Friday, August 3, 2007

Office Friendships

I was thinking about a retired co-worker today and brought her name up while talking to a cubicle-mate. We both realized that since she retired, she has never once come to visit her old friends in the office, nor has she contacted anyone. Even the monthly dinner evenings that she always attended seem to have faded into memory, and aren't even organized anymore. The plain truth is, I miss her at times.
But not often. That is, I don't often sit and think "I wish R were here". It's a funny thing about work, you share the major part of each day, five days a week - you share your stories, your life, your kids' school pictures - but are you truly friends or just people in a stressful environment who take solace in shared experiences and affable chit-chat?

The younger employees, those in their early twenties fresh from college and without children, often spend a great deal of time together outside of work. They build friendships that seem rock solid - until one of them quits for a better job, or gets married and has a baby. Suddenly, their shared experiences are reduced to those of the office, and friends become just co-workers again.

Still, after spending five days a week for 20 years with someone, their sudden absence leaves a big hole in the fabric of your life.
The sad thing is that over time it becomes less noticeable, other bits of work and life and even other people are woven into its place. I think that if my retired friend called and wanted everyone to get together for a night out, just about everyone would gladly go. But the conversation would probably be about work - what is the same, what has changed, the latest gossip.

Perhaps she is right. Although you get to know a lot about a person over the years, the only thing you ever really had in common was work. Office friendships are a matter of being thrown together and finding those with whom you can communicate amenably. The friends I see outside of work for the most part, are people I knew before they and I worked together.

I am not sure. I prefer to think that yes, we were friends, but her life is busy and it's simply that she doesn't think to visit because she doesn't have the time or realize we miss her.

I prefer to think that, but I am not sure.

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