When last we spoke, there were layoffs and cutbacks. The whole bit. But that was so 2008, right?
Well, we can hope.
Ah, the New Year. 2009. A whole decade, practically, in the bag. And yet, without any real decade-designation. Coming after the Nineties, what do we even call it? “The Oh’s”? “The Zeros”? In many ways, either works. But whatever you call it, here we are. Freezing our asses off and wondering… Now what?!
Me, I’m walking to work as usual. Today I have to be in at 8:30 a.m. sharp because the president of a certain luxury-goods manufacturer is getting a tour of the agency this morning. We creatives got not one but two e-mails telling us to be in early and to be dressed more presentably than our usual ripped-jeans-and-Iron-Maiden-T-shirt attire. (All right, that’s my typical outfit, but it’s a close-enough approximation of our general garb.)
“And keep your desks tidy,” the e-mail tsk-tsked.
Anyway, I have on a button-down shirt and dark-chocolate blazer over dark jeans. These brown loafers don’t negotiate the black ice nearly as well as my Timberland three-quarters do, but I should get there in one piece.
I do my New York-asshole thing and pretend I don’t hear this person. Truth is, between my headphones and my headlong stare, I don’t even know where that sound came from.
I stop. I turn to discover a middle-aged white, hobbit-y woman in big, owlish glasses and a knit hat that looks uncomfortably like a dunce cap. She is standing next to a post with some sign on it. One of her hands is aimed at the top of the post, and the other is waving me over.
I remove just one earphone, indicating that while I may be of assistance, I won’t be sticking around long enough to pull off both.
“When’s the next bus?” the woman asks.
It suddenly dawns on me that she’s simply too short to see the bus schedule. And just as suddenly, I realize that I’m too clueless to figure the schedule out. It’s like a long, skinny Excel spreadsheet. Numbers and ellipses, lots of white space—this bizarre sign with its baffling codes!
“Ahhhhhhh,” I say. My placeholder for I-don’t-know-and-I’m-starting-to-care-even-less-than-before.
And I’m worried I’m going to be late for work. You know, I’ve never really taken the bus in New York City. Oh, sure, I’ve taken it. But always as a too-tired-to-walk/too-cheap-to-hail-a-cab last resort. But a bus schedule? Unless it’s to the Jersey Shore or Giants Stadium, it could contain the winning lottery numbers and I wouldn’t know the difference.
Then the times “8:06, 26, 46” jump out at me.
I point excitedly and shout like I’ve got Bingo: “Eight twenty-six!”
“Oh, thank you,” the woman says. “Thank you very much.”
I nod and hurry on. I get to work—on time.
And nobody’s there. Yeah, the receptionist is, some HR proles and my buddy Manny the handyman. But otherwise, zip.
Annoyed, I stroll into my office, take off my coat and put down my briefcase. Then I walk from my floor, the twelfth, to the studio on the eleventh floor because the coffee machine there lets you control how strong you want your cup o’ java.
But once I return to the stairwell back up to 12, I find I’m trapped between floors.
Apparently, it’s too early and I don’t have my little white card to move between the studio and the creative department. I do have a white card in my coat, but I use it only when I’m working super-late. It’s only 8:30 in the morning, for God’s sake! Some reward for getting in early.
I pound my fist on the door to 12. At least I have Joe to keep me company. I take a sip and think, This could be a while.
After a few minutes, one of the art directors, Catalina, opens the door and lets me in. “You don’t have your card?” she asks innocently enough. But her question annoys me.
“The doors are supposed to be unlocked after eight a.m.”—I point to the notice on the door that states exactly that, and then I tap my watch—“and it’s 8:30!”
I shake it off and go about my day. At some point the Big Cheese is led past my office and he sees me doing some actual work. We’re good.
The following morning, I’m again in a hurry when another, shrill-voiced old lady cries out at me.
Two days in a row? I cringe. But I look over. It’s an even smaller, even older woman. This one has a mane of wavy brown hair and a long black skirt. She’s fighting the heavy glass door at Aroma café. And she’s losing. She props her cane against the door—en guarde!-style—to keep from getting crushed.
I get over my jerky self and immediately help her inside. She smiles warmly and thanks me. Helping her, I realize, is not only the best way to start the New Year but to continue it and finish it as well.
Work can wait.
It’s not like anybody’s going to be there.
—Tim Coleman covers the walk-to-work beat in Foot It.