As I mentioned in a post this weekend, my old department at work has been sold off and will be shut down in February. I’m pretty bummed about that; there are some good people there that I hope can find another job within the organization.
This was the department I was hired into, back when I knew absolutely nada about the business. But they gave me a chance and over all, it was very good for me.
There was a certain period there, between 2002 and maybe 2005, which I remember very fondly. There was big growth in the department and an influx of new, fun people. We had quite a cast of characters. I mentioned in one of my office pranks posts about how when Jenn and Kristy came to us, they brought an air of fun and activity to a previously staid bunch.
It was this department expansion that brought me Pam. They put her in a cube right behind mine. It was kind of an open area, so there was no wall between our spaces. Every morning, I’d come stumbling in; my mind elsewhere, my body craving a Diet Coke. And every day, she’d say, “Good morning!!!” and give me her big beaming smile. She had this Minnie Mouse voice that sounded like a squeeze toy.
I’d usually mumble a quick “Mrnin” and go on about my business. One morning when she greeted me, I was too wrapped up in my own world to answer. Then I heard, “I SAID, GOOD MORNINNNNNG…”
She sounded like Satan on 78-speed. There was no beaming smile this time, only wrath. So the next morning when I came in, I made sure she knew I’d learned my lesson and enthusiastically said, “Good morning, Sunshine!” The beaming smile returned and all was right with the world again.
This immediately became our new morning routine and running patter. I’d always fuss if she was going to be off for the day, telling her, “But a day without Pam is like a day without Sunshine!”
She’d gesture wildly and say, “Then I’d better give you some extra rays today.”
From then on, we were bound together. She was my Work Wife and I was her Work Husband. We didn’t exactly throw those terms around, but they applied.
Pam and I at a department event being interviewed by a fake microphone.
Before she came to the department, I’d see her on the elevator sometimes. I used to wonder not only who she was, but what she was. She looked so exotic, with her enormous brown eyes, long black hair and honey-colored skin. I thought she might be middle eastern… Egyptian or something.
I never asked, though I continued to wonder. Then one day we were at lunch with another person we worked with and she got right to the point.
“So, what are you, anyway?”
I almost spit my Diet Coke. Nothing like that East Baltimore directness.
Turns out she was bi-racial… half black, half white Canadian, but all sista.
We all hung out a lot as a group, whether it was going to lunch, or out to happy hour. But if I went anywhere, it was always with Pam. It was like we were the figurative mother and father. It got to be so if there was something going and she wasn’t at my side, it felt like something was all wrong. Like once when I went to our company Christmas party and she wasn’t there, all night long I kept turning to say something to her, forgetting that she was home with her family.
Oh yeah, her family… Pam was married and had a baby girl at home before I even met her. So there was never anything remotely romantic about our relationship. We were friends from the start and that was that. But I know there were others in the department that thought we were getting’ busy. Never happened.
In fact, I used to joke that compared to her husband, I get all the downside of being married to her, like hearing her bitch about stuff, but without the “benefits.” Then she’d say, “He ain’t gettin’ any “benefits” either…”
Pam was the first one I wanted to tell, when something big happened. I’d take vacation pictures based on what I thought Pam might like to see. And I always brought her home a refrigerator magnet from where ever I was. When our department needed hosts for an awards meeting, Pam and I presented together. We killed, of course.
Back then, I was exploring the world of Match.com. That could be a series of posts in itself, but suffice to say, nothing was happening at work, so I thought I’d try a more efficient method of dating. But I hadn’t really dated since I’d been married and was woefully out of practice. Enter “The Sisterhood.”
The Sisterhood was Pam and our friend, Jennifer. (Not the Jenn of the prior posts.) All of my dating decisions went through them: who I was choosing, where we’d go, what we’d talk about, what I’d wear, when to call back… everything. It was nice not to have to work it all out in the echo-chamber of my own head.
This is the Sisterhood, posing with Chris Rock, who we just happen to see standing outside his hotel, while we were on our way to lunch. He was in town filming his movie “Head of State.”
Everyone makes friends at work, but most of the time it’s the kind of friendship that only happens there. Once your out of the building, it’s like there is a line drawn. And once someone leaves the job, chances are you may keep in touch for a short time, but pretty soon, you never hear from them again.
Pam at happy hour, with Kristy.
Pam was rare because I know she actually cared. There was a time when I had a lot of doctor’s appointments that I’d go to early, then go straight to work. But if I didn’t tell Pam ahead of time, she would call my house to see where the hell I was. And I wouldn’t know about it until I got home that night and played the message. It would always crack me up.
“Bluz… are you there? Bluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuzzzzzz? Pick up! Are you there? Are you OK?”
Then she’d add the unnecessary part: “It’s me, Pam…”
As if anyone else could hit that particular register, without an assist from helium.
You may think that this is the part where I tell the part of the story where some terrible tragedy occurs.
Not in this story. The only “tragedy” was when Pam decided to pack it in and return home to be there for when her daughter was to start school. I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do. She was like my left arm and being without her left me swimming the corporate seas alone, (and always in a circle). The only thing that made her departure tolerable was that a month later, I joined a new department, so I had a whole new experience to start.
That was in 2006. We’ve kept in touch over the years. She’s had a second daughter since, but we still talk on the phone and get together maybe 2-3 times a year, at least. Sometimes we meet at a local diner or restaurant. But more often, we meet at my local sports bar on a Sunday, when I’m there for the Steelers game, and she wants to see her Cowboys. (I know, I know… the Cowboys… it’s her one character flaw.)
Cowboy Sunshine, watching her ‘Boys last November.
In fact, we just did this past weekend, which is what put me in mind to write about her. I was at the bar with my brother, watching the Steelers game and around the third quarter I got a call from Pam, who wanted to get out of the house.
So she came out for the Cowboys game, which was on at 4:00. Man that was a long day at the bar for me: 12:30 to 8:30. Still, I was having so much fun I could have stayed longer. It was like I was getting my Sunshine fix while I could.
Before she left the company, we had a big going away party for her, and of course we did a scrapbook, as is our custom. I did a couple of pages worth; some of what you’ve already read was included.
It was hard to say goodbye. But luckily, I really didn’t have to. And what I said in her scrapbook then stands true today: “She’s been my friend, my Work Wife, my co-host, my conscience, and will always be, my Sunshine."