It's Hard When A Close Relative Of Somebody You Pretend To Like Dies

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Vol 40 Issue 41

The Pope's Beatifications

Pope John Paul II beatified five people last week, among them a German mystic whose violent visions of Christ's suffering inspired Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ. Who is the Pope planning to beatify next?

Boilermakers Protest Purdue's Mascot

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN—More than 200 members of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers picketed outside Ross-Ade Stadium Monday, protesting what they characterized as Purdue University's insensitive use of a boilermaker as a mascot. "We have worked too hard forging America's boilers to endure one-dimensional stereotypes like Purdue Pete," union president Newton B. Jones said. "Pete may be muscular and sensibly wearing a hardhat, but the hammer he brandishes serves as an ugly reminder of isolated instances of violence in the boilermakers' otherwise proud history." A similar controversy erupted in 2003, when a University of North Carolina football game was interrupted by 35 protesters afflicted with congenitally tarred heels.

Pringles Level At Six Inches And Falling

CINCINNATI—Snack experts warned Monday at 9:15 p.m. that the Pringles level within the Cody household had dipped to a dangerously low six inches and showed no signs of leveling off. "If the depletion of the Pizzalicious Pringles sitting on the couch does not slow, the supply may dip to a fraction of an inch before the end of Everybody Loves Raymond," said Carla Cody, who had been monitoring the potato-crisp reserve since 7 p.m. "It is crucial that we explore such alternative snack sources as Goldfish crackers." Cody then moved the can to the kitchen as a stop-gap measure.

U.N. To Look For Genocide In Darfur

Last week, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan set up a commission to determine whether genocide has taken place in the Darfur region of Sudan. What do you think?

World Bank Forecloses On World Farm

WASHINGTON, DC—Following years of threats, the World Bank foreclosed on the World Farm, a 64,000-square-mile plot of arable land in Dodoma, Tanzania that provides wheat, cattle, and goats to much of the Eastern Hemisphere. "This farm has been in my family since Zanzibar was a British protectorate," World Farmer Mwana "Clem" Mazooka said Monday, angrily waving a pitchfork. "I'll be damned if I let some world-city creditors get their grubby hands on it." In spite of Mazooka's protests, World Bank representatives said the World Farm Auction will take place on Oct. 24.

Apartment-Hunting Tips

Hunting for an apartment is hard work, but here are some pointers to help you find your perfect living space:
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Technology Unfortunately Allows Distant Friends To Reconnect

WAYNE, PA—Providing them the tools necessary to bridge a gap that both individuals say they were more than willing to maintain indefinitely, sources confirmed Monday that the advent of modern technology has unfortunately allowed distant friends Mere...

It's Hard When A Close Relative Of Somebody You Pretend To Like Dies

When I saw Laura rush out of the office with her coat over her arm one day last month, I assumed she was on her way to an impromptu showing. But then our branch manager Tom gathered us in the conference room and told us that Laura had just received a phone call from her father. Her younger sister Edie, the blonde woman from the hiking photo on her screensaver, had been in a car crash. Just like everyone here at the Farthing Lane branch of Steamboat Realty, I was shocked to the core. It's hard when a close relative of somebody you pretend to like dies so suddenly.

I barely remembered that Laura had a sister, so the news of her death was truly an unexpected blow for me. Returning to my desk, I took some deep breaths and tried to gather my wits. I'd been through situations like this before, but that didn't change the fact that a close relative of someone I pretend to like was gone forever.

Let me give a little background. I started pretending to like Laura Herron shortly after she came aboard the Steamboat in 1999. I mustered some phony enthusiasm when she made the third-highest closing in branch history, and when Tom made her assistant branch manager, I organized a dinner in her honor. I acted like I was thrilled when her daughter was born, and I overcame the impulse to roll my eyes when she told me the baby's name was Duffy. On every one of her birthdays, I bought the staff card, and my inscriptions were always the most cordial and the least sincere. So, when Laura's sister died, there was no way for me to get around "being there for her."

I had to take it day by day—one afternoon I mailed a card, another day I left a voicemail message on her business line. I didn't push myself too hard. I knew that if I overdid my expressions of sympathy, Laura might sense that they were contrived. It wasn't easy, but I managed to make it through the dark days of Laura's emergency leave of absence.

Laura's first day back was a real challenge, though. I knew I had to show some sympathy beyond cards and flowers, but what? After giving it a lot of thought, I decided that I would hand-deliver all her mail to her desk. A sympathetic nod as I handed her an orderly stack of unopened mail would have been the perfect way to say, "You're in my thoughts, but I'm not going to make a big show of that, as I know you probably just want to get back to normal." Well, life doesn't always go as planned. When I walked into the mailroom, whose sad puss do you think I was greeted by? I couldn't believe Laura had beaten me to the office. I'm always in first! But I shrugged it off, took a deep breath, and gave her a big hug. It was very difficult, because I've always been disgusted by her bony frame and cloying perfume.

Laura smiled and thanked me, but I knew it wasn't over. I'd have to say something, too. "I know that anything I say is going to sound inadequate," I told Laura, doing everything I could to make my voice sound calm and genuinely concerned. "But please believe me when I say we've all been thinking about you, and if there's anything we can do for you to make things easier, let us know." Laura's face lightened a little. "Thank you, Bonnie, that's very nice," she said. "It's not inadequate. I appreciate it." It was really hard to stand there and hold eye contact with her after that, but I steeled myself. I relaxed the muscles at my temples, looked right into her eyes, and counted to 10. Boy! That one took it out of me.

Back at my desk, I sent an e-mail to everyone in the office, careful to omit Laura. "Hey gang," I wrote. "Laura is back, so be sure to stop in and pay your respects today. I spent some time with her, but I'm sure she'd appreciate your words of sympathy and support, as well." I have to tell you, typing that e-mail was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I can't tell you how many times I checked the recipients list to make sure Laura wasn't on it! Let alone the effort I put into getting the wording of those six sentences just right. By the time I had that e-mail typed up, I was emotionally exhausted. I took myself out to a long, long lunch.

I won't lie: It's been a rough couple weeks for me. And the tough part is far from over. I'll have to pat Laura's hand at some point, and I might even have to hold it if she starts to cry. I may end up having to say "Everything will be okay," when I know it won't. It's going to be a trying time, but I'll make it through. Why? Because I don't have any other choice. That's life.

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