Tag Archives: work

Mad Dash

Public train transportation is the way to travel into the city if you want to ditch the traffic, read a book or fall asleep behind the wheel. Train commuting is a type of home away from home. The MBTA is not the way to travel if you desire consistently being on time, don’t like crowds or require privacy.

The 6:42 a.m. train was a unique scenario as we boarded the now 7:02 a.m. dark passenger cars in Shirley, MA. There was no battery power, lights or air conditioning. The passengers grumbled as they boarded their unreliable steel pool cars. One man in our boarding line read the riot act to the conductor. Said man was riding the rails to catch a 9:15 flight out of Logan. I think half of us were chuckling at the psychotic traveler; he wouldn’t have made that flight on a good day. He was already cutting it way too close for morning Uber traffic, and airport security checks, even if he did arrive in Boston by 8:00. The conductor told him the best bet was to wait for the next train. There were no guarantees and the crew was already hoping this engine would make it to North Station.

Reassured on every level, I made my way to the top of the double-decker.

We pulled into the next station braking with a jolt. Nobody on the train understood what that had to do with no battery. The Ayer passengers embarked complaining about both the lack of power and the man that ran in front of the train. Evidently, someone had crossed the tracks to get to their platform. When the man realized he dropped something, he ran back in front of the oncoming train to pick it up. Everyone waiting on the platform thought they were going to witness a fatal accident. As they boarded, the train was still dark but their trauma was visible. The situation added more time before we were underway again.

The next stop is right off the interstate, and the largest pick up. About 200 people boarded our moving cave and we were on our slow way again without incident.

We arrived at the next depot with incident. Passengers boarded and then the train stayed on the platform. We weren’t moving again. Everyone hedged their bets to either disembark and reboard the next train or wait it out and hope the situation improved. The experienced group I was sitting with knew better, got off the snail and lined up for the following train that would be pulling in any minute. About 300 people were back on the platform and headed to the crossover when the headlight of the the savior train appeared.

The crowd had words for each other as people tried to hurry in front of the next. Everyone jumbled together trying not to be last. The mayhem was railroad “musical chairs”, knowing not everyone would get a seat.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. We were already an hour behind schedule and so many people were standing up, the cars looked more like a subway. The situation could not possibly get worse but the earlier commuters remained visibly on edge.

This second train would arrive on time, so the last few standing passengers weren’t otherwise effected. They had lights and air conditioning. The commuters just outside the city had it made, they just didn’t know it. One woman, standing next to my seat, couldn’t understand the frenzy.

She remained positive, “The railroad does get us there.”

“Yes. This is still better than driving in traffic.” another Cambridge passenger agreed.

“Right? A few less seats does not make a difference.” declared the first.

A dangerous remark from someone that had just boarded in Belmont. I was already on the 2nd train, after the first arrived 20 minutes late, and was an hour behind schedule after offloading and reboarding with 300+ of my most intimate friends.

The morning commute included a bigger crowd, no privacy and I was late. Yes, I had avoided traffic and read a large part of my book. But no, I couldn’t fall asleep, even though it was so much like home. There had been a lot of excitement with the lights off.

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To do list

My life changed after using the last Q-tip Monday night. Sincerely. I planned to pick up a new box on Tuesday once I finished at the library. The pharmacy was right next door but I managed to forget. On Wednesday, I didn’t think about the Q-tips until I climbed out of the shower that night. Frustrated I muttered, “Oh God! …Let me remember cotton swabs next time I’m out?!” I put on my pajamas and wrote ‘Qtips’ on our refrigerator shopping list.

Thursday was my birthday, so my focus was certainly not on Q-tips or any other kind of cotton swab. I readied for work, caught the train to Boston and bought munchkins for our office. Nobody knew it was my birthday and the morning went by slowly. At noon, I decided to stretch my legs, get some fresh air and take a walk.

The tourists were on the Freedom Trail and the office workers were sitting down to cafe lunches or walking back to buildings with their to-go sacks. I walked with a fast stride, smelled the aromas and listened to the sounds of the city. I watched all the people but saw the homeless. How hard is it for them to watch the feeding frenzy?

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The rest of the story that follows is not an event I would typically discuss; moments that happen in my Christian life are between myself and God. However, I feel obligated to spread these special words because I think God works in mysterious and beautiful ways.

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I passed many storefronts at a quick pace.

Until I didn’t.

My stride slowed and uncontrollably stopped. I was suddenly standing in front of a very crippled man in his wheelchair. The sensation didn’t scare me and I was not afraid to be with this helpless person. I wanted to assist but didn’t know how. I do know not to give money in the streets. There is a shrine, a soup kitchen and a shelter nearby.

I found myself saying words i hadn’t even formed in my mind yet:

“What can I help you with today?”, as I bent over his chair.

His response was slow, labored and garbled. I didn’t understand anything that he was straining so hard to express.

My soul bled for him as I looked to his hands for some aided expression.

They were twisted and fist-like with long, dirty nails.

They grabbed my heart.

“I am sorry, tell me again.”, now I had to know.

He tried once more, working hard to form lips and sound.

I turned my ear toward him and thought I heard words.

Trying to match a food with what I thought I heard, I questioned, “Chips?! You want potato chips?” I turned back to face him, hoping to see acknowledgement in his eyes.

They were covered with black sunglasses; it was a beautiful sunny day.

Don’t let me give up, I thought. This is my fellow human being. He turned his head, left and right and then directly at me.

A definite but pleading “No.” registered in his mouth and my ears.

I had his lunch request all wrong, didn’t know what else to do, and then, at that very defeated moment, I heard his continued mumble as clear as a foggy day.

He spoke more slowly. “No, Q-tips.” and low but distinct, “I need Q-tips.”

I froze. In elation. For so many reasons.

“Of course. You know what?”, I was so happy and continued, “I need Q-tips too. I’ll buy some for both of us.”

It was as easy as the nearby CVS and the cosmetics aisle. I was overjoyed that I’d waited to understand. Coming together may have been God’s plan all along? My spiritual life changed because remembering new Q-tips helped me not to hear, but to see, in a whole new way.

Happy Birthday to me.

Elevator pitch

Among the Corporate hot topics of transparency and open concept design, is also my inability to keep a secret. I stepped onto the building elevator and saw a colleague from another glass floor having difficulty with her access badge. I just smiled, waited, helped and then told her it happens to all of us.

“You’re so patient and happy. Are you always like this when you go to work?”, she asked as the doors opened to my floor.

I laughed as I stepped off the elevator. I am usually one of the first to arrive, so despite not wanting anyone in my office to know, I looked back at her as the elevator started to close and yelled, “Actually, it’s my birthday today!”

Her surprised smile as the doors shut made my day. It also felt good to say out loud. I reached for my second access badge, opened the door and stepped into the work area. On this side of the tower is a bank management training program. To my chagrin, everyone was already there.

One of the young co-ed women looked at me with a clever smile and said, “Wow! It’s your birthday. Enjoy!”

This was followed by the two people in her group also chiming in to say, “Happy Birthday!”

I stopped in my tracks realizing I had unintentionally thrown my own party.

The rest of the group, about 30 in all, turned or swiveled in my direction and wished me a loud “Happy Birthday!” in unison. One guy even gave me a high five as I started to walk past the group. Others joined in as I thanked them all with an embarrassed laugh and continued to the other end of the floor.

I felt like I’d just won the biggest Corporate account or hit the winning basket for the company team. That moment was an embarrassingly fun way to jump start the day.

My own team wasn’t there yet, had no idea it was my birthday and didn’t see this happen. I signed onto my computer with a new secretly knowing grin on my face. With the open concept design, I was not only transparent, I had hit my own glass ceiling.

Not

When you go to your first office party as a participant in the ugly sweater contest but it’s not an ugly sweater contest at all.

The first person you see is the admin at the front desk who is dressed in such a cute elf top she could be the lead toymaker in a live production of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. Her green, red and white top even has jingle bells adorned on the cuffs and collar but you are naïve enough to think it is just attributable to her happy nature. Clearly she hadn’t read the memo that she emailed to the staff.

That’s when you go to the break room and see the one woman that is older than you in a gorgeous black velvet jacket with a silk embroidered Christmas scene that could land itself in a gallery. Obviously, she had not bought it at Walmart nor worn her best jacket because she thought it was an ugly contender.You smile and say hello like it’s any other December day but do not take off your coat.

A walk to your private office will help you sort this potential fashion blunder out. You stayed up all night sewing crocheted snowflakes to the oldest red sweater you owned. It was embellished with the worst felt Christmas decorations your kids had ever made. Even midnight hadn’t stopped you from adorning it with gold and silver glitter you threw into the smeared overdose of glue gun horror.

As you mentally change your mindset from clear winner to office loser, you wonder how to continue the morning? You start by rereading the office party luncheon invitation. Lunch is at noon and there will be two judging’s in the morning: one for the nicest office decor and a second for the ugly sweater winner. As far as you’re concerned, your sweat equity ugly sweater efforts are confirmed, so you proceed to the ladies room.

You just about melt when you see the lawyer leaving the bathroom in not just a gorgeous merino wool snowman sweater but an entire dress. She even has black high-heeled boots to emphasize her Christmas fashion statement. Only a top hat and pipe would have heightened the look. She probably had them back in her office so Kris Kringle himself could ask her to perform some magic during the luncheon.

You do what you have to in that situation. You take a shit to demonstrate how you feel, hold your head up high and own it as you strut back into the office – even when people look away or smile in a way that neither acknowledges nor inquires about your holiday sweater. You swallow hard once you’re back at your desk and realize you still have to stand in front of the entire office when it’s your turn for the Yankee swap.

All of this composure is held together even when you realize that joke gifts will not be the norm either. Booze and lottery tickets are the hit as you wonder what you’re reddened face will look like once someone opens your six pack belt of gingered ale.

The hour and day go by as slowly as an entire winter in New England. Snowman lawyer wins both the office decor and “sweater” contest with a fast tally of 32 to zero. A clean sweep…and all you can do is take the broom to clean up the glitter from your participation in the not-ugly-sweater-contest.

The Sound of Music

“When the Lord closes a door…” 

The motion is a slam, and the view is through pains of glass, but renewed spirit will breeze through the screen

“Somewhere he opens a window…”