Thursday, 6 December 2012

Karma or synchronicity? Making a parting easy

I find it hard to disagree with people without falling out with them. It’s a major character flaw and a career littered with two redundancies and one outright sacking bears witness to what it has cost me.

So it’s wonderful that this week I’ve left a company without bitterness. This is more a tribute to my ex-colleagues than to me, so it’s in their honour and to thank them that I write this piece now.

The high point was the day before yesterday which included a meal in an Italian restaurant in London’s West End, near the office. The food was outstanding and the service hilarious: the waiter managed to drop cutlery on my phone, pour the wrong wine in my glass and bring too few menus to the table (perhaps he was fine counting up to five or six, but there were seven of us which was a challenge).

That reminds me of a moment in a DIY store the other day. With £16.47 to pay, the man in front of me handed over a twenty pound note to the young woman on the till. Then he said ‘hang on, I can help with the change’, and gave her another £1.50.

I knew this was going to be a problem. She’d already rung up the £20.

‘So,’ she said dubiously, ‘how much should I give you?’

‘Well,’ he said, ‘five pounds three pence.’ There was an implicit ‘of course’ there but he left it unvoiced. And then he added, a little too late, ‘I mean – fifty-five pounds three pence.’

She giggled. ‘I rely completely on the till,’ she revealed, which I don’t imagine was news to anyone.

People go on and on about teaching the multiplication tables in schools. Forget it, I reply. Let’s get simple subtraction covered first.

Yesterday was my final day in the office. Lots of friendly farewells and promises to stay in touch, which this time I actually think, and certainly hope, most of us meant.

But one colleague had a disappointment. He’d wanted to present me with a book, but despite being promised it for that day, it hadn’t shown up.

I told him I already had a book so it wasn’t a problem. Besides, I appreciated the gesture even if the postal service had let him – us – down.

Although my bosses had made it clear I could leave early, I felt the least I could do to repay their kindness was work to leave things in reasonable order. So it wasn’t until 5:00 that I headed for the door.

I’d been that way only half an hour earlier and the entrance hall had been empty. But this time, lying on the mat, was an unmistakeable Amazon package.

In passing, let me say that Britain is in the grips of another of its periodic scandals, this time over multinationals that fail to pay tax, by dint of registering their activities abroad. There have been calls for boycotts. One I have no trouble following: there are so many alternatives to Starbucks that it costs me nothing to refuse to buy their coffee.

But the other is Amazon. How can I boycott Amazon? Where else do I go? Am I to leave my Kindle idle? Am I to stop renting films from LoveFilm? It’s just too much.

Which perhaps explains why Starbucks has given in before the boycott can bite, offering to pay £10 million in corporation tax – a derisory amount but a lot better than before. Amazon, secure in its monopoly position, has offered nothing yet.

I was delighted to see the package and dashed back upstairs with it. I handed it to my soon to be ex-colleague who made a little ceremony of handing it back so I could open it. It contained The Collected Dorothy Parker, an entirely appropriate gift: we had frequently enjoyed exchanging some of her best quotes.

Great gift that made for an excellent exit
Now I don’t really believe in karma. Synchronicity, on the other hand, was certainly at work: I found the Amazon packet because I left a little later than I might have. Was it a reward for trying to do a conscientious job? I doubt it. But it meant that a departure without unpleasantness finally took place on a particularly high note.

Now I'm enjoying a few days off to prepare for what I hope will be the exciting challenges of a new job on Monday. 
The great Dorothy herself did that often enough, and as she made clear, it wasn't all about the money:

Salary is no object: I want only enough to keep body and soul apart.

Sounds like a good plan. And what better way to separate soul and body than by raising my glass to some warm-hearted former colleagues who made our parting so easy? Goodbye to all of you, and best wishes for the future.

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