Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Last day at the job

It’s my last day at this job. Since this is the end of an era, I guess I have a lot of ground to cover.

First of all, I work for WRQ, Inc. It’s a software company that’s best known for Reflection, a line of terminal emulation products. I’ve worked here since June of 1996, when my job at Spry/Compuserve basically fell apart from under me. I started work here on the Macintosh version of Reflection, writing balloon help and other online help. In January of 1997, the Mac team was used as the basis for a Java team, and we started work on what became EnterView, a Java-based terminal emulation program. I was on the team for the first two releases – the second release just went out the door on Monday.

Why am I telling you this? Because if you search my journal archive, you’ll find no direct reference to where I work. I’ve always had a fear that if I offhandedly said something bad or top-secret in my journal about my job, that I’d show up for work the next day and get handed a pink slip. And I don’t really consider this job to be part of my identity or a part of me. I have no need to tell the world about what I do here or my office politics. When I leave this building, I leave behind my job. I never work on weekends. I never spend all evening talking about what I need to do at work. I try not to talk about my job when I’m at parties or other social functions. I work when I’m at work, and I spend my paycheck. As a human being, that’s how I think it should be. I could see why companies would want to brainwash their employees into thinking about their job 24 hours a day – it allegedly keeps them focused, makes them work harder. But my #1 priority is my fiction, and I’ve tried hard to make sure my technical writing does not contaminate it.

This hasn’t been a horrible place to work. It’s right on lake union, in two of the nicest buildings I’ve ever worked in. (Although the Musical Arts Center in Bloomington probably takes the cake.) I made good money, I got good benefits, and the company really took care of me. I got offices with doors, nice computers, free soft drinks, good dental insurance, garage parking, paid vacations, and lots of other stuff I never even had a chance to use. The people here are professional and treated me decently and I have no horror stories about the management or other coworkers, other than tiny pet peeves and boring meetings. No real complaints there.

This is the paragraph where I’m supposed to start the downslide, the one that starts with “But…” I can’t think of many problems with this job that weren’t my fault. Not that there’s any fault or blame, but I never felt like I fit in. I mostly work with people about ten years older than me who are interested in rock climbing and bicycling and saving the environment and doing Bob Vila stuff to their houses and going to little league games with their kids. If you know anything about me, that isn’t me. And I’m not saying that stuff is wrong, if that’s what you want to do. If you are a family person and interested in your community and everything else, that’s fine. But I’m not, and I’ve been afraid that if I didn’t conform to that, and think about my job 24 hours a day and make it the focal point of my life, that things would never work out here. And I was afraid that if I stayed here long enough, I’d wake up one day and have two kids, a minivan, and a Volvo stationwagon. So it’s not the job or the employer or anything like that. I think that most companies this size in Seattle have a similar demographic. And it required a drastic change for me to escape that. So here I am, packing up my shit and moving to New York.

My office is almost empty. It’s pretty new to me – I think I moved in this January. There’s an older building at 1500 Dexter that is very huge, very beautiful, with terrace decks overlooking the lake and a ten story tall atrium in the middle. I was over there until this recent move. My last office was on the tenth floor, and I could see the space needle. But the office pick situation got very screwed up this time, and now my office in the newer 1100 building is in the center of the floorplan, with no windows and no light except for the fluorescents. It’s a bummer, but since I’ve basically been hiding out and counting days since the move, it’s a good place to be. It’s not on an arterial hallway, and it’s rare that you see anybody walking past. It’s been a convenient location for being a short-timer.

When we moved in January, I hadn’t given notice, but I knew I was leaving. So I packed up almost all of my personal stuff and took it home, under the guise of streamlining my move. So my books, coffee mugs, Internet Bowl trophies, photos and everything else I accumulated over the last couple years are at home, waiting to get UPSed to New York. Actually, the trophies are already there. And last night, I brought everything home except my page of phone numbers. The place is now pretty bare.

It’s the end of a long era, and I feel that I should be saying more. The summer of 1996 seems like a hundred years ago. But, I’m excited to get out of here, pack up my shit and hit the road. I guess that’s all I’ve got to say about it. Maybe I’ll add more after I go home. For now, I’ve got to make some phone calls and get ready to leave.