An Old Comrade From Work

Oct 7, 2010

My longtime acquaintance Tom started at Airborne Express (a freight forwarding company) way back in 1983, a year before I did. Initially, we were part of the same programming group and did a few lunches together along with a couple of the other fellows. Always agreeable, and quick to see the humor in even grim situations, Tom is one of those people who never seems to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. Perhaps a bit too well-adjusted for the anal retentiveness of computer programming — some six months after I arrived, he opted to leave the IT Department and pursue a new career direction one floor up in International. Airborne not being a large company, I would on occasion bump into him and we’d inevitably share a laugh. (Eventually Tom would realize the error of his ways and return to IT.)

As the years passed, and that original group of young programmers grew smaller (and grayer), Tom and I began having semi-regular lunches once again. I think it was because we both liked having a fellow old-timer to share the latest company news with rather than one of those newly hired twenty-somethings who had no recollections of the good old days. (I still remember humorously scheduling him for our meals, using Microsoft Outlook and keeping track of whose turn it was to pay. Always his, for some strange reason.)

Our favorite lunch destination became a bar called T.S. McHughs (“The Irish Pub of Lower Queen Anne”) and when I got back in touch with him recently to catch up, it was only natural we’d meet there for old time’s sake. Dinner this time around.

It was the same routine it’s always been with us: I ordered a large bowl of the clam chowder, while Tom had one of their sandwiches with fries and a pickle, which I stole. Since he did not need to return to the office, he added a beer as we settled down to compare notes on how life has been treating us. In Tom’s case, there was some bad news: Group Health, a company where he’s been doing programming/consulting work for the past two years, is laying him off at the end of the month. Given the dearth of COBOL jobs here in Seattle and on the West Coast (COBOL being a programming language, the tools of our particular trade), he’s begun considering working back east. Maybe Chicago, or even Philadelphia. It’s obviously a stressful period for him, but he’s keeping his chin up, having been through this before and under equally bad circumstances. Like me, he’s been thinking of getting out of Seattle, so this could be the “kick in the rear” (his words) to properly motivate hime. I admire his attitude.

Afterwards, I found myself feeling a bit melancholy, which I at first attributed to Tom’s situation. But when I got back to the hotel, I realized it was something more than that. Those T.S. McHughs lunches during our Airborne Express years were very enjoyable affairs, our humor being on similar wavelengths. Tonight’s dinner, given the new directions our lives appear to be heading in, probably marks the end of our Irish Pub get togethers.

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