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Last week my friend and coworker, Joan, retired.  Over the past 24 years, Joan and I have spent a lot of time in close proximity to each other, with Joan our sales file room clerk and I the most esteemed salesman our company employs.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask me.

Joan is one of the most humble people I have met, unassuming, with the simple values of someone who has lived a quiet life.  She lives close to work, close enough to walk to work when she needed to.  While her husband was alive, he drove a small bus and often would take her to and from work.  A frugal saver, her clothing has always been a uniform of stretch pants and a button down collared smock, clean and pressed every day, her short hair military neat, certainly habits developed during her years in the Army.  She drove the same small car almost all of the twenty four years I have known her.  When her husband died a few years ago, she indulged a bit to purchase a new Toyota RAV4.. and she paid cash.  A visit to her small two bedroom ranch home, something I have done a few times with our friend Frank while we helped remodel her bathroom, revealed the same simple and neat lifestyle.

Joan is a strong woman.  Intelligent and inquisitive, yet happy to work the file room job for many years.

I could always count on Joan to bring me some calm on those days when work’s stress was getting the best of me.  A quick stroll to the file room found Joan, eager to share stories about one of our favorite topics — our animals, especially our cats, and our kids.  She always wanted to know what book or books I was reading, liked to chime in on conversations that always seemed to happen in the semi private atmosphere the file room provides.

She still loves to tell the story of the year, soon after Joan had extensive foot surgery, our friend Frank and I escorted Joan up to the front of the banquet hall at the company recognition dinner as she received an attendance award and bonus.  To this day, Joan calls us her male escorts.  When she says that, she lets out an embarrassed laugh and turns beet red, something that I adore about her.  Every chance I get, I try to get her laughing so hard that she turns red and gets choked up.  It seems to be my gift to accomplish that with a lot of people.

It was my honor to be invited to her retirement luncheon yesterday.  Our company limits the number of people who can be invited, so it’s a great deal to receive an invitation.  Her family was there, sharing the steak catered by the local Weber Grill restaurant, listening to the stories we shared about Joan.

Our friend, Jenn, stood up to share about how wonderful it is to watch Joan laugh, describing how Joan gets so amused she turns red and can barely breath.  Jenn shared about the afternoon breaks that we used to share as part of ‘Joan’s Gang’, how we used to get Joan laughing during those times.

I had to interject, seizing the opportunity to start Joan on one of her laughing fits.

“Remember the banana incident?”  Jenn slapped her forehead as Joan immediately started turning red, laughing so hard that she had take remove her glasses to wipe away the tears.  I didn’t go into details and didn’t need to.  The banana incident is exactly what any dirty minded individual would imagine it is.  I will leave the details to your imagination, as a matter of fact.  Let’s just say that Jenn and I had Joan laughing so hard that afternoon that the paramedics almost had to be called.. and we got a bit of an insight into the dirty details that sometimes lurk in a 70 year old simple woman’s mind!

Joan is retiring at the perfect time.  Our office is going paperless with most of the file job turning into a scanning job instead, that also going away soon enough.  In a few short weeks, our company is moving into a much larger building, no longer close enough for Joan to walk to work.  It was time.

Her replacement is some young chick who is obsessed with her appearance, wears hooker heels to work every day, and has zero personality.  I don’t go to the file room much any more, don’t hang out there when I do.  I am going to miss Joan.

I hugged her, complimented her family, and said goodbye as Joan took her last stroll out of the doors of our building.

It was nice to know her.  And it’s also nice to have a new taunt for our friend Jenn.

BANANA!  That’s all I have to say.