When I’m not worried about the possibility of being an emotionless robot, I’m busy having emotions. Today, I’m experiencing several somewhat conflicting ones, for today Benbrook Public Library formally bids adieu to the only director it has ever known, Mr. J. Michael Baldwin. After fifteen illustrious years, Mike, a.k.a. the Big Cheese, a.k.a. Mikey Poems,* is hanging up his captain’s hat, retracting his shushing finger, and riding into the Library Land sunset.
My initial gut reaction is sadness. I got choked up when my favorite fictional boss, Michael Scott, left the Office, so there’s no way I’m not gonna get a little misty when my real life boss man leaves the actual office. It will be strange not seeing Mike every day at the library, and I will miss him being only 47 short steps (yes, I actually counted) from my office door. However, while he’ll no longer be steps (or in my case, manly strides) away, perhaps I should take solace in the fact that he’ll be mere miles away in his Benbrook home…taking it easy…kicking back, penning sonnets, sipping on champagne coolies…That brings me to my next emotion:
Jealousy. I know it’s a bit of a negative feeling for a celebratory day, but hear me out. Mike has reached the Promised Land to where all working schmoes strive to one day ascend. It’s a magical place inhabited by lucky souls who are forever free from alarm clocks, time cards, and grinding for the All Ighty Ollar. As someone who is eons away from tasting the sweet, sweet fruits of this punch clock-free paradise (heck, I’m not even yet on the outer fringe of audio range of the Jimmy Buffett tunes that play there ‘round the clock), I’m naturally a little envious.
My envy, however, is outweighed by my happiness for Mike. He has much to be proud of in his career, and for that I’m proud of him. He reached the top of the library world while being one of the nicest, most laidback Big Cheese’s you’ll ever meet, which to me is quite the admirable accomplishment; he’s the anti-Spacey. Mike approached his work with unflappable passion all the way through the last days of his tenure, and is in fact so passionate that he will continue running several programs at the library even after his retirement. As a leader, Mike was always highly receptive to and supportive of his employees’ ideas and projects. Many times, he helped out with and attended my after hours and Saturday programs, and though his presence was partially due to his interest in the subject matter, I’d like to think some portion of it was a show of support for me, and I’m greatly appreciative of that. While he wasn’t directly responsible for hiring me, I’m grateful that Mike cultivated a culture and philosophy at the library that led to the ostensibly risky hire of a greenhorn like me.
So today, with mixed emotions, I say “goodbye, Mike.” But, more importantly, I and the rest of the Benbrook Public Library family say “thank you,” in our loudest, library-inappropriate voices. It was truly an honor working for you.
*Okay, I made that one up.