You might as well live.

During the summer months of my college years, I worked at a place that helped companies fight paying unemployment benefits to former employees. My job as a claims representative involved things like calling the manager of Denny’s to find out why Todd Greenhorn was no longer employed. Many of the calls were easily coded as Poor Performance/No Misconduct. BUT, sometimes they were a little more hairy. “He peed on the floor in the break room and then told me to go to hell before walking off the job in the middle of his shift.” “I caught her having sex in the bathroom. She had already received a verbal warning and a written warning for having sex in the bathroom.”

Although it paid fairly well, I knew that the job wasn’t a good fit for me.

During my first week there, one of the managers called me into her office.

Manager: So, how are you liking it here so far?

Me (feeling cocky and wondering if she was going to promote me during my very first week): Things are going great!

Manager: Have you had time to read the dress code?

Me (not so sure I knew there was a dress code): I’m sorry. I didn’t realize there was a dress code.

Manager: I have a copy right here of the form you signed stating that you read the company handbook. The dress code is in that handbook, and it clearly says that you are required to wear socks or nylons every day. No bare ankles.

Me (wearing khaki pants and flats with no socks or nylons): Oh. I’m really sorry.

Manager: Be sure you’re wearing socks or nylons tomorrow.

I walked back to my desk feeling deflated and silly. Luckily, a co-worker named Joan had heard the whole thing.

Joan: I heard the whole thing.

Me: I feel pretty stupid.

Joan: Don’t. It’s bullshit. Let’s go get Chinese food.

That was how my friendship with Joan started, and from that day forward I had lunch with her every single day during the summer months. When I went back to school we corresponded with letters, and when I came home for the summer we would make a not-so-great job bearable by turning everything into a joke in the cafeteria. She introduced me to Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley. She has a son my age who liked the same music as me, so we would occasionally exchange mix tapes. On the night before my wedding, she decorated the site of our rehearsal dinner with crazy fun gourds that were filled with flowers and candles.

She could take a dozen bandannas and turn them into amazing curtains. She could find a piece of junk at a garage sale and transform it into a treasure. She once spilled a huge pot of chili in her car on Chili Cook-Off Day. As I sat at my desk getting ready to sort through my calls, she walked up covered in sauce and said, “I just dumped my fucking chili.” We spent the next thirty minutes sopping up chili in her car and laughing until we could barely speak. (When I told her that I brought in white chicken chili, she asked what I named it. She later removed the index card that said “White Chicken Chili” and replaced it with one on which she had written “Mr. Magic’s Albino Chili”.)

She once called to tell me that I had to get a copy of Le Nozze di Figaro because she just heard the most beautiful song and she needed me to hear it, too.

A few years back, she called me out of the blue to talk politics.

Joan: Well, I just heard from a few friends that if Obama is elected, he’s going to make me kill myself.

Me: You’re right. How will you handle that?

Joan: I have no idea. I’ll think about it next week. Right now I need to worry about losing 80 pounds for the Halloween party I’m going to on Saturday.

Me: Are you dressing up?

Joan: I’m going as Suze Orman. How much do you want to bet that nobody understands why I’m wearing a suit and talking about money?

I last spoke to Joan on May 15th. She sent an e-mail to let me know that her mom had died, that they were having coffee when it happened, and that she was now crying every hour instead of every ten minutes. I expressed my condolences and asked if we could have sushi when we returned from our vacation. We both got busy and we never scheduled that sushi dinner, and this afternoon I picked up a message from Joan’s son. As soon as I heard his voice on the answering machine, I knew. When I returned his call, he verified the terrible news. It was her heart.

There is a new member of the Vicious Circle today. I feel fully confident that Joan is kicking back with Dorothy Parker (Her favorite short story was Big Blonde.), and it’s only a matter of time before Robert Benchley has some quirky bandanna curtains.

Joan will be missed. In fact, she already is. ‘ ‘ ‘text/javascript’>

30 thoughts on “You might as well live.”

  1. Oh oh oh – I’m so sorry! What great stories you made with her, thank you for sharing them. She sounds both fun and inspiring.

  2. It is amazing how we can lose someone who was such a part of our life. Who made us a better person. I am so sorry for friend’s death and your grief. While hard, I do love knowing this absolutely f*****g fabulous person was here in a time of self-discovery and introspection. It would be cool if we all had just one of these people who made a mark in our lives.

    Selfishly, I do hope I am one of these people in other’s lives.

  3. Usually words do no good when someone is gone, but you have managed to capture a spirit in this post, and I feel like Joan can inspire us all to have a bit more fun in life. She sounds like she was an absolute blast. I am so, so sorry for your loss.

  4. Oh holy crap! You made me feel like I knew her for ages and now I miss her as if she were a part of my life. That’s not only a tribute to her life, but what she meant to you, and that’s what living is really about.

  5. So sorry for the loss of your dear friend. What a wonderful relationship to have spanning a couple decades.

  6. I’m so sorry. You know, I was laughing from the get-go on this post and as I continued to read, I started to get a feeling as though there might be a sad ending. And yes, there was, but the story you told, about your experiences with her, made me feel like a wanted her as my friend too. I hope you send this to her family – if they’re anything like her, they’ll love this. Hugs.

  7. So so sorry for your loss. Sounds like a wonderful friend (what better advice than, it’s bullshit, let’s get Chinese food could there ever be)! Thank you for sharing her with us.

  8. My deepest sympathy to you. You have spoken to me several times about her. I love friends with a good sense of humor.

    I loved the chili story, it gave me a good laugh.

  9. Joan was a wonderful person. I didn’t know her, but your description tells me all I need to know about what a valuable asset she was to this planet.

    I am grateful that you are able to take a few minutes to share this woman with the rest of us — she’s at least partly responsible for who you grew up to be. The gift of Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley cannot be overestimated.

    May your heart be filled with more warm memories and her essence stay with you for all your days. Some people go through life never having a Joan. That you did and you recognize it says much about you and about her.

  10. My Joan is named Judy.

    She taught me to not be so shy. She saved me when I thought all was lost after a broken engagement. She taught me being broken makes you stronger, as does working for a crappy boss.

    I can’t imagine losing her. I am so sorry for your loss.

  11. Oh, I’m so sorry. That completely sucks. But just wait until she fills you in on the dress code where she is now! Although she sounds like the type who would totally rock a big white robe. Socks optional.

  12. Part of my job is planning funerals. I just got off an hour-long phone call with my brother’s wife, giving her some structure and resources for planning her dad’s memorial. We talked a bit about why funerals/memorials are important and some specific things they can do. I said to Jenny that the best funerals were ones where people left feeling a little sad, but also lucky to have known the deceased. And that, in fact, if the stories were good enough, it was possible for people who hadn’t known the deceased (well, or at all) to feel those same bittersweet good feelings.
    and then you go and post this. As if you were illustrating the very best of that point.
    What a wonderful tribute. What a good friend. I am so sorry.

  13. Oh I am so very sorry for your loss. I have a friend like that I met at work 15 years ago. She’s retired now as she’s considerably older than me. But it’s almost like she’s my age. I feel your pain. So so very sorry!

  14. The chili story was awesome, as was your friend, and as are you. I’m so incredibly sorry for your loss.

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