Saying Goodbye to The Office

A lot can change in eight years. And there’s nothing like a television show about a paper company to show you just how much.

Thursday night was the final episode of The Office. I started watching the show with my wife shortly after it premiered in 2005. We didn’t stick with it for the entire run. For us, the show lost its punch after Steve Carell left. But we had to watch last night. We couldn’t let our favorite paper company go away without saying goodbye.

Eight years ago it was just the two of us in our rental house in a small Georgia town. As far as we knew, almost everyone else we knew didn’t get the humor of The Office. Just the two of us. But that didn’t stop us. Every Friday morning, we would break down the previous night’s show. Just the two of us. Laughing.

Eventually, we left our rental home in that small Georgia town and moved to the big city of Louisville, Kentucky. The Office came with us. My wife and I still had those Friday morning conversations about last night’s episode. But our viewing parties grew.

I took a job at a campus bookstore, perhaps not too much unlike Dunder Mifflin, the fictional paper company that was at the center of The Office. It was there, in between stocking shelves and answering questions about books that customers would eventually buy over the Internet, that I talked with new friends about The Office and how similar it was to our reality. Some of those co-workers would come by our house on Thursday nights to watch The Office with us. As I write this in my kitchen, I can look up at my refrigerator and see a Dunder Mifflin magnet that was given to me and my wife by one of those friends. We’re never getting rid of that magnet.

It wasn’t too long before we left Louisville for another small town in Georgia. Most of those friends left Louisville too. We still try to keep up through social media and the occasional phone call. In last night’s episode there was a profound line from Ed Helms, the actor who plays Andy Bernard. Andy never could seem to find his place in life. He was always looking back at how good life used to be, like he was chasing some initial high.

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ol’ days before you actually left them.”

Those days in Louisville were the good ol’ days.

But so are these.

It’s been eight years since I started watching The Office with my wife. I love her more today than I ever have. Eight years ago she used to fall asleep after The Office while doing some crossword puzzle. Now she falls asleep reading her Kindle. A paperless book, ironically.

In the room next door to me I have two sons sharing the bottom bunk of a bunk bed because they’re virtually inseparable. They have soccer practice on Thursday nights so that pushed The Office to the side.

But tonight there was no soccer practice.

Tonight it was just me and my wife watching the final episode of an old favorite. I know that it’s just a television show but I still hate goodbyes, even the fake ones. But seated across the room from me, there was that same beautiful girl that I married a decade ago. And she still has that same laugh that I heard so much on Thursday nights back in the mid 2000s. I love that laugh. When I hear it, there’s no IRS scandal or terrorist bombings. Just that laugh. It has a way of making everything okay, at least for a little while.

A lot has changed in eight years.

But thankfully, not everything has.