On the first day of the rest of my life, I rolled over and went back to sleep.
For 43 years, four months and 17 days, but who’s counting, I had set the alarm for an ungodly hour, which was so early that even God wasn’t up. Then I would stagger into the office, mumble “good morning” to no one in particular, because no one in particular would listen to me, plop my posterior into a worn-out chair, and roll over and go back to sleep at my desk.
Now that I’m retired, I don’t have to get out of bed to do the same thing.
One of the best things about being retired is that you don’t have to wear pants every day. If you try that at work, you will end up being unemployed, but without a buyout. What you will receive is a get-out: No severance, just leave. And don’t let the door hit you in the boxer shorts on the way out.
The buyout, which came with a generous package that did not, unfortunately, include beer, was a surprise to me and my colleagues, many of whom are fellow baby boomers who had been go-getters in their day (mine was March 30, 1976, when I began my career) but who had grown weary of the daily grind.
As an army of anxious employees crammed into the auditorium, the stunning announcement was made: The company was offering buyouts.
Naturally, there were questions:
How much would we get? Could we apply for unemployment? What would happen with our 401(k)s?
I raised my hand.
“If someone is injured sprinting to the human resources department to apply for a buyout,” I asked, “would it be covered under our medical plan?”
Everybody laughed. Nobody answered.
When the meeting was over, I texted my wife, Sue, with one word: “BUYOUT!”
Eight seconds later, she replied: “How much?”
It was enough for me to sprint to the human resources department to apply.
Three weeks later, I was without a job.
It raised an important question: How could I stop working when I never really started? Also, what would I do with myself? What would Sue do with me? Would I become so fantastically annoying that I’d have to work part time as a stock boy in a grocery store just to get out of the house?
The answers were easy: My job may have ended, but my career isn’t going to. For 22 years, I was an editor at Newsday. For all of that time and for the previous 21 years at my hometown paper, the Stamford Advocate, I have been a writer, including 34 as a columnist whose work, I am proud to say, has no redeeming social value.
I quit the editing and staggering into the office but not the rest.
From home, I will continue to write my nationally syndicated humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group. I’ll write more books. So far I have written four, all of which are crimes against literature. And I am writing a sitcom based on my work. If you think TV is bad now, wait until my show gets on the air.
But my most important job involves my five grandchildren, who range in age from 6 years to 2 months. And they’re all more mature than I am.
Sue, who isn’t retired yet, also likes to keep me busy.
“I am making a to-do list for you,” she often says.
I don’t make a big to-do out of it. I just do it. Marriage, after all, is dear season: “Yes, dear.”
Of course, all these retirement chores can really tire a guy out. So please excuse me while I roll over and go back to sleep.
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group, which includes his hometown paper, the Stamford Advocate. His column is distributed by Tribune News Service of Chicago and has run in newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of four books, Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows Best and Nini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.