I just found out last night that a man I used to work with nearly 18 years ago passed away last year. John was a big, loud, boisterous guy whose daily uniform consisted of a short sleeve button down shirt and some Loony Toons tie. He always had a story to tell, even if you didn’t have the time to hear it, nor the desire, since he never recollected which stories he’d already shared or with whom. He had two little girls and was always proud to show off their pictures. I remember he wanted to meet my dad and shake his hand when I told him that my dad had me watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail before letting me go off to college.
It was my first “real” job after college and I had eagerly accepted the opportunity to live in Baltimore, not far from where I had spent the first 16 years of my life. Hearing the news about his passing brought a rush of memories to my mind from those nearly four years of my life. During that time, the attacks on 9/11 occurred during the day we were all supposed to move our cubicles into the newly renovated part of our building. All of us dragged out the move, one box at a time, as we each snuck out to the greasy restaurant next door to watch the only television in the building. Our managers kept telling us to get back to work and be “billable,” since we were contracted for a specific project. Of course, their warnings fell on deaf, distracted ears. But, none of us had any idea how or how much the world would be forever changed that day. Just over a year later, another crazy, scary event occurred. In October 2002, there was a sniper going around the DC/Maryland area shooting people at random in parking lots and gas stations. I can remember pumping gas with my heart thumping with fear in my chest. As I squeezed the handle, I was purposely dancing around so I would be a harder-to-hit moving target, and laughed nervously as I met eyes with everyone else at the gas station thinking and doing the same thing.
Those three and a half years were formative ones, almost like an extension of college. Most of my coworkers had also just graduated from college, and this was their first job away from home. The few, older coworkers we had ended up being reluctant parents to us all, no doubt shaking their heads and thanking their stars they were past this stage of life. We all grew up while making a ton of dumb, embarrassing decisions in the process. Well, I sure made a ton of them anyways. I don’t often get to see those Baltimore peeps, nor do I keep in touch with many of them, but that season in our lives links us. No explanation is needed. While I haven’t thought about John in several years, I mourn his loss. While I wouldn’t go back and relive those years, those people and that time hold a special place in my heart. A great quote from Steve Martin’s character in Father of the Bride said this, “Well, that’s the thing about life, is the surprises, the little things that sneak up on you and grab hold of you.”