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Personal time

October 18, 2011

The apartment, early in the morning. I check my email and see an obituary for a remarkable man in my field who died over the weekend. I knew of the death and of his long and multi-faceted career, but I hadn’t yet read the obituary, which he wrote himself. It includes the places he worked, the many books he wrote and awards he won, the names of his ex-wives (two) and the names of his cats (only the most recent four).

West 12th Street, 8:13 AM. A middle-aged woman in a polka-dotted trenchcoat and enviable patterned tights is holding an umbrella over the head of her son, eight or nine years old, and reading out loud to him as they walk to the subway stairs and disappear from view.

Fifth Avenue, 8:33 AM. Something shiny glints up at the sidewalk when the rain hits it — a dime. I think about picking it up, but decide to leave it for someone who will appreciate it, like maybe the small boy I just passed who is coming up behind me. I want to look back to see what happens, but don’t.

Madison Avenue, 8:43 AM. A woman wears her purse like a hat against the rain. Is there nothing inside but her head? If so, why carry a purse in lieu of an umbrella?

35th St., 12:14 PM. The waitress has on a plaid shirt cut several inches above her navel in the front and hanging to the backs of her knees in the back. Perplexing. But the mint tea she serves me, steaming in its silver pot and in the painted glass I drink from, is heaven.

35th St., 12:45 PM. At lunch, a coworker I have just met admits that he was the kind of person who, when he got an assignment in college, went to the library and did extra work. Just for fun. All up and down the table there are nods of recognition. I smile. It is not the first time I am reminded that I have somehow come to a place where everyone is a nerd in exactly the same way as I am, nearly without exception and with no attention to barriers of gender, age, race, or social class. At which point we begin to discuss whether this makes us nerds or dorks and I sip my mint tea. Even though we didn’t recognize each other in the lobby a few minutes earlier, we are all getting along just fine.

Broadway, 6:43 PM. There are flashing lights and sirens. First there are policemen stopping people to look in their bags (not mine). Second there is an accident where either a car ran into a food cart or the other way around and the man in the tow truck is puzzled by the angle he has to take. Third, there is an elderly Chinese man standing in the street with a young woman and two policemen who are scratching their heads.

14th Street, 6:55. I hear tinny music and look up to see the Sukkahmobile careening down the street. Somebody cheers.

Greenwich Avenue, 7:11. A small boy is trying to flip his longboard into his hand gracefully. I get closer and realize it’s not really a small boy but a small teenaged girl dressed like a boy. We nod at each other as I walk by just at the moment that she finally catches her board.

Back in the apartment, sometime in the evening, I check my email and find one from someone I work with who seems to persist in jumping to the conclusion that I am willfully ignoring him. It is just the way he is and I try not to take it personally, but after a day of very complex tightrope walking, it is hard not too. I am sorry I checked my work email. A few minutes later, a friend emails me to say she wants to celebrate after work tomorrow but she won’t tell me why until then. I am feeling better. And then one more email from one of my supervisors who apparently sat down at 9:25 PM to write me an email about how lucky he feels that I was hired. And I think, I’m glad I checked my work email, but I’d better quit while I’m ahead. And I feel lucky to be working with people who tell me when they’re feeling lucky.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2011 5:56 am

    I love this entry, all of it. Feel like I’m visiting the city. Thanks x

  2. October 19, 2011 10:00 am

    I’ve always heard it called the Mitzvah Tank.

    We should have lunch or something. Soon.

  3. October 19, 2011 11:29 am

    I feel lucky to be able to read about your life. The interwebs are good things.

  4. Cranky permalink
    October 19, 2011 12:37 pm

    Funny–I’ve never heard it called the Mitzvah Tank. Only the Mitzvah Mobile.

  5. October 19, 2011 1:11 pm

    I’ve never seen or heard the Sukkahmobile, but Pittsburgh is full of Menorahmobiles, in a different season. Not cold enough for patterned tights out here — I’ve given up and dragged my linen skirt back out. No point in pretending it’s anything but summer. Feh.

  6. October 19, 2011 9:16 pm

    I think this may have been a Mitzvah Mobile spinoff. It was the same idea, but not a full semi– a regular delivery truck. It looked more or less like this, but smaller: http://www.crownheights.ch/blog/blog.php?bid=6388 . I have seen a Mitzvah Tank truck as well. I think they may be the same thing run by two different groups — they have different logos.

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