Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Suzanne Sugarbaker and Uncle Buck

At this point, most of you have probably heard or read about my (usually) darling husband, Clint. But what you may not know is that for years, I had a second husband. Yep, I'm a bigamist. Allow me to introduce you to Matt, my "work husband" for almost three years.

I met Matt when I went to work at Satan's lair Wachovia Securities, way back in 2003. We both worked in Marketing, and we hit it off as soon as we were introduced. He immediately commented on my fabulous bag, within five minutes he had declared me the modern day Suzanne Sugarbaker and we were laughing like hyenas, and within a week we were fast friends.

When you are a cubicle rat, you need people around you to commiserate with, or you will slip slowly into madness (you may still do that, but it will be expedited without fellow cubemates to keep you company). My work environment at the time was the stuff the movie Office Space was made of (the first time I saw it, it felt like a documentary of my Wachovia years).

Allow me to elaborate. A man who worked on my floor made the local news: the family dog was missing and he taped strips of raw bacon to his car windows and drove around town for a week looking (incidentally, they found the dog. Part of me was happy for the family and the other part of me was sad for the dog). Another guy wore a real, honest-to-God kilt every Friday (so I can't wear jeans, but Walker can strut around with naked kneecaps and a wool skirt? That seems normal). We found an homage on the employee bulletin board someone wrote to their beloved "Rocky," a pet rat who had passed away. The thermostats on the walls were fakes, giving us the illusion of being in control of the temperature, but in reality, we didn't even have the authority to turn up the A/C on a hot day. And lest I forget the dude in the back corner: a contractor whose project was over, yet someone had forgotten to let him go. So he continued coming to work, reading the newspaper and sleeping in his cubicle until quitting time each day. Can you see why the need for moral support?

Matt and I bonded over similar upbringings; he was from Monroe, North Carolina and could completely relate to my small town of Toccoa, Georgia. We were both as Southern as they come, raised on the same junk food, the same TV shows, the same Southern Baptist ways. Our mamas and grandmothers used the same sayings. We had the same sense of humor and could not resist the urge to cut up whenever we were together. Which was pretty much all the time, once my lucky stars and a reorganization found us working in cubicles right across the aisle from each other.

My adoring work husband weighed in on questionable outfits, new shoes, new haircuts. He carried all my heavy boxes of marketing materials for me without ever being asked, and almost every single day that we worked together, he dutifully walked me to my car at 5:00. We were scolded a few times for having more fun at work than we should, and it wasn't long before we learned to talk across the aisles from our tiny little gray cubicles without saying a word. One glance and the eyes would tell the tale. That, and a few zillion emails back and forth, helped pass the time in an endless sea of work days.

We had plenty of (mis)adventures, but I will never forget the time we decided to get ourselves spray tans. Overhead fluorescent lighting does not exactly impart a healthy glow to a cubicle rat. I agreed to try it, but only if Matt would go in first. Let's just say that when he showed up for work the next morning, he definitely turned some heads. And bless his sweet heart, he thought all the comments were compliments. There were lots of "wows," only not for a good reason. At 5:00 that day, he said, "Call me and let me know how your tan goes!" To which I had to reply, "Honey, there will be no spray tan for me. Sorry to renege on our deal, but you look like you have overdosed on beta-carotene. I cannot do the half human/half carrot look." He found it funnier five days later when his orange essence finally washed away.

Matt was not just my 8:00 to 5:00 other husband, he also took on dog sitting duties (he proudly pronounced himself Cotton's "Uncle Buck"), and he helped moved more than his fair share of furniture into our house. The only forms of payment I could get him to accept were cheesy souvenir t-shirts, the occasional home cooked meal, and bags upon bags of Sweet Sixteen powdered doughnuts. Well, all of that and the fact that I dutifully covered for him at work while he went out to the parking garage and napped in his car. "Matt? He's in a meeting. A very important meeting. I'll tell him you stopped by." It's what work husbands and wives do, right?

Matt was zany, outgoing, hyperactive...in general, he was what you would call a real character. Some of his friends nicknamed him "Shine," as in sunshine, because generally he was a bright spot to any day. To know Matt was to love him; he was full of charm, quick wit, and infectious laughter.

At least once every few weeks, he went to his neighborhood bakery and bought an entire cake, pretending it was for some special occasion, and then ate the whole thing himself. He bought lotto tickets on a regular basis, always promising to split the jackpot with his work wife. I'll never forget when he took a part-time job at GNC. He called and screeched into the phone, "Guess where I'm working now? Here's the hint: we are going to pickle ourselves with vitamins and supplements and live forever!" Man, I wish that was the case.

The brighter the flame, the quicker it tends to burn out. And Mattie was no exception. Over Labor Day weekend in 2006, that big heart of his just gave out. My precious friend had a heart attack, alone in his apartment, and transitioned from my work husband to my guardian angel instead. It took  me three years to take his number off my speed dial, and I still think of something at least once a day that I want to tell him. When I left Wachovia to take another job, Matt sent me flowers and the card read, "I will certainly miss you." The irony of that is still bittersweet, since I am the one who wound up doing the missing.

Matt--my sweet friend, work husband, confidante, cohort, partner-in-crime--because you loved attention almost as much as me, this post is for you. They say there are no tears in heaven, but I have no doubt that since you got there, you have had them laughing so hard they cry. It's not the same without you.

So, like we used to say, UHBB: uh-huh, buh-bye. For now, anyway. Miss you, Shine!


  1. Beautiful post! Thank you for sharing. Friends like this are hard to come by.

  2. I'm crying!!!
    I never met Matt... but I did always love when I got to participate in three-way email exchanges!



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