Yesterday, I heard this song on the way to work. And inexplicably, I got a lump in my throat and tears came to my eyes.
(Sorry, couldn't find a decent embeddable version.)
Now, I will confess...I think "Dirty Dancing" is one of those completely wretched movies that is still a delicious guilty pleasure. Behind "Road House" and "Red Dawn", I think it's one of the top examples of Patrick Swayze overacting. And it has one of the best movie lines ever uttered: "Nobody puts Baby in a corner."
But still...I'd never much liked this song, and my reaction to it puzzled me somewhat.
But today I figured it out.
As you've likely surmised from my entries, the past several months at work have been very difficult. We've undergone change after change after change, losing so many valued coworkers and enduring repeated new directions to our program plans.
One bright spot for me, throughout all this turmoil, has been the people I work with. For instance, I have the honor and pleasure of 'supervising' some of the smartest, quickest, hardiest editors I've ever known. (I used the quotes because so little is needed on my part to supervise these folks...I've always contended that the main job of a manager is to make him/herself obsolete. If I'm right, then I've certainly done my work. My editors continue, on a daily basis, to humble me and make me proud with their knowledge and their good work. THEY teach me something new every day.)
But my most favorite person to work with over the past year isn't even employed by my company. No, it's Neo--mentioned a few times before on this blog--our book designer who works for another company in the Chicago area.
The majority of the time Neo and I have spent together has been over the phone...collaborating on photo selections, status meetings, and 8-hr chapter layout meetings. He and I have been face-to-face only on two occasions...once when he came to Austin when the project first started and I briefly popped into a meeting he was in, and then again for a long lunch when I was visiting the Chicago area last spring.
I've worked with lots of book design folks over the past 15 years, and I can say without hesitation that Neo is by far the most talented designer I've ever had the pleasure to work with. He cares about each page and how the images work together with the text to provide the best possible educational impact to the student. He's gone above and beyond any designer I've ever known to find the best images, to create the best balance between images and text, to make sure that every page is doing what it's supposed to do. It would be hard to make the average reader of the SSC understand how unprecedented this is--but in so many occasions in working with my editors on certain pages and pieces, I've said "Let's engage Neo on this to see how best we can make this work." I can't say that I've EVER had such confidence in a designer before in my career as an editor. And I'm simultaneously proud and humbled to know that he has a similar respect for me as an editor and editorial lead on a program strand.
But beyond all that...working with Neo has just been plain delightful. He's one of the funniest, easy-going people I've ever known. A lot of people dreaded those 8-hr chapter meetings but I secretly looked forward to them, because it meant lots of fun time in the presence of Neo and his talent and humor. Despite working together for less than a year, we developed lots 0f 'in' jokes that resulted in laughter and good times: anything Hello Kitty, rusticles, narwhals, Marsha, dog-heaviness, kittens on skateboards, sad trombones, male ballet dancers in unfortunate leotards...and, most recently, Schneider from "One Day at a Time. "
Remember the crummy goings-on at my company that I've chronicled in the past months/weeks? Here's what led me to understand my reaction to the cheesy song.
First, they took Robert (our former department director).
Then, they took Il Duce, my beloved boss.
Thursday, they took Neo.
That's right. Due to further 'organizational changes,' we are once again stopping the program that we are working on, which means that we are no longer engaging the design group we were collaborating with. Which means I am no longer working with Neo.
Soon, I expect that 'they' will come and start cutting off my fingers.
Okay, maybe that was a little morbid. But it's an accurate reflection of how pained I am and how uncertain I about what my 'work' is now. Whatever it is, I won't be doing it with anything close to the engagement I had before last Thursday.
Anyway, to loop back around...despite the sheer craziness of the past year, I've had some unbelievably rewarding times at work--and most of that is due to working with Neo. Neo...I genuinely had the time of my life working with you over the past year. My job was not only bearable but also fun and rewarding.
And I owe it all to you.