Lexi holding my youngest at her home in March of 2016 following her hip replacement. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Sarah Simpson Column: Goodbye coworker, hello family!

It’s not unheard-of for many of us to have friends that become family. I’m not sure how often people say that about their co-workers though.

I first met my coworker Lexi Bainas back in the fall of 2003. I was relatively fresh out of journalism school, and had just finished up an internship up-Island before landing the job as the sports reporter here at the Citizen. She was the veteran arts and entertainment reporter, always happy to have a chat and/or lend a hand. In fact, for a few years there, we even shared a copy of Photoshop. That was 16 years ago. Time sure does move fast when you’re not paying attention.

Anyway, for some reason, my desk has always been situated with me facing away from Lexi, but I always know when she’s there because she has this habit of humming, whistling, singing or talking to herself as she works. Some might say it’s annoying, others may say it’s endearing. Honestly, everyone in the newsroom thinks it’s both — it just depends on the stress level in the office on any particular day.

I knew Lexi had become family, not because she’s watched me grow up, get married, help me shop for cars, buy a house, have two kids and so on, and not because we’ve seen her through multiple car accidents, the death of her husband, a new hip and a move of house, but because I can turn around at any point in the work day and say “Hey Lex, can you talk to yourself in your head please?” and she won’t get offended.

“Oh! Oh! Was I doing that again?” she’d reply, unaware of her audible stream-of-consciousness monologue.

Next week I won’t be able to say that anymore because our dear Lexi finally has the gall to go and retire on us. It was a move we never thought would happen, and, if you were to ask her, she probably didn’t think would ever happen either.

“We’re scraping the bottom and sides of the barrel over here,” she’d say when hard news was “thin on the ground”. She’s also fond of reminding us that “there’s no reason sincerity can’t have a practical application.”

She has a handful of other quotations and one-liners she likes to break out all the time but those are the only two that I can think of at the moment, though if I were Lexi, I would explain it as “a-hoo-dee-ha, a-hoo-dee-ha” instead of et cetera.

I figure we’ve probably produced in the neighbourhood of 1,500 newspapers together over the years. One thing seemed to ring true in that time, if our editor was away, the odds were favourable that we’d put either a cute kid or an animal story on the front page — both if we were lucky. It was never intentional. It just happened.

I won’t forget all the times at the old office when we walked to Reggie’s Veggies for lunch together, or the time she fell into the water, camera and all, shooting a rowing event, or the bird family we looked for every day in the bushes outside our window at the old office. I won’t forget her stories of the old days when she worked at the service station. I won’t forget the time she didn’t show up at work and we were worried sick, only to learn she had indeed been in a car accident. I won’t forget bringing my newborn daughter to Lexi’s house so she could meet her, as she’d just had a hip replacement of her own and wasn’t ready to be out and about. I won’t forget the smiles, funny anecdotes and the martini glass she used to drink her water out of before it broke. I will never forget the patience, even delight, she had when we brought the kids into the office.

I will also never forget the Clean Air Concert back in 2004 when Lexi and I got to sit in the player’s bench at the Cowichan Arena with Barenaked Ladies drummer Tyler Stewart, who’d sneaked out from the green room to watch Neil Young with us from our prized perch. Not everybody can say they watched Neil Young at the Big Stick with a running commentary from Tyler Stewart. But Lexi and I sure can!

There are so many memories. In short, I’m gonna miss her a heck of a lot. We all are. For the majority of the last 16 years we’ve been a great team. Scratch that. We’ve been a family and, lucky for us all, family doesn’t stop when retirement begins.


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