Saturday, February 16, 2013

You’re Never Dead on LinkedIn

I had a hard week. I say this knowing that, of the seven billion people on the planet, at least a billion had a harder time of it than I did – disappointing Valentine’s Days, worrying prognoses, chunks of meteorites falling on their heads, and much, much worse. Still, it just seemed like a little bit too much when I checked my LinkedIn updates yesterday morning and saw this message.

Congratulate my friend on his work anniversary? I would love to, LinkedIn, but he died four months ago, so if you have any tips for me, I’d appreciate them: “Six Ways to Contact Your Dead Friend and Get Qualified Leads!” There’s a blog post for you, another perfect topic from the parade of geeks, hacks and combed-over salesmen who clog up your system with a daily firehose of business-dreck.

The first shocking thing about that update was that Joel is dead. I guess I keep thinking that he just had a temporary setback with that cardiac arrest in Boise, and will somehow find a way to pop back into my life. The second shocking thing, and it was a very close second, was that he started working at Maritz 27 years ago, which means that I did, too, and that hardly seems possible. Death and time and my advanced age all joined forces for this Friday morning face-slap, and I hadn’t even finished my first cup of coffee. Like I said, I had a hard week.

I rarely dream, but I dreamed about Joel this week, a couple days before the LinkedIn situation. In my dream, the two of us were sitting in an office, talking. I understood, dream-logic style, that we had snuck away from whatever work we were supposed to be doing and were indulging in some office gossip.

In my dream, Joel, who had been short of stature in life, was very tall. I wondered if he’d gotten to select a new height in the afterlife as some reward for past good deeds. Another thing I remember was that the office furniture and lighting were really very shabby. I suppose it would serve us both right, to be serving out some purgatory sentence in a Steelcase-knockoff cube farm. In the dream, a man opened the door to the office and interrupted us. Some angel, I guess, putting us on double secret probation for goofing around on company time.

When I think about it (or “reflect,” in the new business parlance), it makes perfect sense that there’s work in my version of heaven. In the way that I’ve had dogs who were tennis-ball-motivated and who were kibble-motivated, I’ve always been work-motivated, since I got my first gig at the St. Louis County Library when I was 16 years old.

It’s fine if there’s an office to which I must report for all eternity. But the more I think about that dream, the more I hope that the afterlife has a park, too. Just one would be fine, as long as it’s something spectacular like Bryant Park, in midtown Manhattan. The last day I spent with Joel, last June, we walked over to that park with a friend of his, and sat at one of the little metal tables, gabbing idly about the theater, until it was time to go pick Mary Katherine up from her acting class and go to that night’s play. It was a good day.

It’s not LinkedIn’s fault that I found myself devolving on Friday morning, jolted from the deadline I was avoiding to a reverie about sitting with a friend in the city, feeling warm and safe. Maybe yesterday was just another day that I was supposed to remember him, and the pixels aligned themselves to make me do it.

No, I don’t blame LinkedIn. But still, it was a hard week, and still, I miss my friend.

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