When to Retire

16 Jun

Willfred Mont expresses concern for the future and looks for a chance to “opt out”…

Willfred –

From what I’ve learned in nearly 60 years of thankless labor and tedious repetition is that it’s best to let your company decide whether you should retire or quit.

I have been fortunate enough to be selected for “retirement” by two separate companies. The first, Templeton Box and Glove, made several moves, including the hiring of several people related to the supervisors, to make my position extraneous and thus, easily eliminated.

I fought them every step of the way, using my years of work experience and H.R. loopholes to keep my position. I also fought them the old-fashioned way, turning my staplers and No. 2 pencils into a makeshift weapon and fashioning chainmail out of discarded paperclips.

My last week at Templeton was quite the experience. Besides the skirmishes with mystified supervisors (who seemed ill-prepared to handle a man armed with a stapler and dressed in paperclip-mail), there were also long battles with H.R. representatives, who seemed stymied when presented with large, randomly chosen paragraphs from the 485-page employee manual.

It was all for naught. Shortly after the security guards were summoned, I was forced to declare a truce. If I had had the foresight to swing by the supply closet before cloistering myself in the crawlspace, I would have had enough staples to hold them off for at least another 8 hours.

Still, there were no hard feelings. They threw a retirement party in my honor, according to the photos they mailed me. I was also served with a 500-foot restraining order and must clear any office supply purchase with the local sheriff’s office.

The other retirement went much easier. I arrived as usual at 8 am to find a retirement party in full swing. When I inquired who it was for, a cheerily overweight coworker informed me that “It’s for you, ya old coot!” As he laughed in amusement, I punched him right in the throat.

Lucky for him, I had not yet had my morning coffee, which was usually sprinkled heavily with much-needed cane sugar and PCP. With a full cup, I might have severed his head.

Two hours later, I was back in my Oldsmobile, being waved goodbye to by a set of burly security guards and a bleeding CEO.

So in my estimation: let the retirement time find you. It always has for me.


Clifton L. Tanager

24 Responses to “When to Retire”

  1. jammer5 June 16, 2010 at 7:07 am #

    John Kenneth Galbraith, in one of his books, had this to say: Companies should hire Human resources, brick them in their office and forget about them. I have found this to be a truism when applied to the real world. Happily, I am retired, so bricking is no longer a constant thought anymore.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 16, 2010 at 7:27 am #

      Jammer5 –

      That’s about the best thing I’ve ever heard. HR employees always seem to feel the company would be served best with a constant stream of disciplinary paperwork and memos tacked to every cubicle and unattended piece of corkboard in the building.

      I hope you’re enjoying your retirement, free to come and go as you please and harass whomever you want, free from petty reprisal.

      Great to see you again, Jammer5.

      • jammer5 June 16, 2010 at 8:33 am #

        Retirement does have its benefits. For instance, instead of harassing people, we’re now called “just a bit senile.” Instead of perverts, we’re now dirty old men, a moniker I’ve striven to employ on many occasions.

  2. elizabeth3hersh June 16, 2010 at 9:39 am #

    Clifton, I have been up all night and can’t muster much to say other than I love this blog. Listening to you wax eloquent always makes my day. It’s somewhat comparable to watching a great film on TMC and imagining life without PCs, DVRs, formspring, Tumblr and Twitter, and almost like that sigh of relief when dusk hits on Shabbat and Orthodox Jews kick off their work shoes, light some candles and tuck into some cholent and challah. Come to think of it, it’s a lot like kosher sex. The point being that you have this uncanny ability to transport your readers to another, more genteel time. A time of Aaron Copeland, Tommy Dorsey and Irwin Shaw. I’m off to bed. Glad to see you’re ‘still kickin’ (as one of my psychiatric patients would always answer when I would inquire into his health).

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 17, 2010 at 6:43 pm #

      Elizabeth –

      Thank you very much for the kind words. I like imagining life without all these distractions as well, although it’s easier for me what with having lived in a time where the only real interaction with the outside world was the occasional yard sale or mixup on the party line.

      We always say things were simpler then, but those with real hindsight would point out that an education that usually ended just past sixth grade would definitely make an entire generation “simpler.”

      Thank you for the comment and visit, Elizabeth.

  3. superdupermommy June 16, 2010 at 6:29 pm #

    Rofl! Ha! 🙂 🙂 😉

    My husband Jack is a bear too if he doesn’t have his morning coffee. But while he might call someone a “dingbat” (lol…guess who? ME! Ha) 😦 He’d never punch anyone in the throat. He’s a pilot so he has to control his temper and not fly off in a rage (ha! LOL. Sorry. Ouch!) 🙂 🙂

    My son Jack jr. (sooo cute) was using a stapler at 6 months and could identify a paperclip on a flashcard by his first birthday. I really think he’s going to be a writer or a diplomat or own a Staples or something. Our doctor said he’s probably gifted (sorry…brag much? LOL! Ha ha) 🙂

    Jack says he won’t retire until the kids have grown up and moved out and he can have some peace and quiet but as a mommy (duh…obvious!) I never have to retire. I’ll always have a super important job and a totally fulfilling one too! 🙂

    I love your hat!


    • bschooled June 17, 2010 at 12:17 am #

      OMG, Jack Jr. sounds like he’s a genius! I didn’t know how to use a stapler until I was well into my terrible twos, and even then it was only as a defense weapon! LOL!

      Sorry to barge in like that, Clifton. I just find SDM’s homelife to be fascinating.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 17, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

      SDMommy –

      Coffee is a key ingredient in the recipe of life. A caffeinated jolt of energy that speeds up both the nervous system and the digestive system. The PCP is mainly for those days when you think feeling invulnerable might be helpful. Like a forced retirement party.

      I’m glad to hear your son is ahead of the curve on office supplies. It’s important to keep pace with what has become a pretty much unchanged industry. The last advancement in paperclip technology occurred in 1934, when an bleeding assembly line worker suggested rounded the edges rather than sharpening them.

      Say hello to your husband and son for me. It’s always a treat hearing from those possessed with what I like to call “early morning cheerfulness.” You just don’t see it that often these days and rarely in comment threads.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

      Bschooled –

      You didn’t really barge in. I just hadn’t managed to secure all 11 locks yet. Mi casa es su casa. (As the kids who aren’t from around here never said. At least not to anyone who had just “barged into” their place.)

  4. Dan McGinley June 16, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    Whale of a story, Clifton, and damn good advice. Thanks for a great read.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 17, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

      Dan –

      Thank you for the compliments and for stopping by. I don’t know what it is about multiple retirements that seems to bring out the PCP-strengthened fighter in me. I’m sure it has something to do with bitter repression and having it stuck to me by the Man (as the kids probably stopped saying three decades ago) once too often.

  5. bschooled June 17, 2010 at 12:34 am #

    Your advice was spot on as always, Clifton.

    As I was vaguely implying to SDM, staplers can be a powerful weapon, particularly when used in the heat of the moment. Add a few No. 2 pencils into the mix, and you end up with an Emergency room full of big wig decision-makers, all of whom are praying that the medical staff can “Get the lead out.”

    Or that’s been my experience, at least.

    Thank-you for yet another wonderful post, Clifton. Oh, and as soon as I’m finished this cleanse, remind me to ask you about that delicious sounding coffee recipe of yours.


    • Clifton L. Tanager June 17, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

      Bschooled –

      Wonderful comment. “Get the lead out.” That’s Readers Digest humor there. I like the “office supply as weapon” strategy. It makes you feel like some sort of superspy and all the ammo is available at someone else’s expense.

      I think the greatest oversight (as many a manager has found out, usually too late) is the continued purchase of deathly-sharp letter openers, which would seem to be extraneous as nothing but bills and Christmas cards arrive via the letter carrier anymore. And yet every desk has one. One too many retirement parties and suddenly the office looks like a 40th reunion of the Cholos and the Mau Maus.

      Thanks for stopping by, bschooled. Always good to see you.

  6. Scott Oglesby June 17, 2010 at 7:30 am #


    Your first heavy hearted tale of forced retirement struck a bitter nerve with me and reminded me of a similar misfortune I had to endure. Instead of calling it a forced retirement they called it ‘immediate termination of employment due to (1) Criminal conduct while on duty. (2) Assaulting a superior. (3)Intoxication. (4) Possession of a controlled substance. –true story.

    And the only difference with my story was that instead of PCP in my coffee (fantastic idea!) I had a large pile of crushed up Oxy Contin 40’s and a fifth of vodka. And instead of attacking my supervisor with a stapler I attacked my supervisor with my fists. And then after I was restrained, anything I could pick up and throw, which may or may not have included a stapler but definitely included a bottle of vodka….who can remember after snorting all that Oxy Contin?

    Anyway I just wanted to let you know that you aren’t ever alone Clifton. Not ever. And your advice and dark humor are some of the things that make life bearable these days. Well, your advice, your dark humor and a lot of Oxy Contin.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 18, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

      Scott –

      I see that you’ve had just about as much luck as I’ve had with “going gently into that good night sans stipend.” You’d think after a certain number of altercations that they’d rethink their “early retirement” surprise parties. Sometimes they do nothing more than switch the nameplate on the desk/door and let your imagination fill in the details.

      Using your fists seems to have been just as effective as the ejected staples, but with more pain inflicted both on them and on yourself. I guess it’s kind of a trade-off. There’s no shame in going home to a quiet, unpaid life covered in the blood of (mostly) others. It’s what separates us from the retired animals.

      Thanks for the kind words and assurances, Scott. I’ll have to give this Oxy Contin a try. I think my neighbor across the hall has a stash of it that hasn’t been stolen by the grandkids yet.

  7. Overconfident Orientalist June 17, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    When to retire?

    Early in the week, in the afternoon, shortly after lunch – that’s what I’ve always advocated.

    Thanks for your insights.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 18, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

      O/O –

      Excellent. And brief. Heed these astute words, potential retirees: leave your employers hanging. It’s the least they deserve for a decade of demeaning work and promotions handed to close relatives/secretaries they were banging.

      Thank you for your insight, O/O. Truly a pleasure seeing you again.

  8. Fundamental Jelly June 17, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Thanks Clifton for connecting the dots and providing the tags that seem so appropriate in this recession, namely, Human Resources and Neck Punching.

    This is the sort of insightful reportage that is so sorely needed.

    I recently watched the movie Julie and Julia, which was about a blogger (yes, a blogger) who wrote a blog about cooking all the recipes in Julia Child’s magnum opus on French cuisine. I am thinking that you could do a similar thing, but instead of recipes you could wax messianic on the human condition. But wait, silly me, you appear to have done this already. Onward and upward Mr. Tanager (my fav bird btw).

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 18, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

      FJ –

      Thanks for pointing that out. I was indeed trying to make that connection, but the alphabet decided to have its way with me yet again.

      No one needs neck punching more than those appointed jackasses who feel that every part of your workday should be micromanaged, Powerpointed and memo-ed to death. It makes you wonder if they spend their off-duty time at home counting toilet paper squares to determine excessive usage or writing angry letters to the creators of “Mad Men.”

      Thanks, FJ. Perhaps someday I’ll be immortalized for my waxing and occasional waning with a soft-focus biopic and an overwrought accent. (It’s my favorite bird as well, slightly ahead of the Australian Drinking Bird.)

  9. RubyTwoShoes June 17, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    This is the kind of advice my Dad would have done well to heed. Instead, he took the less conventional route of injuring himself beyond the point of no return until he was half deaf, half blind and only marginally capable of walking upright before he finally agreed to ‘retire’, which, funnily enough, hasn’t meant ‘retiring’ from activities such as firing off job applications for jobs he has no intention of ever taking….

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 18, 2010 at 9:34 pm #

      Ruby –

      I’m sorry I didn’t get here early enough to prevent your dad from half-killing himself with work. It seems like he gave more than his fair share to his various sense-removing jobs and should have been awarded something more than a twisted sense of humour.

      I’m pleased to hear that retirement hasn’t cost him his sense of fun. There’s really nothing like tying up Human Resource employees with fake employment applications filled with innuendo and fake phone numbers. (I’m not insinuating that your father would do this, but I’m fairly sure I would. I’d also like to call up various Customer Service departments and inform them that “this call is being recorded for vindictive purposes.”)

      Good to see you, Ruby.

  10. thestuffinbetween June 19, 2010 at 11:03 pm #


    This has been a timely piece of advice for me. I’ve been on Unemployment for six months now but not able to find a job that suits and still trying to let go of all of the emotional baggage left over from the last job and “boss” experience. I am keeping the faith that God will point me in the right direction when my UI runs out. I really want a different type of job this time–one where I can help people and also feel good and joyful about what I’m doing. My last job would have been my “retirement” way out, but I’m still a bit too young for that–not that that bothers me, because I prefer not working to working, but I still want to keep busy, preferably with something altruistic, as well as bring in some income.

    Thanks again for your timely and tactical article, Clifton.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 21, 2010 at 6:57 pm #

      Stuff –

      I’m sorry to hear about your current situation. Hopefully something will turn up soon. I would imagine most of the jobs I’ve held have contained neither “good feelings” nor “joy,” but I certainly hope you find a place that contains a little of both.

      I, too, prefer “not working” to “working,” but sooner or later your significant other tends to notice your “being around all the time” and the bank account “going into arrears.” Unfortunately, I misheard the last remark which led to an awkward conversation in which we agreed to never speak of again, at least not until I was gainfully employed and suitably embarrassed.

      Thanks for the visit and comment, Stuff. I wish you the best of luck.


  1. Word Around the Campfire – the Father Knows Best edition « Hidden Leaves - June 20, 2010

    […] Clifton L. Tanager: When to Retire […]

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