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October 05, 2001: Don't let the door hit you

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I turned in all my things today.

I drove down to corporate and handed over the computer and the phone and the American Express corporate card, and I signed a paper saying I was not knowingly leaving the company with any proprietary materials. I paused only briefly before signing, as I never did get around to changing my name in the Big Fish's records, and so what I signed really isn't my legal name anymore. I didn't mention it aloud though. There seemed no point and I have a feeling it would only have confused them anyway.

I had to do an exit interview. I sat in a tiny office with a woman across the desk as she typed in what I told her. She wanted to know the reasons why I was leaving the Big Fish; what could they have done differently to make me want to stay.

So I told her that I was leaving because I wanted out of consulting, and had wanted out for a very long time. I told her that I would have been happy to transfer to another department (although I didn't mention that it wasn't any great loyalty that prompted that desire, but instead a preference to not have to deal with the changes in insurance and benefits and money), but the Big Fish doesn't like it if you aren't willing to be full-time at one of their corporate sites, even though I would have been working in a perfectly adequate satellite office much closer to home.

Then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that if this is to mean anything to anyone it must be constructive, and I told her my increasing unhappiness with the attitude of my fellow Big Fishian consultants, and- with a notable few exceptions - the management, the structure of the quarterly bonus, and how consultants are monetarily penalized for ever trying to have a life. And through it all she did not look the slightest bit surprised by what I was telling her. I wondered how many other of my fellow Little Fishians had sat in that or similar offices expressing the same frustrations and were met with the same polite indifference. I've held out a lot longer than most, I know. A great number of those who were assimilated with me have fled to other departments, or to other companies entirely.

I am not sure how I expected to feel when this was all done - I just know that it wasn't this. Perhaps I should be feeling as light and free as I did last week when the job offer came, but that's not the case. There is relief that nearly all the pesky details of my graceful exit are now completed, but there is also nervousness, creeping around in the darkest corners of my head. I've crossed the last bridge now. There is no going back, even if I wanted to. Prior to turning in all the paraphernalia of a consultant I could simply have gone back to my manager with a large amount of butt-kissing and made that two-week notice email quietly disappear, but now it's too late. If for some completely obscure reason the new place withdraws their offer, I am completely and totally screwed. Call it the barest hint of family legacy, if you must - this uncertain dance with the worst case what-if's. But I am too rational for this. I am firmly shoving those pesky little dithers as far away as I can.

While down there, waiting for the woman I was to meet with to turn everything in, I lurked in one of the break rooms. Several people came in with cheerful hello's, and one - the type of man who looked as if he probably had the same attitude I've grown to despise in my fellow Big Fishians - asked me in his rather pompous voice if I was an employee there.

Only for one more week, I told him. Seven days and counting. One more week and then never, ever again.

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