It was a cutesy little title—“42 Reasons to Look Forward to Retirement”— that I chose for an article this magazine published way back in its July 1996 issue. My list of work related reasons to bug out of the daily grind became an office bulletin board favorite.
The column was, of course, meant to be humorous, and not a road map for anyone to follow. However, I eventually found a 43rd reason to add to the list: that one merger too many can drive even the toughest veteran to the exit doors. And so it was that I pulled the plug on myself and retired after 26 years with TheChemical- ManufacturersHanover-TrustChase- ManhattanJPMorganChaseBank!
This past June marked the first anniversary of that decision. The intervening year has given me ample time to reflect on and re-think that original column.
As you‘d guess, my perspective is a bit different today. Different enough that I offered to write a new version of that column: “42 Reasons to Sit Tight at Your Desk and Plan to Drop Dead There with Your Wingtips or Rockports On.”
Put another way, I’ve discovered that if you do choose to retire from a career in foodservice, you may soon find plenty of reasons why you’d like to get your butt out of that Lazy Boy and back into a cubicle. Actually, this realization happens in stages.
The First Stage begins with some novel personal insights ....
1. You find it becoming second nature to display that “deer in the headlights” expression when someone at a party asks: “and what do you do?”
2. You discover how really bad your golf game is.
3. You start to watch “Days of Our Lives.”
4. You can no longer get a decent haircut, but it doesn’t seem to matter how you look anymore.
5. You realize that the main reason to get out of bed in the morning is to urinate.
6. You begin to notice that, without even knowing your age, people keep telling you that you’re too young to retire.
7. You are surprised to find you have a post-teenage son or daughter still living at home.
8. You realize that you no longer have a reason to look forward to weekends.
This second stage is characterized by a new sense of fiscal reality...
9. You begin to attend every complimentary luncheon or dinner financial seminar.
10. You start picking those seminars based upon how good the menu is and the quality of the restaurant at which they are being offered. 11. The only mail you ever seem to receive contains solicitations for Long-Term Care Insurance.
12. The concept of a family budget finally becomes a reality.
13. You start buying lottery tickets and now consider them a part of your financial plan.
14. You worry obsessively about outliving your money and then wonder why you go to the gym each day to stay healthy.
In your transition, you will find that you begin to re-define the whole category of activities you used to loosely call “personal entertainment.” For example...
15. You finally get a library card.
16. You actually look forward to mowing the lawn.
17. You stop spraying the weeds in your lawn with herbicide and begin pulling them out by hand because you now have the time to do so.
18. You begin to pass the time by regularly passing along unsolicited internet eJokes from friends and colleagues to other friends and colleagues. You secretly understand that while many of these people wish you wouldn’t send these missives to them in the first place, they don’t have the courage to tell you because they know that’s what all retirees do. You pass them along anyway.
19. You assign yourself the task of waiting at the mail box for the daily USPS delivery.
20. You find yourself looking forward to projects that once seemed to be necessary evils, like having your car’s tires rotated or its oil changed. Now you find that such appointments add structure to your life!
21. You play a lot computer solitaire— just like you used to do at work.
At some point, you enter Stage Three. While this transition is gradual, it is marked by a deepening sense of existential reality…
22. You tire of everyone suggesting that you need a hobby.
23. Attending the gym becomes your raison d’ etre.
24. Your primary opportunity for daily social interaction seems to occur at the gym, but only when you manage to strike up a conversation with the person on the treadmill next to you. Making this happen starts to become a daily personal mission.
25. You realize that your personal sense of identity was intimately associated with your former business card, which you no longer have. Neil Who?
26. You don’t give a damn about identity theft because you have no identity left to steal.
27. You’re no longer annoyed by extensive waits at the doctor’s office. In fact, you begin to find that longer waits there are actually restful.
28. You go to the bathroom and forget what you needed to do there.
29. You gleefully volunteer to do the weekly grocery shopping. If your offer isn’t accepted, you develop the habit of aggressively arguing with your spouse about your “right” to do the shopping.
This new sense of reality comes with a new set of rituals...
30. The regular delivery of AARP publications in your mail begins to replace the Wall Street Journal as your primary news source.
31. An occasional glass of wine with a meal turns into a daily ritual, even without the meal.
32. Even after a year of not going to work, you still can’t sleep beyond 4:00 am.
33. The only time you do sleep is when you watch TV.
34. You have to check the calendar to determine what day of the week it is.
35. You find yourself missing that giant cherry Danish that used to be the daily centerpiece of your unhealthy, working-day breakfast.
36. You begin to envy the old fellow sporting the orange apron at the local Home Depot. You begin to wonder who fills in for him on sick days.
Finally, it becomes clear that your “hanging around the house” can be a big problem for your spouse and thus a significant challenge to you...
37. You finally realize that your primary hobby is getting out of and staying out of your spouse’s way.
38. Your very healthy spouse develops high blood pressure and blames the affliction on you.
39. Your spouse donates your suits to the Salvation Army but keeps one for your eventual open casket.
40. Your spouse considers volunteering to serve in Iraq.
41. You get upset with your spouse for scheduling social engagements without consulting you. It is even more upsetting when you’re told, “what’s the big deal, you have nothing to do anyway.”
42. Your spouse tells you that lunch isn’t over until you put the dishes in the dishwasher machine. The right way.
In conclusion, I’ve come to the understanding that it’s probably best to think about going back to work before the urge to take advantage of all of those early bird specials begins to sets in.
Neil Reyer is the former vice president of corporate dining services for JPMorganChase. These days, he spends his time in blissful, mindful awareness while contemplating the infinite void. From time to time, he entertains deep, meaningful questions from those members of the foodservice community who are looking (to paraphrase the words of Garrison Keillor and Guy Noir) for answers to life’s more difficult, business dining questions. You can reach him at [email protected].