The flu took more than a week to make its way through my system. For six days I camped out at the house, watching TV, working, playing games, blowing my nose and coughing up a lung. Along came Friday (Day 7) and I had a 9:30 a.m. meeting at work.
Leaving the comfort of the house was exciting, but required caution. Taking it easy is not a strength. But this time would be different.
However, after just five hours out of the house and through a series of mundane events, I realized I forgot how to BigCity.
First, the news was a constant companion during my lock-down. I knew Justice Antonin Scalia passed. But seeing the town flag at half-staff caught me off guard. “What? What is that about? … Oh yeah. That’s what it’s about.” I fancy myself a flag at half-staff observer. Why it was so weird to see it that time was because after being locked up for so long reality didn’t feel real. Or at least the news didn’t feel real. Nothing felt real. The days of sequester were a fluid space of time when things ran together but didn’t have consequence. Until I saw that flag. Then I realized the real world really happened while my life stood still.
Second, the absence of commuting brought a sense of calm. I don’t drive into town. As a public transit user, I’m a slave to the availability of parking. The alarm clock starts ringing at 4:45 a.m. and I’m on the road within an hour in hopes of getting on the sixth/top floor of the closest train station parking deck. The 20-minute drive is full of panic and stress. There’s one spot from the highway where you can see the parking deck (which here in the PNW is not called a deck, it’s a garage). When I get to that section of road, my eyes examine the situation and adjust my panic level appropriately. Once parked, it’s down six flights of stairs and then standing in line – in the cold, dark, rain, etc. that comes with a PNW winter. When the train comes you angle for a seat – any seat because men here don’t stand for a lady. For five days, I didn’t endure this daily stress. I worked from home and got more done – and put in 11 hours each day – all from the comfort of home. You don’t know how bad things are when you’re in it. When you get some separation, you see the truth. Not commuting was a blessing. I will cherish the absence of that daily panic – and accelerate my move-downtown plan.
Third: elevators. Once I got to work (I did drive into town), I rode not one, but three elevators, two of which required key cards for access. The swipe/beep/swoosh was a familiar comfort. The rides were slow and made me miss the home-based office. Most days I take about 10-14 elevator trips and need key cards to get places. At home: no elevators, all access and no clothing standards.
Fourth: Starbucks Mobile Ordering. I rock this app. With 12 minutes before my meeting, I placed my mobile order, navigated down the elevator and to the Bucks (Does anyone call it that? I’m going to see if I can make this a thing.). I waited and waited. Mobile orders came and went. People came and went. Experience taught me that it takes 5-7 minutes from hitting “Place Order” until the order magically appears. It didn’t magically appear. The Partners know me, so I asked if my order was ready. I then pulled up my phone – and sure enough, I never hit “Place Order”. Of all things BigCity about me – this is the top of the list. I can order anything from my phone and it magically appears. Did all those days of being a Suburban Sicko wipe away what 20 months of BigCity training? It did. I was embarrassed – an amateur move at best. Then, for the first time in many months, I got in line at Starbucks and gave my order to the Partner working the register and stood there waiting for it to come forth. (It’s not magical when you have to order in the store). It arrived and off to the meeting I went. My cup had no printed label – just my name misspelled. Amateur. At best.
Fifth: meetings. That meeting I thought was worth climbing out of the house for – was not worth it. We were cramped in a small room and the technical issues were over my head. Technical issues are not my strong suit. Telling people how to navigate the delicate world of relationships is. You don't discuss those things in meetings.
Sixth: communications consulting. After the meeting my colleagues sought out my advice on how to deal with the hotter topics, my favorite thing ever. Genius advice came from my being. It was so genius that I even mic-dropped before exiting stage left to my cubicle. My creative juices were flowing as fast as the mucus. It was great. And then I hit the wall and went home. Seinfeld taught us to leave on a high note.
Yeah, five hours back in my BigCityLife showed me how easy it is to forget the familiar. As I prepare to head back to the real world and face a five-day work week, I am already worried about the commute and the technical issues. I’ll miss working from home and watching the news. But just like I always do, I’ll find the balance and solider on through the adventures that come with being BigCity.