The Last Day

I’d worked for a big construction company for about four years, and I’d asked several times to go to work in the office. I didn’t necessarily mind being a foreman but I was restless. During our last meeting, the owner of the company finally told me “Look, project managers, we hire them, we fire them, but we’ve got twenty-three foremen and twenty -five jobs. The foremen are the backbone of the company, and we need you where you are.”  According to him, I was going to stay put. I thought ‘No one’s getting in the way of my career’ so it got towards the end of a job and I gave them notice.

I’d been working for the same construction manager on a number of jobs, Don, we were actually pretty good friends. In fact he realized that this last job had no money in it, so there was going to be no bonus for either him or me. Sometimes you work your ass off trying to dig a job out, but if you don’t have the percentage at the end, you don’t get anything. To make that up to me, he took me, my wife, and his wife out to dinner. Pretty fancy dinner, pretty fancy restaurant. As we were sitting there, somebody at one of the next tables was having a birthday and all the serving staff came over, stood around the table, and sang Happy Birthday. From my point of view, it was just excruciatingly embarrassing, and I guess it must have been for Don as well, because he leaned over to his wife and said “if you ever do that to me, we’re divorced”

It got to be the last day of the last job I was going to do for the company and my carpenter friends Bobby and Tommy said “Come on Bill, let us take you out to lunch.” We got in Tommy’s 442 convertible, Bob was wearing his Carhartts, and we drove up to Nineteenth Avenue where we thought there was a pizza place. Bobby, “Damnit, I forgot my wallet, we’ve gotta go back”.

“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon. I’ve got twenty bucks, we’ve only got half an hour for lunch, let’s just go.”

Bobby, ”No, that wouldn’t be right. We’re taking you, let’s just go back and get my wallet.”

So Tommy turned the car around and we headed back to the job. I should have known something was up, but I got back to the job, and everybody who was working on the job - this is maybe thirty guys - were assembled in one room. Tommy walked in, Bobby walked in, and I just sort of walked in behind them, I thought he was just going to run in and get his wallet, but he didn’t. I walk into the room and everybody turned and looked at me. A young woman in a slinky green dress  comes over and says “Hiiiii…” She’s got a boom box, she turns it on to some slinky music, starts writhing around unbuttoning her dress. All the men are yelling, eating pizza and drinking Coke. She’s wiggling around, I’ll tell you what, if I could have magically touched my nose and gone back to Kansas, I would have done it right then.

No Don. I know he set the whole thing up. It’s just the way his imagination works. We get to the end of it, she gets her clothes back on, everybody’s full of pizza, away they go. I go out to the trailer and call Don, “Well, I guess we’re divorced”.

But that isn’t the end of it. Being an entrepreneur, she gave me her business card; ‘so-and-so exotic dancer’. Without thinking about it, I just put it in my shirt pocket with all the receipts and notes, and scraps of paper and other crap that I kept in there. About a week later, I got home and my wife had a funny look on her face, she produced the card and says “What’s this?”

I said “You remember that French restaurant where Don and his wife took us and they sang Happy Birthday? Don said ‘If you ever do that to me , we’re divorced…’ the restaurant was nothing compared to what I put up with, so I guess Don and I really are divorced.”