Does it not strike you as odd that the expression ‘He’d be late for his own funeral’ is used as a criticism of somebody’s timekeeping? It mean, it’s hardly fair to criticise the stiff in question, since presumably by that stage all matters relating to punctuality will be out of their own hands and down to Dignity or the Co-op (other funeral directors are available).
I mention this only because, on past form, it wouldn’t be a question of me being late for my own funeral so much as not turning up for it at all. (Disclaimer: I have no current plans to attend any funeral, least of all my own.)
That’s because I have always had an aversion to what are commonly described as ‘leaving dos’: whether my own or others.
I think it all started when I didn’t go to my last school Speech Day. My reasoning was that since my schooldays were officially over there wasn’t really any point sitting through some old buffer’s exhortatory oration, without even the prospect of having a prize to collect at the end of it.
I never won any prizes.
And – here’s the clincher – they could hardly expel me, could they? What neophyte early seventies student could pass up such a risk-free opportunity to épate la bourgeoisie?
Neatly bookending my working life, I also turned down the offer of a farewell lunch or dinner at my last job, in Abu Dhabi. Not that I hadn’t been happy there – I was – and I’m sure that my contribution had been appreciated. I just couldn’t see the point.
So this never happened:
My old school is still functioning and so are my final employers. They have both managed to get on perfectly well without me (and I without them). The fact that I am no longer there has proved utterly irrelevant to both – as it always does. So I really don’t see what difference it makes.
Nonetheless, I have a recurring dream that involves me going to my own leaving do. Unless I manage to wake myself up to get out of it, these dreams usually end up in toe-curling embarrassment on my part, largely as a result of being completely ignored by my soon-to-be former colleagues.
A psychologist would probably tell me that, having typically not turned up to such occasions, I ‘lack closure’. This may well be true. But at least I don’t also lack the 150 quid or however much I’d have had to part with for the privilege of being told this.
On the other hand, given their typical ending, perhaps these dreams derive from a deep-seated wish to be liked, to the extent that the risk of discovering that I’m not liked outweighs anything else. After all, who’d want to see this on the goodbye cake when they’re about to move on to a new job?
No, that would be the misanthropy that lies at the very core of my being.
As a general rule, I cared as little for others’ leaving dos as I did for my own. Chances were that either I didn’t really know the leaver or, if I did, probably didn’t like them – certainly not enough to buy them a drink, at any rate. So this didn’t happen very often either.
Not that there weren’t plenty of opportunities. ‘The City’ has a notoriously high staff turnover ratio and pretty much every Friday would see somebody playing host, in a cordoned-off corner of the nearest wine bar, to a right piss-up. Under the combined influence of the grape and pending escape, this would not uncommonly culminate in a few home truths being addressed to the bosses, doubtless in somewhat industrial language.
This is a big no-no, because bosses can change jobs too, and I know of quite a few people who gave their head of research or marketing a proper, if rather slurred, earful at their own leaving do, only for said boss to turn up a few months later at their new employers, thereby reinstating the former working relationship.
And these people never forget.
One legendary City leaving do happened back in the late eighties, when one morning
Deutsche Bank a leading German finanial institution abruptly and without warning shut down its recently acquired London stockbrokerage, making everyone redundant on the spot, as it were.
As is standard practice when this happens, identity and access cards are cancelled and deactivated and the person or persons involved are escorted from the building by security staff. Take my word for it.
Unfortunately, although this leading German financial institution kicked out all its employees in the approved manner, it somehow forgot to cancel their company credit cards. This had the expensive and unforeseen consequence that a significant proportion of said bits of plastic were, within minutes of opening time, put behind the bars of neighbouring hostelries and, to coin a phrase, given a right good kicking by angry blokes in pinstripes who had suddenly found themselves with time on their hands and a considerable thirst.
And not just for revenge.