Today is the first day of my last week at work. I file suspicious activity reports for a large bank. Some days I feel like Bartleby the Scrivener, writing away with my only window formerly facing a brick wall. Other days, I feel like one of those dogged and exhausted gumshoes, rooting out crime in a world overshadowed by it, in one of those shows I never watch. But, today, as I begin to work my last Monday where I’ve spent the past six years of Mondays, I feel, well, not sure what.
I’ve known this day was coming for a solid six weeks. I’ve known since early last year that it may be on the horizon. And even before that, there was talk. The job — a contract position — was supposed to last only six months. But they liked me, and I liked them, and the work was there, and so it went. Six years later, it is, ironically, the longest job I’ve had continuously. For awhile I was considering taking a permanent position at the bank and was in talks but those things move slow. Before anything was finalized, my unit (I still call it “my”) was moved to a less expensive city. And so my job is one of many casualties of this still soft economy. I’ve seen lots of other soldiers fall. Some packed up and left the city. I was invited to the less expensive city to keep doing my job, but I guess I have expensive taste.
I had a dream early this morning that I called my boss. He was on a phone meeting, and he couldn’t hear anything but soft static on my end. I did him the favor of hanging up. I then picked up the phone and overhead my sister (who doesn’t work in the field) talking about filing suspicious activity reports in Ireland, and my partner (who also doesn’t do this work) on filing in Austria, and then strangers in small Middle Eastern countries, each conversation drifting off, each one a snippet I was listening in on. I suspect I’ve been doing this work long enough it will continue to occupy some mind space even once I’m not in the day to day. Kind of like dreaming in a foreign language when you know you’ve arrived.
It may take a bit to get out of the habit of being there every day. In these six years, I’ve had an office on 11, 2, 29, back to 11, 7, and now 38. Some of them had the Bartleby brick wall across from my window (except mine was the back wall of the Stock Exchange). Others, like 38 now, have open views to all of downtown Manhattan. From here I’ve watched the Freedom Tower rise from what was Ground Zero’s dirt crater. Several times a week I catch the sun set, back-lighting Lady Liberty. To exercise my eyes, I leave my computer and watch boats bobbing in the East River. My eyes cannot scan at once all the tops of the smaller skyscrapers that pattern a hodgepodge grid extending out from each side of Wall Street at the edge of my building’s footprint. On the other side of the building, facing west, I pass Trinity Church every day on my two-block walk to the subway that takes me to and from my home in Brooklyn. I usually am not walking too fast to nod to the grave of Alexander Hamilton, a fellow I feel a particular kinship to, and who watched our weekly meetings for years from his portrait on the conference room wall. As workplaces usually do, this one has become home to me.
I don’t know where I will work next or where my work will take me. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing something else of the world. For now, I’m taking a break. And I’m going to work very hard at not thinking about suspicious activity at all. I think some seeds, a shovel, and newly composted soil will help.
And, as for this week, the beginning of the end, I’m keeping very busy, training others, finishing my work, doing all the little administrative stuff that comes with a job’s end. And saying good-bye. You know, the hardest part.
p.s. After I wrote this this morning, I got an email from someone in the bank who I only recognized by name asking if I used to work on 2. Suspicious of unexpected queries, I asked the reason. This person, it turns out, heard I was leaving the bank and wanted to find out if I was the person she remembered, and had gotten to know from occasional conversations struck up in the elevator bank. It was, indeed, me. We talked like old friends. This morning, in writing my post, I did not mention the friends I’ve made at work. Being a contract worker, I leave without a parting monetary gift. That comes with the territory of “temporary” work, and is something we know going into it. It’s balanced with other benefits, some tangible and others not. I do not mind accepting the friendships as my separation package. They are among the best things I have.