9 Feb
2004
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Office Space

One of my coworkers had a baby a few months ago and soon after decided she could do her work perfectly well from home and didn’t need to come into the office anymore. What that means is that the most spacious one-person office on the whole floor was suddenly vacant and in need of a tenant. Those in charge tried to move our part-time sales consultant into the office, but he didn’t want to give up his desk in front of a wall of windows looking out at San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. (He argued that he needed to be in the same room as the rest of the sales and marketing team, which is a valid enough point, but we all know it’s all about the bridge.)

Then someone suggested I should have the office since an editor frequently needs the kind of peace and quiet you just don’t get when your desk is in the main reception area, right in the middle of all the comings and goings and impromptu meetings and general drama and workplace shenanigans. I was taken aback. My own office? An office of my very own? Really? And I don’t have to fight anyone for it? I won’t incur the wrath of jealous coworkers who want an office all to themselves? It would be mine, mine, all mine?

So what did I do when they served up this metaphorical sundae with whipped cream and a cherry on top? I turned it down.

The thing is, I love the idea of having my own office, but I don’t really want one in reality. I like being near the center of activity, feeling the rush of air from the whirlwind that powers this publishing company, and I would hate to be all cloistered away like a leper, closeted in a corner, never to be the first to know when someone famous sweeps through the door or when a box of chocolates appears on the table.

Am I crazy? Or am I just so incredibly in tune with my likes and dislikes that I can turn down chances to improve my image and status for the sake of maintaining my own comfort? I like to think the latter, but even that’s not always a good thing.

For instance, if I lived my life afraid to be uncomfortable, I would not being going to Chez Panisse tomorrow for lunch with a client. Chez Panisse is the place to be seen in Berkeley, and perhaps even in the whole of Northern California. It is where “California cuisine” (fresh produce, etc.) was born, where you have reserve a dinner date three months in advance, where Martha Stewart brunches when in town. Nothing about a chic-chic restaurant that serves soft-shelled crabs and rare beef makes me comfortable. Going to lunch with a client from a printing company to whom I have absolutely nothing to say is terrifying. Nevertheless, I accepted the invitation. I will wear slacks and nice shoes and make polite conversation. And I will do it all not for my own pleasure and satisfaction, but purely in the name of bragging rights. Am I a fraud or an opportunist, or am I just doing what anyone else would do? Why, oh why, am I so conflicted and melodramatic about these things?

6 Feb
2004
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Girl Stuff

Here’s a rather personal question for all you ladies out there: How does one go about finding a gynocologist when one doesn’t have any female friends to ask (coworkers don’t count because I don’t really want to cross that line with any of them) and when one doesn’t want to go to Planned Parenthood because the nearest one is the ghetto?

I usually schedule my yearly exam for when I go back to SLC on vacation (where the PP is not exactly a luxury spa, but certainly not a table in an alley), but this year I missed it, so now I have to either find a doctor here in California or wait another four months until I go back home to get back on ye olde birthe controlle pille. That’s a really long time to wait, if you ask Ethan.

Normally, I suppose one would see what doctors or clinics were covered by one’s insurance plan and then select accordingly. The trouble is, because my company doesn’t offer a very good package, I’m still on my parents’ plan, which is unique to employees of the Utah state government, and hence doesn’t apply to any of my options here. While that means I have to pay extra for an out-of-network doctor, it also means I can go anywhere I want. That sounds like a good thing, but it’s actually the root of my problem because now, instead of choosing between five or ten doctors pre-selected by the insurance company, I have to wade through hundreds and hundreds of options. You see my problem now. I just don’t feel right about opening up the phone book, closing my eyes, and pointing. Sure, I’d pick a racehorse or a presidential candidate if I liked the sound of his name, and I might pick a restaurant by the look of its sign, and I’d certainly judge a book by its cover, but I really don’t want to rely on insubstantial instict when choosing someone to poke about where the sun don’t shine. I may be acting like a baby here, but somehow I’m guessing I’m not alone.

Any ideas/advice/instructions? Better yet, anyone know how to get OrthoTriCyclen on the black market?

(On a hilarious sidenote, my dad wanted to make sure I knew it was okay to use his insurance card for such things, so he mentioned it on the phone a few months ago:

“You know, you can get our insurance to pay for things even if you’re not at one of the local places,” he said.

“I know,” I said.

“You could get contact prescriptions, glasses.”

“Yup.”

“You could find a dentist there too, in case you didn’t want to wait until you came home.”

“I know.”

“You could go to the crotch mechanic.”

“Thanks, dad. I needed to hear that from you.”

“Well…”

“No, really. Thanks. That’s enough.”

My dad is the king of understated crudity.)

5 Feb
2004
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Want vs. Need

A few months after we moved to Berkeley, a little storefront window in our neighborhood that had previously been obscured by huge sheets of frosted paper suddenly became a showcase of sorts, displaying all manner of random doodad and tchotchke and knickknack. Among the oddities were two matted illustrations of vaguely European street corners, several unmatched sets of ceramic cups and saucers in various shades of mustard, an old tea kettle, a blue plastic desk fan (non-oscillating), a handful of seashells, some tarnished doorknobs.

There were also three trees, five to eight inches tall, carved with a scroll saw out of buttery maple or ash. About two inches wide, and flat on either side, they were simple unpainted silhouettes of oak trees in full foliage, bulging and round like cumulus clouds, almost art deco in the daring curvature of their lines. One tree arched a little to the left, one squatted sturdily on its fat trunk, one puffed forth its leaves like a proud chickadee fluffing its breast feathers. I wanted those trees. Not only did I imagine them sitting in our living room, matching perfectly the futon, the bookcases, and the dresser, but I imagined them in my hands, the wood warm and smooth in my fingers, soft as a petal.

I wanted those trees, but I didn’t know how to get them. Nothing about the storefront indicated that its display items were for sale. There were no signs, no hours of operation posted, and the door was always closed. As far as I could tell, the place was being used as an office, for employees only. The spread in the window might just be for show; look but don’t touch.

I walked by those trees every day for a week, but I never paused before the window, not wanting to linger upon the unattainable. Then one day I stopped for a closer look and noticed a fluorescent orange sticker dot on the back of one of the trees. Inked on the dot, upside-down and barely legible, was $10. At least I thought it said $10. But $10 for three wooden trees? Three of the loveliest wooden trees in creation? Uncharacteristically, I doubted myself. It must be $10 per tree, which meant $30 that I didn’t have, barely emerging from three months of unemployment, all my savings spent on rent and food. I walked away.

That weekend, I drove by the trees in the window on my way to somewhere important. I couldn’t help myself from looking at them, and when I did, I noticed the door to the building was wide open and a sandwich board on the sidewalk outside seemed to be announcing an event, welcoming guests. I couldn’t stop at that moment, and when I finally made it back to the store, it was closed. It remained closed for days. At this point, I was aching for those trees, at the same time afraid they would be too expensive and afraid someone else would buy them before I got a chance. The longer the door remained shut and the trees remained behind the glass, the more I was sure I had to have them. I made plans for a special trip to knock on the door and see if that little extra effort would get me what I wanted. But I kept putting it off. I didn’t want to disturb the office when the door was closed. I didn’t want someone to tell me I was wrong, that the trees weren’t for sale, that I should have noticed this was not a retail store. I didn’t want to show up with $30 and be $40 short. I let shyness and uncertainty and fear of embarrassment or disillusionment close over me like a shell.

And then, you may have guessed, as mysteriously as they had appeared, the trees were gone. The window was empty, once more covered over with vellum. I was at a loss. I had lost something. The opportunity had slipped away, a rabbit under a fence.

**

There are these boots. Imagine medium-brown Italian leather, knee-high, one-inch heel, a zip up the back, laces up the front, a buckle across the ankle. Neither slutty nor clunky but perfectly perfect from heel to toe. If ever a boot made good use of its tongue and sole, it happened when this pair called out to me from the pages of the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. I want these boots.

I want them so much, the first time I saw them I actually considered spending $160 on them. I haven’t spent $160 on anything in my closet, including an old prom dress. I can barely spend $60 on jeans or shoes that I know I’ll wear every other day, so how could I imagine spending nearly three times that on something that will go with exactly two items in my wardrobe and shouldn’t–for the sake of fashion–be worn more than once every other month?

I haven’t even seen the boots in real life. What if the leather is stiff? What if they smell funny? What if they don’t fit? What if they make me look like a hoochie or a soldier?

But what if they look fabulous? What if they fit like they were made for my feet? What if they make my legs look long and thin and they give me a subtle yet noticeable rockstar confidence? What if these are the boots that will open the door to a whole wardrobe of daring apparel? What if?

I first saw these boots last fall. I was drawn to them immediately, but the price put them squarely out of my league. When the winter VS catalogue came, I saw them again. In November, I bought a skirt that goes with nothing I own but would look perfect with those boots. I saw them a third time when the VS email newsletter popped up in my inbox. I spent Christmas vacation looking for a suitable substitute, but to no avail. You can imagine my excitement when the VS boot sale was announced, promising deals of up to 50 percent off. My boots were discounted $20. Twenty never looked so measly.

Four email newsletters, five catalogues, and six trips to various shoe stores later, I am still in love with these boots. Even without seeing them in person, I know they will be everything I think they will be. I know they are soft. I know they are supple. I know they will suit me. I know I won’t regret them. I hope against all hope they will fit.

I am buying the boots!