When I started my career of doom, in the industrial wasteland of county Dublin, it was a cold, dark period of my life. It was November – always the grimmest, most miserable time of the year.
I was living with a certifiable lunatic named Flatenemy in a sterile apartment, where he took the liberty of searching through my underwear drawer – just to frighten me I suspect. As he had the lease on the flat and I was completely new in town I didn’t want to shriek abuse at him for his freakishly intrusive behaviour. If I was evicted, I would have nowhere to go.
I was fresh back in Ireland after fifteen years in Amsterdam, and I was seriously questioning the wisdom of that move. Had I lost the run of myself? Why would I give up an entire life to come back to this November bleakness in the most depressingly located workplace in the history of workplaces? Coupled with the fact that I had the misery of being trained in by a pair of venomous bullies – named Split End (thanks to her straw-like, scarecrow hair) and Mouth Breather (a potato-faced beauty who strategically positioned a photograph of her children, on the filing cabinet to block her sight of me).
I was not happy.
There was a guy sitting beside me who was far more pleasant though. A guy in his late fifties whose disillusion with work was palpable. He had a holiday house in Spain and he used to vocally express his desire to be made redundant, so that he and his wife could retire to the sun. He was a gruff person, whose typing was ear-splittingly loud. He helped me if I had any question about health insurance or accessing wage-slips etc. Not that it was his job to do that – despite our proximity we were in completely separate departments. He would answer any query with a pleasant ‘For f*ck sake, I don’t understand why they [meaning Mouth Breather and Split End] expect you to be able to figure all this out on your own?’ He was not a fan of theirs either, but as he was a veteran of over twenty years in the company, he didn’t care less about them or their attitudes. He had his own pals with whom he’d go to lunch.
I appreciated the fact that he was so cynical and realistic about his work – he did his job; he never worked a second of overtime and he was helpful to me.
Last October, one Friday I said goodbye to him, and wished him a pleasant weekend. He was meant to be travelling abroad on a business trip to Spain the next Monday. It turns out he was diagnosed with cancer over that weekend.
He died last night. At home. Surrounded by his wife and children.
I didn’t know him well – we sat next to each other for two years but he largely kept to himself and his own workmates.
But he was helpful to me and would always engage in conversation if I made the effort. Which is always good. It’s a real shame, he never got to spend his retirement by the beach