notes from a man who spends too much time playing video games

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This is where you stick random tidbits of information about yourself.

A Few Points Shy of the High Score
Wednesday, April 14, 2004  
So my last day. (Part one of two.)

It began at 9 AM at Beth Israel Hospital on First Avenue with me having a sonogram done on my balls. No kidding. With my insurance only hours away from expiring, my urologist had scheduled me for a check-up at the last minute. Wearing only my dress socks and a threadbare hospital gown, I climbed up onto the examining table. I opened my gown and waited for the technician. (Honestly, at this point I've been nude so many times in front of doctors and nurses that it's become routine.) "MI DIOS!" the technician screamed at the sight of my bottomless self (nothing but dress socks, baby!).

She handed me a towel and asked me to "discretely" cover everything except my testicles. She lowered the lights, then proceeded to pour an ice cold gel onto my testicles. A few minutes later, she fired up her sonogram machine, and began rubbing the probe up, down, left, and right on my balls.

As the probe slowly orbited my testicles, I thought, This is certainly a fitting way to start my last day as a pornographer….

After the exam, I got dressed, then took the 6 train uptown to the office.

The plan was to leave by 3:30 in the afternoon. Felt like an appropriate time to make my exit.

A bitter March wind was blowing along Park Avenue, pressing against the windows of my office. I spent the remainder of the morning drinking coffee and carefully erasing every last trace of myself from the place. Scoured my computer's harddrive, clicking and dragging everything even remotely personal into the trash. I sank my arms into desk drawers up to the elbows, making sure I didn't leave anything behind.

I filled four boxes—those computer paper boxes—with my belongings. Books, letters, papers, bills—I threw it all into the boxes, figuring I'd have plenty of time to sort it out later once I got everything to Brooklyn.

All week long I'd been bracing myself for a gesture of gratitude of some sort from the company. Maybe some people would gather in my office. Maybe there would be a cake of some kind. A gift certificate maybe. At least a card, wishing me well.

Around noon, I stopped bracing myself. With hope dwindling, I began the process of making my peace with the fact that there would be no final act of gratitude. If anything, most of my co-workers seemed vaguely hostile towards me. And why shouldn't they be? I was leaving. I was getting out. I was going over the wall. Monday morning, they'd be back here, trying to put together the July issue, while I sat at home and drank coffee in my underwear and read The Post….

Dino suddenly appeared in my doorway, envelope in hand. "Scott, we're all going to miss you around here," he said. Dino is Mr. Traverson's older, and somewhat dimmer witted, brother. His most memorable moment at the magazine had been the failed hair transplant he'd endured in 1999. (We all had to pretend that his hair had magically grown back overnight, then had fallen out again a few weeks later.) He runs the company Accounting Department. He handed me the envelope and said, "Here's your final paycheck." Then Dino leaned across my desk, his mouth close to my ear, positioning himself to tell me something secretive and important. "Since the pay period technically ends not today but on Monday the 15th," he whispered, "we had to dock you the extra day. Sorry about that, but that's the way it goes."

He grabbed my hand, shook it firmly, wished me well one last time, then walked out the door.

I peered inside the envelope. You motherhumpers, I thought, looking at the check. After working here for seven years, you can't fucking float me one day? One goddamn day?

This felt like a kick in the ass of sorts. I really should have known better than to expect any generousity whatsoever from a place run by a multi-millionaire who clips coupons. (Mr. Traverson had been spotted in the Dunkin Donuts across the street arguing with the manager over the validity of a 2-for-1 Coolatta coupon.)

If anything, the short shrift on the paycheck only served to steel my resolve. There was no turning back now, no more second guessing. It was over. My time here was up. The compromised check would only make leaving easier.

I boxed up the rest of my things. I made arrangements with Mr. Traverson's secretary to have a car service pick me up downstairs at 3:30.

I said goodbye to Mr. Traverson first. Lately he's started wearing his eyeglasses on a gold chain around his neck, like Al Pacino in Godfather III, and before shaking my hand, he unhooked his glasses from behind his ears and let them dangle from the chain. The goodbye was, not surprisingly, entirely impersonal. Mr. Traverson knew plenty about me—like the time I'd shit myself at the office, and the fact that I'd been seeing an analyst—but at the same time he'd known nothing at all about me. In all the years I'd worked here, he always seemed startled to see me walking the halls. And he always seemed irritated by my presence. Even now, he appeared to be bothered by my wanting to say goodbye, as if whatever was happening on his computer screen—the Instant Message tone chimed a few times while I was standing there—was of a much greater importance. "Good luck to you," he said, pumping my hand.

After I'd finished with Traverson, I went up and down the halls, going office to office. I hugged people, just dove right in and wrapped my arms around them, whether they wanted to be hugged or not. Some of the ladies in Accounting kissed me, and wished me well. "You're a good person," Margarite said. Then she said it again. "YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON."

I grabbed the old German photo editor, but she went lifeless in my arms. Clearly she didn't want any part of my goodbye. I really didn't give a damn what she wanted. This was about what I needed to do, about how I needed to leave this place. I wanted to say goodbye to her in this way, so that's how I said goodbye to her, by hugging her old, limp body.

I shook Piffty's hand, which was surprisingly small and weak and damp. I gave Siohban a hug and a kiss. "Thank God you're leaving," she said. "At least for a few weeks we'll be able to blame everything on you." Siohban—bitter to the end, as expected.

At 3:25 Jeffrey Duane (the mailroom attendant) wheeled his handtruck into my office and said, "It's time." He loaded all four of my boxes onto the handtruck, then made his way towards the lobby.

My office stripped bare, my computer screen blank, I sat down at my desk one final time. My old chair felt so goddamn comfortable to me, so perfectly safe. I felt like a pilot saying goodbye to his plane, or a bus driver saying goodbye to his bus. I traced my fingertips along the edge of the bare desktop, the place where I'd eaten a thousand sandwiches. This is the place where I sat and conducted business for the past seven years. This place. This was the place that saved me from doom (I was on the cusp of leaving New York when I got this job), and now I was leaving it behind, now I was going to take my chances on my own again.

I left my unread copy of Who Moved My Cheese? Why? I don't know. It just seemed kind of a weird thing to leave behind. I placed it squarely in the center of my desk, then switched off the lights, quietly closed the door.

I unhooked my office keys from my keychain, dropped them off with Mr. Traverson's secretary. "Your car should be here any minute," she said. As Jeffrey Duane and I waited in the lobby for the elevator, I said goodbye to Maria, the girl at the front desk. Maria and I had exchanged hellos and goodbyes for the past three years, but we were still basically complete strangers. "This is for you," I said, pulling a card from my coat pocket. "For you, and your baby."

Maria was six months pregnant, and in recent weeks had transformed from a goofy girl from Brooklyn into a sad and beautiful mother-to-be. She taken on the vulnerability and strength that mothers seem to have. A few weeks earlier she'd shown me a sonogram of her baby, excitedly pointing out the shape of the head, the feet, the hands. I felt grateful that she was willing to share this with me, grateful to see her so excited about her future—right there was a picture of it, albeit a crude, blurry one.

There were many of factors involved in me finally putting in my notice at Bonjour Publishing, and Maria, and the way she was bravely bringing a life into the world (there was never any mention of a father), was one of them. Absolutely.

Inside the card was a check for $50—not much, but it was something. It felt like an appropriate final gesture, a fitting last action at the office. I wanted to leave this place on good terms, with people feeling good about me and me feeling good about them. Maria thanked me for the card, held it in her hands, seemed suddenly shy, not wanting to open the card in my presence.

The elevator doors opened. Jeffrey Duane and I, along with my four boxes, got on board. Maria wished me well and waved. The doors closed. And we began our descent to the street....

5:09 PM

Monday, April 05, 2004  
I took the F train to the 24-hour Kinkos on Court Street in Brooklyn this morning. I discovered that Kinkos is where the unemployed gather, so I guess it was only a matter of time before I found my way there. The air had a sweaty desperation about it, everyone looking both wild-eyed and damned. A rabbity girl was frantic to get her resume faxed. A red-faced man struggled with a jammed copy machine. The wild-eyed and the damned, I'm telling you.

I'm having business cards printed, because one day I hope to actually do business again.

I spent the afternoon in my apartment trying to get my printer to work. It's one of those cheapie Dell machines that supposedly functions as a printer/copier/scanner/fax machine. So far, I can't get it to do any of those things. I'm about ready to throw the fucking thing out the window.

Still hard to believe that I left. That I quit. I keep waiting for the alarm clock next to my bed to go off, to wake me from this strange little dream I seem to be having….

5:15 PM

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