Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bagman and Butler get a letter

The atmosphere in the Butler and Bagman Studio is an odd combination of sadness, resentment, and boredom. Butler is working on an absolutely meaningless photograph of a weird pseudo-classic yuppy subdivision in Mount Pleasant where real estate developers have made millions creating a kind of upscale Disneyworld called I'on.

Meanwhile, Bagman is throwing darts at a photograph of Mark that he has hung on the wall.

It is so quiet that they both can clearly hear the rustle of a letter dropping through the mail slot. Butler walks over and picks it up.

BUTLER: "Hey! It's from Mark!"

BAGMAN: "Big freaking deal."

BUTLER: "Should I read it to you?"

BAGMAN: "Suit yourself."

Another dart flies through the air and imbeds itself in Mark's bald head with a sound that resembles "Thwip."

BUTLER (Reading): "Dear Bagman and Butler. I suppose you guys must be mad at me by now for ignoring you and missing the last two shootouts. I could give you the usual excuses of being too busy. It would be accurate. The grandchildren have been unusually time-consuming and work has been crazy, trying to tie up loose ends prior to my retirement in two weeks..."

BAGMAN: "Bull! He's a lame duck at work! How can he say he's busy when everything has been transferred to his successor already and all he does is stare at the bloody wall!"

BUTLER (Ignoring Bagman and continuing to read): "But the deeper truth is..."

BAGMAN: "Deeper truth my butt! He's lazier than I am!" Thwip twhip thwip.

BUTLER (Starting the sentence over): "But the deeper truth is that I can't figure out what to say. Or think. I know I should be dancing on the table about retiring. At least everybody seems to think so. Congratulations and expressions of envy abound. Yet I think there is also some kind of deeper transition going on. Maybe I have more ego than I think.

BAGMAN: "Duh."

BUTLER (Nods in agreement, then continues): "I have been a (finger quotes) Executive Director for so long. Now I look in my closet and see dress shirts, slacks, ties and suits and they are just hanging there with nobody in them. I go to work and there are no messages on my phone, no letters in my inbox. For the next 13 days, work will swirl around me. I feel a little bit like a ghost. It is rather nice to have no stress but it feels weird.

“Over the weekend, I took Conner shopping and realized the experience was different. Before, I was pretending to be a big shot executive who was pretending to be humble, carrying my grandson through Walmart. Now I don’t seem to be pretending to be anything. I’m just a grandfather carrying his grandson through Walmart. It feels rather good. But it feels weird.

Anyhow, I will be back in a while, Bagman and Butler. I hope you guys are well and I’ll see you soon.”

BUTLER (Folding up the letter and putting it back in the envelope): “Well, at least he’s alive.”

BAGMAN: “Humph.  At  least he realizes his humble act isn't cutting it any more.”

BUTLER:  "You should talk!"

BUTLER:  "Hey!  That hurt!"  


  1. You had me at "Thwip"! ;-) I think you should write a book about men retiring--I bet a lot of people feel the same way but have no idea how to deal with their feelings. Hey--aside--the albino rhinoceros GOT the job (I start Monday)!

  2. Interesting thoughts, and I almost feel badly that men do not have the "Maiden, Mother Crone" cycle - or something similar. It seems like it is king of the hill for men, your whole lives, and once you are done with that, you just are conquered, and gfo away, a dottering shadow of your former glory...

  3. Retirement certainly is a major change in life. More attention might be paid to it, since most of what a person does every day and what they've been for years on end comes to a halt. It's not just a long vacation.
    But you'll adjust. I know you will, and then you will be back for Zebra Thursdays! Which I myself have sadly neglected...

  4. This does not just happen with men. I was an important person in my job as Intake Nurse before I retired. Now one one is ringing my phone. I am not scooting my chair back and forth to cover the other phone that is ringing or staying late to notify all the patients, who had lab work done that day what the doctor wants them to do next. Thank goodness

  5. I like the "stop pretending" part. Being a grandfather carrying his grandson through Walmart sounds certainly good enough, and your family offers an abundance of purpose for you - I wonder what those people who have no family (or at least no-one nearby) do when they retire? In about 20 years, I shall find out! (I predict I will turn into the crazy cat lady every neighbourhood must have)

  6. Many people, more so men, feel just as you do. Are they becoming a shadow of themselves? Will they lose themselves completely in gray purposeless days? This is like any milestone in life (getting married, having children, losing a loved one) in that it all works itself out in time to a better place if you love yourself. Just be patient with can open your eyes now, the roller coaster ride has passed that last big hill.

  7. I may be repeating what has already been said, I make a point of not reading other's comments when I've got something to say.... I want to say it.
    When I gave my notice to Smyser, Kaplan & Veselka in late 2002, for about 60 seconds it felt good. Then I started interviewing to replace myself with two workers. one of the reasons it was a relief for 60 seconds is because I worked like a dog - and NOW finally they saw that two people were needed. Right away instead of feeling valued, I felt - well - degraded. this, of course, makes no sense - but the emotion of giving up who we ARE sets everything sideways. And the job we do does defines us, our view of ourselves and the way we see other's value in us. I think men are even more likely to have difficulty seeing themselves differently when there is not a self defining job - paycheck coming in. It took me nearly 3 years to be okay with the new self. I learned to make jelly - I started a blog - I know lame, very lame, but they have helped. I still think you have much more going for you than I do. You live where you speak the language for one, you have credentials which are understood and valued if you want to - volunteer, or lecture, or write - a book for example.
    Allow yourself 6 weeks to morn the loss of the old Mark then get you ass in gear and find a new definition - there are many to choose from.