Sunday, August 15, 2010

Farewell Speech

No matter what industry or field you work in, you'll be familiar with the typical farewell morning tea. It's an interesting little ritual; a tradition that has caused me bemusement, amusement and weight-gain during my career so far. So, this got me thinking…

This story was published today in Issue 93 of
Shift Miner Magazine.

Brad smiled politely and stood with his hands behind his back while Jim, the General Manger, spoke glowingly of Brad's achievements, his wonderful example, and the hole he would leave in the organisation when he left.

Inside, Brad was laughing; and he struggled to keep the laughing on the inside. It was all so beautifully ridiculous: Jim had been hunting Brad out of the mine for months. Their arguments were the stuff of legend. They had disagreed – often publicly – on almost everything: safety, production, costs. Despite all this, this little ceremony of Brad's farewell morning tea was a time of fond farewells, mutual admiration and back-slapping.

It was a bit like funerals, thought Brad. If you went to every funeral in the country for a whole year, you'd think that no bad people ever died. In life, people are hated, vilified, bashed, even killed; and yet, there's never a bad word said at a funeral. Maybe, sometimes, the deceased was "rough around the edges", "misunderstood", "unconventional", or a "larakin"; but few eulogies ever described someone as a completely useless, lazy prick who would rob his own mother if he could, and won't our lives all be better now that we're rid of him. Maybe at the wake – but never at the funeral.

Farewell speeches at work were like eulogies, thought Brad, except for a few added benefits. First: you're not dead – which is always a good thing – and you get to witness the whole farce. Better yet, the person forced to stand in front of anyone interested in you leaving – or at least interested in the free cakes – and talk about how wonderful you are in your boss. And Brad's boss was the one who despised him more than anyone. Watching Jim humiliate himself like this was pure joy.

"Now Brad and I haven't seen eye to eye on every issue," said Jim. Brad didn't snort, though someone up the back did, which cause a ripple of nervous laughter through the group. They had to stay and work for Jim; they hadn't found other jobs, yet.

Jim continued, his face a little redder. "But that doesn't mean I didn't respect a man like Bad who has the integrity and the passion to stand for what he truly believes in."

Wow, thought Brad, that man should got into politics. He's wasted running a coal mine. The coal mine's wasted with him running it, in any case.

Brad looked around the group while Jim rambled on. He had few friends left here:he'd had few to start with. Then those he'd liked, respected and enjoyed working with had moved on to greener pastures.

For many, greener pastures didn't mean bigger numbers on payslips, but more satisfying roles, or less stress, or living near a university for the kids to attend.

Now, it was Brad's turn. Greener pastures for him meant going back to the Hunter Valley, were he'd come from. He'd only come up here because his wife had wanted more money. The divorce had been quick – surgical – and now there was nothing left to keep him up here in this hot, dry, hell, working for that thick-headed egomaniac.

"Brad?" It was Jim.

Brad realised he'd been day-dreaming, and it was time for his response speech.

"Sorry," he said. "I was lost in thought."

And suddenly, he didn't have the strength for all this crap. So he smiled, took a piece of carrot cake, and walked away.


Laurita said...

I really enjoyed this. I liked how you compared the "good bye and good luck" speaches at work to eulogies. It's very true. I'm also glad Brad didn't fall into the BS trap.

John Wiswell said...

I really liked the observation about funerals, especially how it feels like it's not necessarily a bad thing that there's this universal thread where best to worst get no evil words spoken about them.

Was there any reason you didn't drop this into #fridayflash? Of course you could slide it in this week. There's always another Friday coming around.

Bernard S. Jansen said...

Thanks Laurita and John for your comments.

@Mr Wiswell: I agree with you "not necessarily a bad thing" comment. I think these situations are complicated, and no two are the same.

I've never #fridayflashed-ed. I think I tried to find out how it worked once; and failed. I'll try again.