The first time I quit

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Several years ago, I reached a breaking point and decided to quit my job at Apple. I’d been there too long and various aspects of my upper management were driving me a little batty. And, frankly, I was just exhausted. The idea of gearing up to do yet another OS cycle was more than I could bear at the time. So I gave notice. No other job lined up, no real plans to speak of. I just knew I wasn’t going to be doing that for a while.

The final couple of weeks flew by. My management made some efforts to get me to stay, and when it was clear that was futile, they tried to talk me into making it just a leave of absence. But their definition of “leave of absence” just barely stretched as far as six months, and I knew that was the minimum amount of time I wanted to be away. And besides, there’s something very satisfying about cutting all the cords and drifting free for a while. So, I was resolved to just be quit and done with it.

On my last day, I was in the cafeteria having lunch with my team. Someone asked how much packing I had left to do. “Not much. I’ve got another box of miscellaneous stuff to gather, I have to take down my straitjacket from the wall, and then I guess all that’s left is my exit interview with HR.”

The guy laughed and casually said, “You should wear the strait jacket to the exit interview.”

My eyes lit up! “Yeah! I totally should!” The rest of the folks got that nervous look, like when they realize I’m completely serious about some crazy scheme. But they knew better than to argue with me. Besides, what was the worst that could happen? I’d get fired?

So, I trotted back to the office, filled the last box and put it in my car. I pulled down the straitjacket and asked one of my team to “strap me in”. They got the buckles cinched tight, I said my goodbyes, and then started across campus towards Human Resources.

On the way out of my building, across the quad and into another building, I was stopped no fewer than three times. Someone wanted to know the status of some feature in development, and I pointed them towards the relevant engineer on my (former) team. A couple of people just said hi in passing. Another asked if I could send them notes from a recent meeting. Not a single person said even a peep about the straitjacket. Not one word. I’m not sure if that says something about what people were used to at Apple, or just that it wasn’t especially surprising, coming from me.

So, I made my way to the proper building, waggling my pocketed badge at the various security readers and hip checking handicapped door openers to get into the building. I took the stairs up to the proper floor and started wandering, looking for my HR rep’s office. “You’re in a maze of twisty passages, all alike”. I eventually head butted on a conference room door and asked the people inside for directions to the given office number. Finally I found my destination.

The door was closed. My HR rep was on the phone, facing away from me when I knocked on the door with my forehead. She turned in her chair and her eyes got very large. She stared for a moment, and quickly hung up the phone. She opened the door and immediately started laughing. “Ohmigohd, hang on, I have to find a camera!” (This was long prior to iPhones.) She failed to find a neighbor with a camera and quickly came back to her office.

She unstrapped me (and how many people get to say that about their HR rep?!), I tossed the jacket in the corner, and we sat down to chat for a while. I got to very diplomatically vent for while and we had a pleasant discussion. We talked about why I was leaving, the state of the department, team politics, that sort of thing. It was all very convivial.

In the midst of the talk, I happened to see a security person walking down the hallway very slowly, scanning the halls carefully, peeking in the offices as he passed. I’ll never know for sure, but I like to believe someone had phoned security about some madman running around in a straitjacket and he was looking for the culprit.

As it turns out, that wasn’t the only time I quit Apple. But it was definitely my favorite.

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