I work for…


…the kind of guy who asks permission to take his blazer off in a hot, air-conditioned room full of people whose own dress ranges from suits (a very few) to the haphazard, semi-casual (but what does casual even mean anymore) standard modern work attire of people who are not required to wear, well, suits. He also knows a lot about typefaces and how to correctly deploy footnote abbreviations like “cf.” Those of you who know me well can immediately see how weirdly appropriate it is that I fell into working for someone like this…

But that’s about all I’m going to say, kids. That’s how it’s done on the internets. When writing about your job on a web site that is the second result in a Google search for your name, you want to walk up to the edge, maybe look over to see what’s down there, and then just turn away. But god the work can mount up sometimes, in a job like mine. A week that seemed manageable on Monday can turn into what feels like overload late on a Tuesday afternoon, with an evening meeting that will run until 10 p.m., new proposals to write, clients who sometimes seem to be trying to make it difficult to do the job they’ve hired the company for, and your wife off gallivanting around the wilds of Arizona. A.’s job is just a job, too, of course. I’m sure it has its frustrations and moments of overload. But in the view from my desk it looks damn appealing.

On two different occasions in the last week, the woman who is always working the counter at Sam’s Bagels has covered me when I’ve been short on cash. They only take cash, in one of those business decisions that probably looks like a good idea when the proprietor is considering only the cost of processing the transactions, but I wonder if he or she realizes how many people carry no cash these days. With other semi-comparable take-out places only a block away, I wonder how many people sort of want a bagel but not enough to go to a cash machine first. Anyway, yesterday I was running late and decided to get a bagel on my way in. After the woman rang me up, I told her to keep an additional three dollars of the change from the twenty I handed her, in an effort to settle up my unofficial tab. It was at first difficult to get my meaning across, as she speaks mainly bagel-ordering English. I’m not going to try to guess if she is Korean or Chinese, though I do think it’s one of those. She and a man her age – so maybe her husband, but let’s stick to what we know are facts – seem to run the shop (he is always in the back room, I guess making the bagels but maybe smoking opium, you never know), and younger woman about the right age to be their daughter is often to be found filling the orders. When the older woman finally grasped my meaning, she smiled a huge smile and turned to the younger woman, saying something relatively lengthy in her native tongue. (Or some tongue. Certainly not mine, at any rate.) The older woman acted impressed by my action, although the younger woman didn’t seem to care. What do you want from her? She had bagels to toast.

I waited at the counter by the window as they made my egg sandwich. Suddenly the older woman appeared at my elbow with my bag. Peeking from the top was a bag of Utz potato chips that I hadn’t ordered. (Obviously. Remember, this was breakfast time.) Couldn’t have cost her much but it was a nice touch. Come to think of it, they are often pushing free items on me, but usually to get me to sample some item off of the ethnic/lunch side of the menu. One time it was a small bowl of some kind of spicy soup brought out as a sort of appetizer while I waited for my eat-in breakfast order one weekend. On another Sunday, it was a small plate of some kind of shredded and very spicy meat. Very good stuff, although I’ve never been back for anything but a bagel. Maybe I should give the rest of the menu a try sometime.

Yes, so then: work. Enough said about that. Except my day also involved meeting with a computer programmer. That can be surreal. But I’m sworn to secrecy. By myself.

As I type this, my brother and my father are off at one of his appointments in Silver Spring. This will no doubt be a low point in his week, but there will be some better times on Friday, I hope. Last fall, through random chance, I happened to learn that a Baltimore city employee was looking for information about a brass tablet commemorating my great-grandfather, a Baltimore City Health Department public-health doctor who was infected and died in 1930 while investigating a parrot fever outbreak, of all things. The department dedicated this tablet soon after his death, and presumably it hung in some place of honor for a while. The email I received about the tablet was forwarded from a friend of mine who works at BCHD; apparently a general services administrator who had come into possession of the tablet (when I called, he told me it was in his office, behind his door) was actually trying to convince the health department to rehang the thing and was looking for information to support his case. My father, a family history enthusiast (to put it mildly – he’s more like a family history public relations spokesperson), supplied some photocopies from his extensive collection of newspaper clippings and relevant books. But the administrator changed departments, perhaps related to the new mayor taking office in the meantime, and I learned last Friday that the tablet now resides in the storage “cage” in the BCHD facilities department. I spoke to a very helpful and friendly woman in that department named Gwen, though, and she says it’s no problem for us to come take a look at the thing. We’re planning to go early Friday morning (early morning is when “the guys” are around the cage and will be able to carry it out for us, said Gwen). There will be pictures. For the heck of it, we’ll also bring a letter to the commissioner suggesting that he rehang this thing. It’s easy to imagine how this could end up being the opposite of a priority for him, but we’ll see. I’ll have done my part for good old great-granddad, at least.

Now I have to get the house ready for part three of the thrilling serial Electrician, Take All of My Money, Please, with a cameo appearance by a potential property manager who is stopping by to see if this is the kind of house her company cares to get involved with.

Details, of course, to follow, and maybe a Bird Camp dispatch soon.

DSC 0020

Oh, and I went running this morning. Go me.