from the city was up, and their free taxes had expired, and the mayor, the Chamber man, and the local king makers figured the company CEOs would cough up some money, since they were invested. Management, though, had coughed up enough in wages and benefits to suit them.

As the IT guy, I’d gotten wind of the changes from having read emails, updated my resume, and listed my house on the market before it crashed. My interviews were scheduled, and I had no intention of having a retirement ceremony.

editors note:

Get out! Get out of anything while you still can. ~ Tyler Malone

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