It’s a tradition at the WBJ that when someone leaves, they have to tell the editorial staff their “moment” — a memory that encapsulates their time at the paper. I had to give my moment today at my last staff meeting, which of course turned into several moments.
Here were just a few of my many many moments over the past 3 1/2 years as a reporter for the business weekly:
- About two years ago, before T. Mazz. left the paper when we still had what we called Testosterone Row (i.e. many of the men sat in one pod), I remember putting on a construction hat. I don’t know who started it, but slowly the reporters kept finding hats — a bowler hat, a two-foot high paper chef’s hat, a basketball hat — and putting them on and we all stood and looked at each other and laughed. It was quirky and silly and completely how we all related to each other. Later it evolved into Hat Fridays where I put on the chef’s hat that inevitably fell into my eyes cause it wasn’t fit for me (where it came from I can’t remember, I think from E. Kret) and I would do work as usual typing at my computer. It always elicited chuckles.
- Shortly after I took over the hospitality beat, I interviewed the general manager of the Willard Intercontinental on a weekday afternoon. We sat in Peacock Alley and drank tea, but he had to attend to some politicians so he kept getting up and leaving me and coming back and apologizing. Then he got up hurriedly, nearly panicked because Jimmy Carter was walking toward us flanked by James Baker and two Secret Service guys. Carter said hello and Baker asked me how I was doing. I was giddy with excitement, my face flushed and my heart pounding when I left the hotel.
- When I woke up to the fire in August 2006 and word got around the newsroom that I had lost most of my belongings, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection. Several reporters, my dear editor and my publisher called me on my cell phone. They all pitched in money that amounted to more $4,000; D. gave me his apartment for free for a month to stay (it turned into seven months discounted); J. knit me a scarf and brought me earrings; mama J. gave me leather gloves; H. and Ro bought me a whole new outfit — a skirt, top, sunglasses, earrings; J. offered for me to stay in his spare bedroom; and on and on and on. It gave a whole new meaning to work also being your family.
As I was recounting it in my head this morning, I remembered how we met at Biddy Mulligans the next day for an impromptu happy hour organized by Bzh. I walked up to the bar, and I saw John running toward me in a white button down shirt. He gave me a huge bear hug and said, “I’m so glad you’re OK.” John died of a heart attack less than five months later. I teared up thinking about his extreme concern for me and then — bam — we lost him.
Of course, none of this includes things like B. always keeping the budget open. It went like this, “Who has the budget open?” and then someone would say with a deep groan, “Hammer!” And A. running around on all fours pretending to be a dog yipping while John threw cheese-its into her mouth like catch. And the countless times J. had me in tears with his jokes over instant messenger. And L. throwing paper clips at me and giving me my daily songs. And lunches at Roadside, RH&B and Brooklyn Bagel and happy hours at Cafe Asia, Piola and Continental.
I already miss several people I don’t see day-to-day anymore, including John, and now I’ll miss more who have become my family through life experiences like the fire, losing John, babies and vacations. What gives me solace is the absolute certainty that this is the right move for me in every possible way. And that those friendships won’t go away, even if they do change. But change, as I’ve learned, is inevitable. I’d rather be the one making it happen than having it happen out of my control.