[#AtoZChallenge] A is for Afterward.

On Thursday night, people who had worked at my previous Mr. Company all gathered together in a bar for a happy hour.  The last happy hour.

I say the last one because we were let go in waves.  The first group of people was out the door in the middle of August.  There was a farewell happy hour.   The next group, the largest group, was mine, in the middle of December.  We had another happy hour.  There was a tiny group let go in the middle of January, so another gathering.

Last night was the day before the Boca Raton office closed its doors-  the last dozen or so people in the office had been busily clearing away the remains of twenty years of business.   Over the last few days, I’ve seen pictures posted on Facebook of an empty data center, rows of empty cubicles, and the lead developer wearing shorts.  These are all equally traumatic and heart-breaking.

I’ve talked about my own departure from the company in previous posts, and I mused back in December that the grieving process would probably hit me later on.  It has.  Up until now, I was still interacting with many of these people on a professional level, but those meetings have ceased.

I wanted very much to go back to the office one last time, to see the empty spaces for myself, and to walk the old familiar hallways.  I realized halfway through the happy hour that this was pointless, though.  Right now, it’s just an empty building.   The thing that made it home to me for so many years was the people, and they were all around me.

When we got together for this last farewell happy hour, it was really a wake.  A very Irish wake, because quite a few people had quite a few drinks.  I highly recommend the Red Sangria; it was delicious.  There was reminiscing, and hugging, and more than a few splashes of emotion.  People who had left us in years past turned up, because this was more than a company to many of us.   For a lot of us, it was a family.

I started with Mr. Company when I was 29 years old.  My entire life for the last fifteen years has been shaped by working with this amazing bunch of people.  Thanks to the Internet, I won’t lose touch with many of them, but I’m sure gonna miss working with them.

What’s your favorite mixed drink?

Administrative note: This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Each Monday through Saturday in the month of April, I will write a new post- one for each letter of the alphabet. If you would like to participate, it’s never too late to start. Just look over the guidelines at http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/.

Jerry’s Fork Drawer

Jerry left Mr. Company all the way back in January.

We all knew the end was coming for our business unit,  but he found another opportunity he couldn’t pass up, so he beat the rush.  Once he was gone, I got to nab his seat.   Finally.

Our department is set up in two rows of cubicles, divided by a walkway.    The back wall is enclosed, and all the cubicles face forward.  This means that nobody can sneak up on you in my department.   Traditionally, seniority means a seat further back in the row.

When I came back to the US in late 2014, I was not given the second seat from the back.  It should have been mine by right of seniority, but Jerry had been sitting there for a while and the powers that be didn’t want to do a multi-person move.  I wound up a few seats ahead, with several newer people between me and my proper seat.  Over the course of that first year, people moved to other departments and other rows, but Jerry kept his seat until he left at the start of the year.

I moved in after a suitable mourning period of at least ten or fifteen minutes.   While I was getting set up, I discovered that he had left an enduring gift.  It was plasticware.  Lots and lots of plasticware.

In our main lunch area, the company provides plastic utensils in a little fork-knife-spoon combo, contained in a cellophane bag with a tiny crappy napkin.   For the past year or so, Jerry had been eating his lunches at his desk.  He used the spoons for his little chocolate puddings.

kozyshackindulgentpuddingA quick aside about those puddings:  Kozy Shack briefly made these little dark chocolate “Indulgent” puddings which were surprisingly low in fat.  They were also fricking delicious.  And super addictive.  Jerry wasn’t the only one who ate these; I bought them every time I went grocery shopping.   And then one day, they stopped appearing at the grocery store.   Soon, I couldn’t even find the lame flavors of the “Indulgent” line.     Jerry and I were both completely verklempt!  These little chocolate puddings were that delicious.  After a few weeks of no restocking, I reached out to the Kozy Shack company via their Facebook page, and they confirmed that yes, indeed, the Indulgent line had been discontinued.  No explanation was given.   I still weep for their unforgotten flavor.

But I digress.  Wildly.

Jerry had been taking the little fork-knife-spoon packets from the atrium, and he would use the spoon for his pudding.   The fork and the knife went into his top desk drawer for later usage, in theory.   Or maybe he just wanted to see how many he could collect.  By the time I took over that desk, it was really quite a lot of plasticware.

I decided right then that I would try to use as many of them as I could before the end.  Most of the forks were used for my own lunches over the next few months, and the spoons were always a scarcity.   The knives, though, they just kept going on and on.

This blog post was nearly called “Every day, I use a knife.”  That title has been in my little list of bloggery reminders for months.   It’s true, though-  every day I do use at least one knife.  I use it to stir things into my tea or water.   I use it to mix up instant oatmeal.    Sometimes I even use them to cut things.

My last day is a month from tomorrow, and I’ve gotten Jerry’s Fork Drawer down to just a little bit less than what you see in this cup.  Even using one or two a day as creatively as possible, I really don’t think I’m going to make it.

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What’s the most pointless challenge you’ve ever set for yourself?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

Around the office, Tokyo Edition

Longtime readers of my blog know that I don’t really talk about my employment here.  However, my primary reason for being in Japan was to work in the Tokyo office for five weeks.  As a result, I spent a lot of time around this view:

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Our office is in the Otemachi financial district.  There are lots of very, very tall buildings here.

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Any series of posts about being in Japan should touch on the older style of floor-toilets.  This is what they look like.  In train stations, there are markings on the stall doors to tell you whether you have a floor toilet or a Western-style toilet.  I managed to go through most of my five weeks in Japan without having to use one of these logistically crazy floor squatters.   I was doing fine, until I got to a train station on the outskirts of Osaka.   When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.

The problem with floor toilets for a Westerner like me, is that there’s no easy way to balance over the thing unless you take one leg entirely out of your jeans.  Even with partial disrobing, I had to rest a tiny part of my weight on the lip of the raised portion.  I’m just not built that way.  Don’t even get me started about how much taking my shoes off in a public restroom squicks me out.

I can tick the floor-squat toilet experience off my bucket list now.  I don’t ever need to do that again.

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This pop-up beer garden showed up near the office, but I never got a chance to stop in.  I also didn’t ever see people inside until my very last week.  Sapporo is pretty tasty though, so I’m sure that woulda been tasty good fun.

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One of the buildings near the office has a traditional smoker’s aquarium.  These never fail to make me laugh.  The ventilation system is top notch, though-  I walked past this thing almost every day, and I never smelled smoke from inside.

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Inside the office, there’s a Shinto altar to wish for good business, complete with an English explanation.  I thought this was fascinating.

 

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Also in the office:  Complimentary hot and cold running water, green tea, barley tea, and (terrible) coffee.   I had a cup of the hot barley tea nearly every day-  I had never been exposed to barley tea before this trip, and I really enjoyed it.

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On days that I was in the office during normal business hours, we usually ate lunch in the cafeteria at the basement level.  The value is excellent-  I usually got a tremendous amount of food for no more than about five Yen.   For example, this meat dish, with rice, vegetable, miso soup, and a beverage was 4.90 yen.

 

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Similarly this plate with what I thought was three chicken nugget type things.  Imagine my surprise when the third one turned out to be fish instead of chicken!

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I can’t really remember what this one was, but it seems to be a basic noodle-meat-veggie dish.   The little pasta salad at the bottom was tasty.

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This one was a sort of pho-like noodle bowl, with a rice piece that had a seaweed wrap.

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Of all the cafeteria dishes I had, this one was my absolute favorite-  I love eggs like crazy, and the other parts were delicious, including the rice hidden beneath the top layer.  This is the only dish that I completely finished-  most of the others had some leftover food when I was done.  I noticed that my colleagues from the Tokyo office did not have this problem-  they all ate significantly faster than me, and they all cleared their plates entirely.  I suspect there’s a cultural thing where not clearing your plate is seen as wasting food, but I have to stop eating when I’m full or I feel absolutely terrible.

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Most of my time in the office was evening shifts, which meant that my food breaks had to use restaurants in the immediate vicinity.    Near the office, I found a delicious Thai resturant, for some great Pad Thai.

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There’s also any number of Italian restaurants.   This one in the Otemachi Financial Center has pasta over a stunningly delicious meat sauce.

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That same food court area contains a Gyoza (dumpling) shop named New York New York.  They were one of the few restaurants I visited which had an English menu, even if the translation might need a little bit of work.  What the hell is hairy crab meat?!

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Gyoza are damned tasty, don’t you think?

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My colleague liked this flavor packet quite a lot.  I tried it on my rice, and was disturbed to learn that it tasted like miso and seaweed, not like chicken.

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New York New York had a fun little photo opportunity.  Yup, the Statue of Liberty has chopsticks holding a Gyoza.  Why not?

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This is actually ramen noodles.   Everything I thought I knew about ramen was challenged in Japan, because the ramen there is amazing and flavorful and nothing whatsoever like the freeze-dried instant noodles I was familiar with.  This dish tasted fantastic.

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Sometimes, after a few days of unfamiliar (and often unidentifiable) food, it’s nice to just have something familiar.    Most of the places I ate alone involved a lot of pointing to get the desired food.  Subway had helpful visual choices, so it was more or less the same assembly-line approach to food that I was used to.

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This is a tuna-fish sub with a cookie and soft-drink.  This was almost identical to the meal I periodically ate in German Subway restaurants for the last few years.  Subway really doesn’t change that much from continent to continent.

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That’s enough food for right now, though.   Let’s take a little detour to meet this adorable pup, a little dog named Gran.

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Gran keeps watch over the Granpark building, which is where we had to go once during my trip for a meeting.

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The highlight of taking this meeting at Granpark was this pretty spectacular view from the eleventh floor.  Once more, you can see Tokyo Tower in the distance.  I promise I’ll get back to that in another post.

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This was another fun moment-  when we were on our way out, the building was having some sort of earthquake drill.  There’s a school in the vicinity, and all the children had been dressed in these little yellow hoods.  I’m not positive of their function, but if I had to guess, I would say that the hoods are to provide padding and protection in case an earthquake generates falling masonry.

Either that, or the children are all being trained to stand in for garden gnomes in their off time.

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Have you ever eaten at a Subway restaurant away from your home country?  Did you find it to be similar or different to your expectations?

Away from keyboard…

I’m sorry that I’ve been away again. I have a bunch of posts from my short trip to Minneapolis that I need to finish up.

There’s also this: 

Yup, I’m in Japan!  I’ve been here for two weeks, and I have another three to go. I’m here for work, but that still gives me the weekends to explore.  The picture above was taken at Osaka Castle.

Once I have some down time to sort my photos, I’ll talk a lot about what I’ve seen while I’m here.   Be seeing you!

Have you ever been to Japan? (Charlotte, you skip this question.) How about Minneapolis?

A rare post about my job.

I don’t usually talk about my job online for a bunch of different reasons.  For one thing, I deal with confidential data.  For another, I think that “what do you do?” is the least interesting question anyone can ask me when they first meet me.  For the two or three of you who don’t actually know what I do, I’m a Systems Administrator for a hosting company.  When most people ask me what I do for a living, I usually just say, “computers.”

Despite the low frequency of my work-related posts, my job is an incredibly large part of my life.  I’ve worked at Mr. Company1 for almost thirteen years, starting in the summer of 2002.  I was 29 when I started working for the company.  When I started working there, my cell phone was new and large and awkward, and I still had a pager for emergencies.  (Remember pagers?)

The company sent me to Hong Kong for two weeks in 2008.  This was my first trip outside of the United States other than Canada and the Bahamas.  My employment there is the very reason that I lived in Germany for three years, working for our European office in Germany.  Working for Mr. Company is what allowed me to travel all over Europe for the last few years.

In a week’s time, however, the company won’t exist.  Not in its current form, anyway.  We’re being merged into our sister company, and we’re taking their name.  My health benefits are switching companies.  We’ll have a new CEO.   I’ll be given a new e-mail address.

On the first of April, the name of my employer will cease to exist in North America.  That’s a hell of a thing.

I’m excited though.  So far, the changes coming down from on high have been good ones- they’ve separated our different offices into separate product lines, which means that our Utah office gets my least favorite platform, while I still get to play with my favorite products every day.   My department has also gone from a 24/7 schedule to a 24/5 schedule, with nobody in the office on Saturday or Sunday.

Since my return from Germany, my responsibilities and workload at my job have increased a great deal.  The company keeps me very, very busy, and that’s going to continue.  Some time in the next few months, the newly merged and re-named Mr. Company will be sending me to Tokyo for about a month.  In theory, I’ll go in May or June-  the schedule isn’t fixed yet, so it could be later.   Alas, it will likely be far too late to see the famous cherry blossoms.  It will be my first trip to Japan.  It will also be my first trip to another country for the new-and-improved Mr. Company, and I think that’s going to be pretty nifty.

In just five more days, it will be time to say goodbye to the company that I’ve always known, and hello to more or less the same company in a newer, shinier form.  More or less.

Mr. Company is dead.  Long live Mr. Company.


1I always refer to my current employer as Mr. Company online. Always.