(Originally published May 7, 2004)
As 10-year-old inside jokes sparked collective laughter over half-empty bottles of beer at a downtown Akron bar, this farewell party seemed like any other emotional goodbye.
The fact that the cozy crowd was waving goodbye to fictional friends from a TV show by the same name was of no real importance.
“I can’t believe it’s been 10 years,” said Kristin Lopez, 29, one of the many Friends fans who gathered at Thursday night’s “Farewell to Friends,” held by WKDD (98.1-FM) at Jillian’s.
“You just start thinking of all the things you’ve gone through while watching the show, and it’s incredible.”
Just as Lopez and her friend, Cathe Onorati, 28, watched Chandler, Monica, Rachel, Ross, Joey and Phoebe grow through a series of life-changing events, Friends saw the two of them graduate from high school, work their way through the University of Akron and enter the adult world, both as Summit and Stark Children Services workers.
“It gives us a chance to break away from our jobs,” said Onorati.
“It makes us laugh.”
Like Onorati and Lopez, most of the room was full of tables of 20-somethings who, for the past 10 years, have spent their Thursdays collectively unwinding in front of the television for a bit of “R & R” -- Ross and Rachel.
“Ross and Rachel have to be together,” Jacqui Crites, 24, said of the show’s longest-running and most convoluted romance.
It was a story line that had everyone in the room on the edge of their seats as Ross’ perennial case of cold feet kept the comical cliche of the airport chase scene hopeful until the end.
“As we’ve gotten older, the show became even more age appropriate,” said Crites’ friend Cindy Brackmann.
“At this point in our lives, our friends are the focal point.”
However, it wasn’t just groups of friends that gathered for the show’s finale, but families too.
“I didn’t agree with the (Dateline) Friends special that said when you’re young and single, your friends are your family, because, in our situation, our family are our friends,” said Lisa Kirkhart, 25, who sat with her brother, Matt, 23, and sister, Nichole, 30.
As the final episode unfolded, utter silence held the room with a few gasps, giggles and, by the end, many tears.
Between Monica and Chandler’s twins and Joey’s goofy goodbye with the foosball table, people’s hopes for the Ross-and- Rachel relationship kept them buzzing with the artifice of anxiety.
In the end, everyone got what they wanted, but saying goodbye is never easy.
“I can’t believe it’s over forever,” said Onorati.
“I’m very upset.”