Saturday, August 06, 2005
There is No Free Lunch
I went to the 12th floor and was greeted by the insufferably rude and blasé receptionist, Laurel. I told her I needed to go to the 11th floor and to please call Sally and ask her to let me in. See, when your day starts with all these weird, tortuous, up/down, 11th floor/12th floor, call-and-buzz-me-in kinds of convoluted stuff, then you might as well just hang it up. Because a theme is being set in the cosmos for your day.
Laurel, in her fabulously noncommittal way, said, “You can call her yourself from the phone downstairs. It’s 4545.”
I wasn’t operating on all cylinders, due to an ongoing, unresolved coffee problem and this almost convulsive fatigue, so I went downstairs and called Sally from the phone outside the moated walls of the 11th floor. Sally is like Jack Torrence in The Shining, she is always there. She has always been there. If they tore down the building, she would still be there. HOWEVER, of a Friday morn, when I needed her most, she was not there. At 9:00 a.m., on a desolate August morning, NO ONE was there. So I stormed back up the stairs. I knew I was in kind of a nuclear phase of fatigue/hormonal imbalance/uncaffienated bitchiness, where I start blurting out things I would normally keep confined to the polite recesses of my mind. I said to Laurel, “The whole point of me having you call her was to make sure she was there.” GRUMPY! She retorted something equally venomous, that I ignored. She finally got someone to let me in downstairs, and I dropped off the paperwork and walked back out to the heat and my car, with the 12 pack of Diet Coke in the passenger seat, my only friend in this world.
I got to work, and was pissed off to have to be there after this helatious four months or however long this “project” has been going on, that has sucked the marrow out of my very being. I was there for one reason: we were getting a “free” lunch for all of our hard work. We were supposed to get it from our favorite place—the place where our firm goes for our “thank you” banquets, called Celebrity Deli. It has, no kidding, the best New York style deli sandwiches ever, with pasta salad in balsamic vinaigrette and chevre cheese, red cabbage cole slaw, kosher pickles and cheesecake brownies. Yes. It’s very naughty and very good. Like me.
But our “boss,” the Linebacker in Drag, Maralago, who is on an “extended leave,” told our administrative assistant that she would order the lunch. Wha’? Because you see, Maralago is an “event planner” on the side. Here’s the deal, when someone tells you they are an “event planner,” run. Just run. Hyacinth, my “eccentric” neighbor, is also an “event planner.” Somewhere, somehow, they got it into their heads that they are really good at entertaining and coordinating and “pulling things together,” and so they decide to make a business out of this fantastic perceived talent. The only problem is, in order to entertain successfully; you have to have 1) good taste, 2) a soul, and 3) some class. I can say, unequivocally, that Hyacinth and Maralago have no class. Not even a touch. So I sat at my desk stewing and thinking, “I just want my free lunch.” And then I tried to log onto my computer and all hell broke loose.
We’ve been having a log on carousel phantasmagoric blitzkrieg for the past few weeks and, since we are all so cute and charming, the computer dudes on the other side of the floor have always looked out for us. We had the surfer computer dude who set me up with all kinds of beyond-the-firewall courtesies, and now we have my little friend Victor, who waives all the formal paperwork for me and just comes to my computer and gives me what I want because he can sense my feral untamed nature and knows that it needs to be placated.
I stormed over to “Doug,” the new computer maestro, and he said, “What is your name?” I told him and he said, “We’ve been waiting for you.” I’m not kidding. “Doug” is a little needle nosed rodential sort of man. If this were a movie and there was a mouse who suddenly transmogrified into a man, that would be our Doug. The Mouseman Cometh. He has a bald pate on top, a receding mouselike chin, a beaky nose and, here’s my favorite feature, he has little tufts of fur right above each knuckle. I don’t even want to think about his back, because I know it is a ruglike haven of black tufty fur.
I took off on him, I took off on his colleague Patty, with the horrendous pictures of two no-necked monster sons proudly featured on her credenza. I took off on grumpy Pete, who sits in his office looking at porn and gets pissed when you come by for anything. He of the perma-stubble and the endless sigh. I went back and found our client, Mr. Cardigan, and took off on him. He brings out the beeyatch 16 year old in me because he is such a perma-dad. He’s just a dad. He has a “Best Dad in the World” mug in his office and a perma-cardigan, and a hangdog expression that says he has had the masculinity summarily stamped out of him by years of marriage and suburban torpor and way too many years of government “service.”
When there was no one else to take off on, I went back to my desk and took off my glasses and buried my head in my keyboard. And thought about the free lunch. My colleague came by to say that lunch had arrived. They laid it out in the big supply room. Thanks for all the hard work guys! Except no one said, “thank you.” They just put out the food like keepers in a zoo: here. Here’s your reward. Keep balancing the ball on your nose like a good seal. Except I think the seals get better food. Maralago ordered food for 60, even though we only have 30 people in the office. This was not out of generosity or kindness, and did not have anything to do with her gratitude for all of our hard work that she wouldn’t know about since she went on an “extended leave” at precisely the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th minute that our project was due. But that’s another story.
Our administrative assistant, Carole, told me the catering invoice was dated for March of this year, and that she thinks Maralago had to cancel an “event” with this caterer and this was her way of making it up to him, on our company’s dime. And so we, the hardest working people in show business, were the happy recipients of an ill-gotten lunch, a crummy substitute for our own beloved deli.
There were bland meats wrapped in stale tortillas; a curry chicken salad made with canned chicken and whole green grapes; sodden, overcooked zucchini and bloated snow peas; a limp array of “mixed greens” with a glamorous bottle of green goo on the side; some individual bags of Lays potato chips; warm cans of soda, heated to perfection in the August sun; and some crumbly “gourmet” cookies with greasy oversized hunks of chocolate.
I took my plate back to my desk, bypassing the clusters of people gathered in conference rooms, and marinated in my misanthropy. I went to the kitchen for some ice, to take the heat off of my soda, and Sue Who's 72 was holding court with a table of younguns. She pulled up a chair for me and I sat with them and got even more depressed, because my timing was off and every time I opened my mouth to say something, no one heard me and the guy next to me just looked at me. I sort of closed my mouth and smiled to pretend it didn’t matter that I kept saying things that suddenly got swallowed in an unexpected swell of laughter or banter.
I took my leave of the table and went back to my desk. Of course I ate the stupid cookie. Then I thought, I just need to go home. But first, I need to stop at Nordstrom Rack. Not always such a great idea because for some reason, this Nordstrom Rack is a magnet for some of the most irritating people on earth. Last time it was a bald muscle man with a headset phone bellering inanities, this time it was Horrible Vile Mommy yelling at her Horrible Vile Children.
I mostly grazed in the baby clothes section, then I checked out and drove home. I didn’t feel happy and crazily elated as I usually do when I am sprung early. I felt disconcerted—that post tantrum swelling of the eyes and the heart still fluttering from adrenaline and anger. I came home and the babies woke up and were so cute. I gave them their new clothes. I got Ian some “pipes,” those long surfer shorts and a surfer tank and Daisy got a bunch of stuff including a seersucker halter dress that she wanted to put on immediately.
I tried to watch Oprah amid an ongoing toy fight. Then, just when it got to the Oprah payola moment, when your heart surges and you put your hands to your face because the emotion is so strong, Ian stood in front of the TV and I couldn’t see the mother of the drunk driver who crashed into a woman and burned her alive, lean over to hug the brave resolute wreckage of a woman, disfigured horrendously by burns. Oprah said the "moment" for her was when the burn victim leaned over to hug the mother and said, “It’s OK.” I cried. Tried to regain some perspective. Oprah is really good at teaching you that! I still felt deflated—I think anticlimactic is the word.
The whole time I was walking through Nordstrom Rack, I kept thinking, “being and nothingness, being and nothingness.” And I knew I was a capitalist pig for being in there for “retail therapy.” I questioned why I was buying into that whole thing of buying stuff to make myself feel better. Then I looked at the pink terry cloth two-piece outfit I got Daisy. And I felt a little better, in spite of myself. |
Cynicism is another word for reality