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The scene: A tiny, cramped office in the Human Resources Department at Vatican City.
The time: Last week.
HR GUY: Come in, come in, take a seat. I promise this won't take long, sir.
SOON TO BE EX-POPE BENEDICT: I don't know why I have to do this. I didn't even know the Vatican HAD an HR department. And it's "Your Holiness," not sir.
HR GUY: Oh, right, right. Sorry, Your Holiness. It's been 600 years since a pope has left the position while still alive. We're kind of feeling our way here. "Former Holiness" just doesn't work. 'Holiness Emeritus" just sounds weird.
BENEDICT: (Frostily) I agree.
HR GUY: Oh, dear, I feel like we've gotten off on the wrong foot here. Look, Your Holiness, I know this is awkward, and I'll try to make it quick. But, you know, rules are rules. And the rules say, everyone leaving employment has to do an exit interview.
BENEDICT: A what?
HR GUY: Just a few questions to help improve our workplace environment.
BENEDICT: Our workplace environment? This is the priesthood, young man! It's a life of service, sacrifice, suffering and devotion!
HR GUY: Well ... we're trying to sort of soft-pedal that part, if you don't mind. It's really murder on the employee retention rates.
BENEDICT: Oh, for the love of...
HR GUY: What was that, Your Holiness?
BENEDICT: Never mind. Ask your questions, and let's get this over with.
HR GUY: OK, great. So why would you say you're leaving your job?
BENEDICT: I think I've made it pretty clear. I'm old. I'm not feeling well. And there are all sorts of challenges facing the Church right now. The fuss over the cover-up of sex abuse by priests, the whole Vatican Bank money-laundering thing, the giant death asteroid, the new book coming out by that Dan Brown guy ...
HR GUY: Wait, back up. Did you say something about a giant death asteroid?
BENEDICT: Did I? Dang. This is why I need to quit. I keep blurting stuff out.
HR GUY: No, really. What about the giant death asteroid?
BENEDICT: Calm down, my child. It's nothing. I totally did not have a vision in which God told me that a giant asteroid was going to wipe out 75 percent of all life on Earth at 9:17 p.m. on New Year's Eve this year and bring about a new Dark Age.
HR GUY: Oh. Whew. That's a relief.
BENEDICT: You're not very bright, are you?
HR GUY: What?
BENEDICT: Nothing. Next question.
HR GUY: What would you say was your favorite part of being pope?
BENEDICT: I'd have to say the hat. I think I really look great in hats. And the shoes, of course.
HR GUY: Oh. Yeah. About the shoes. We're going to need those back.
BENEDICT: What? Not my red shoes!
HR GUY: I'm afraid so, Your Holiness. Only the pope himself can wear the red slippers
BENEDICT: But these are my favorite shoes ever! They're the only ones I have that don't hurt my corns! Look! Look at these feet!
HR GUY: Ahhhh! Gross!
HR GUY: Horrible old-man feet! Please, Your Holiness! I beg you! Put the shoes back on!
BENEDICT: So I can keep them?
HR GUY: We'll make new ones. Just ... wear the shoes around the house, OK? It'll be our little secret. But please, put them back on.
BENEDICT: OK, good.
HR GUY (shuddering): So, moving on. What was your least favorite part of the job?
BENEDICT: Hmmm. I'd say having to work on Christmas.
HR GUY: Really? You had a problem with that?
BENEDICT: Not a problem, exactly. I mean, celebrating the Midnight Mass and doing the homily for all those people is nice, but I'm looking forward to kicking back and spending a nice quiet Christmas Eve with a cup of eggnog and the "Charlie Brown Christmas" DVD.
HR GUY: Oh, that is a good one.
BENEDICT: And afterward, maybe "Die Hard."
HR GUY: I love that movie!
BENEDICT: Well, come on over to the residence this December. I'm only moving around the block a ways. We'll open a bottle of wine, watch some good TV.
HR GUY: Me, Your Holiness? I'd be so honored.
BENEDICT: Might as well. It's the last one any of us will have for a long while.
HR GUY: What?
BENEDICT: Nothing, my child. Nothing.