There seemed to be only the one electric pencil sharpener in
the whole damn place.
We didn't have much patience for cynics. Everyone was a cynic
at one point or another but it did us little good to bemoan our
unbelievable fortunes. At the national level things had worked out
pretty well in our favor and entrepreneurial cash was easy to come
by. Cars available for domestic purchase, cars that could barely fit
in our driveways, had a martial appeal, a promise that, once inside
them, no harm would come to our children. It was IPO this and
IPO that. Everyone knew a banker, too. And how lovely it was, a
bike ride around the forest preserve on a Sunday in May with our
mountain bikes, water bottles, and safety helmets. Crime was at an
all-time low and we heard accounts of former welfare recipients
holding steady jobs.New hair products were being introduced into
the marketplace every day and the glass shelves of our stylists were
stocked with tidy rows of them, which we eyed in the mirror as we
made small talk, each of us certain, there's one up there just for me.
Still, some of us had a hard time finding boyfriends. Some of us
had a hard time fucking our wives.
Some days we met in the kitchen on sixty to eat lunch. There
was only room for eight at the table. If all the seats were full, Jim
Jackers would have to eat his sandwich from the sink and try to
engage from over in that direction. It was fortunate for us in that
he could pass us a spoon or a packet of salt if we needed it.
"It is really irritating," Tom Mota said to the table, "to work
with irritating people."
"Screw you,Tom," Marcia replied.
Headhunters hounded us. They plied us with promises of better
titles and increases in pay. Some of us went but most of us
stayed. We liked our prospects where we were and didn't care for
the hassle of meeting new people. It had taken us a while to familiarize ourselves and to feel comfortable. First day on the job,
names went in one ear and out the other. One minute you were
being introduced to a guy with a head of fiery red hair and fair skin
crawling with freckles, and before you knew it you had moved on
to someone new and then someone after that. A few weeks would
go by, gradually you'd start to put the name to the face, and one day
it just clicked, to be wedged there forever: the eager redhead's
name was Jim Jackers. There was no more confusing him with
"Benny Shassburger" whose name you tended to see on e-mails
and handouts but hadn't come to recognize yet as the slightly
heavyset, dough-faced Jewish guy with the corkscrew curls and
quick laugh. So many people! So many body types, hair colors,
Marcia Dwyer's hair was stuck in the eighties. She listened to
terrible music, bands we had outgrown in the eleventh grade.
Some of us had never even heard of the music she listened to, and
it was inconceivable that she could enjoy such noise. Others of us
didn't like music at all, some preferred talk radio, and there was a
large contingent that kept their radios tuned to the oldies station.
After everyone went home for the night, after we all fell asleep and
the city dimmed, oldies continued to play inside the abandoned
office. Picture it - only a parallelogram of light in the doorway. A
happy tune by the Drifters issuing in the dark at two, three o'clock
in the morning, when elsewhere murders were taking place, drug
deals, unspeakable assaults. Crime was down, but it had yet to be
rendered obsolete. In the mornings, our favorite DJs were back on,
playing our favorite oldies. Most of us ate the crumb toppings first
and then the rest of the muffin. They were the same songs that
would play throughout a nuclear winter.
We had visceral, rich memories of dull, interminable hours.
Then a day would pass in perfect harmony with our projects, our
family members, and our coworkers, and we couldn't believe we
were getting paid for this. We decided to celebrate with wine at
dinner. Some of us liked one restaurant in particular while others
spread out across the city, sampling and reviewing. We were foxes
and hedgehogs that way. It was vitally important to Karen Woo
that she be the first to know of a new restaurant. If someone
mentioned a new restaurant Karen didn't know about, you could
bet your bottom dollar that Karen would be there that very night,
sampling and reviewing, and when she came in the next morning,
she told us (those of us who didn't know about the other person's
knowing about the new restaurant) about the new restaurant she'd
just been to, how great it was, and how we all had to go there.
Those of us who followed Karen's suggestion gave the same advice
to those of us who hadn't heard Karen's suggestion, and soon we
were all running into one another at the new restaurant. By then
Karen wouldn't be caught dead there.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...