I've never been the kind of person who has tons of close friends. I am not good at persisting in the small talk among acquaintances that, slowly and over time, sometimes leads to true intimacy.
But I have had this column. I've tried to use it to create a human face for the Magazine: to let people see how we attempt to connect with the inner lives of our readers by revealing something of the inner lives of the people behind the words and images. Inevitably, that means I've revealed quite a lot about my own life. It isn't that I think I am especially fascinating. I don't -- except to the extent that any human being is fascinating. In reacting to the stories we presented, exploring the ways in which I connected to them, I meant only to serve as a stand-in for our readers.
But, of course, many who read these columns didn't react to me as a "stand-in." They reacted to me as a person whom, over time, they had learned quite a bit about. They knew that I trembled at the thought of my dog aging and dying, that I was transfixed when I turned the corner of my house and encountered a deer, nose to muzzle. They knew about the time I got stuck on a mountain in a snowstorm on the way to a ski vacation. They heard about the time my son got 15 minutes of Internet fame by making a video in which he pretends to get impaled by a banana. They knew that some aspects of my freshman year at college might be a handicap if I ever choose to run for president.
And they responded in kind -- telling me about their fears, their adventures, their own ironic sense of themselves. In short, they responded the way real friends do: with honesty, humor and generosity.
I want to say to all of you who have contacted me over the years, or even thought of doing so: I appreciate it. That interaction with so many smart, engaged, intellectually alive readers is what I will most miss.
This will be my final column. Another buyout offer has circulated through The Post newsroom, and, this time, I will be taking it. But I leave you in good hands. All those names on the masthead on the contents page represent the most talented and dedicated group of journalists I have ever known. They believe passionately in the transformative power of a story well and truly told. They get the difference between merely passing on information and actually taking readers to the heart of an understanding of things. And they will work with tireless creativity to keep getting you there.
So I'll keep this short. Goodbye, and thank you.
Tom Shroder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.