Monday, July 07, 2014

Hard Word

What does it mean to say goodbye? I am thinking of all those times I have heard people say, "Let's not say goodbye, let's just say..." And they insert some foreign phrase or polite substitute that doesn't carry the psychic weight of that one compound word: Goodbye. It has come to be such a final thing. I don't want to say goodbye to anyone, just in case we happen to cross paths again. Especially awkward are those moments when you part from someone and then you end up going in the same direction for another block or two, and you have to make that choice: Should I continue to bid them farewell, or will that initial parting be sufficient until I meet them again in some officially recognized capacity?
I am awful at partings, which is why this haunts me so. I either make a great show of leaving, or try and get out undetected. But since I'm such a fan of summing things up, I often feel compelled to get that last word in, just keeping in mind that it almost certainly should not be "goodbye." What? Like we're never going to see each other again? Is that what you mean?
No, although I wish there was a way that we could impart that meaning in some civilized fashion without swinging too far across on the rude pendulum. I'm thinking specifically of telemarketers and customer service people. Faceless personages who will almost certainly cease to be of any use to me, in spite their insistence at the beginning of the call that I we address one another as if we should be on a first name basis. This could even extend to the waiter at that restaurant you're never going back to: "Hi, I'm John and I'll be your waiter this evening." When I finish my meal, I want to tell John that no matter how much I enjoyed his description of the specials and the extra fork he brought me that this is Goodbye. We are done. It's not out of spite or any sort of class distinction, I'm through. I'm gone. Goodbye.
Which may point out a flaw in our over-friendly consumer culture. All those name tags and obsequious introductions mean we have to sever those connections at some point. I'm sorry, Chad, but even though you gave me superb attention the whole time I was in your aisle at Best Buy, I have to move on with my life. Maybe I'm just overly sensitive because my father was the type of guy who never said goodbye to anyone. Even when he split from my mother, he kept calling her and chatting about this and that. He would not let go. Letting go has never been one of my best things, but I have learned how to leave a place. Even thought I do tend to find my way back again, with an eye out for John or Chad in case they're still working there, I like the idea that I can be finished. As terrifying as it may be, I look forward to those opportunities to say goodbye. I promise to be happy to see you when we meet again. Now stop following me.

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