An Exchange of Goods

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Spending my days on the 6th floor of a mid-rise office building suggests I spend my hours enjoying the steady vertical motions of elevators, with their rhythmic dings and clunk of closing doors. Over my four years of duty here I’ve amassed a mental catalogue of a hundred-plus faces and a hundred-minus names. My odds of encountering on an elevator one of those ‘instant recognizables’ are good. My odds of encountering on an elevator one of a thousand brand new faces are damn good. Even better are the chances that it’ll be only us two in the elevator. This creates an initial period of striving for recognition, followed by failure, followed by:

??: “How’s it going?”

Me: “Good, good. How ’bout you?”

??: “Good.”

Me: “Good!”

This exchange exhausts my list of conversation pieces. My recourse then is to earnestly hope for a malfunction in the ‘ding’ system resulting in a series of obnoxious auditory distractions; one can hardly attempt a conversation over those. In a truly dire situation, a shriek-inducing free-fall plunge—but only one that  ends with a pleasant cushiony landing—may be the only thing that saves us from more goofy looks.

I by no means oppose greetings and pleasantries; I just question the sense of robotic chatter whose  sole purpose is to prevent awkward silences. Its result is only occasionally less awkward than complete silence. How can mankind overcome such nonsense? Perhaps we should all sport buttons with a large “Doin’ Good”, written in a fun red font at least 20 points large, to spare others the inquiry.

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“Donna may not graduate with the gang!”

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Last week came this dreadful pronouncement from my wife. I had been preparing the pets for our nightly Fawapekiti (“family walk pets and kids time”). Eager to hit the road, I questioned her state of preparation for the outing. Instead of a “I still need to grab the pacifiers” she comes out with that urgent plea for delay, as the “Beverly Hills, 90210” kids were facing a calamitous predicament. (Their stress levels amusingly mimic those of the Scooby-Doo crew). Never mind the twins, who’ve been starved for fresh air all afternoon. And poo-poo the pets, by now crossing their legs in strained anticipation of their first walk (and poo-poo) that day. If there’s any risk of Donna Martin missing the big ceremony, we’ll just have to stay home and ensure this doesn’t happen.

Massachusetts vs. Miscellaneous

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When quickly scanning a document, take care to distinguish between these two words; at a rapid rate of reading, one may resemble the other. Your entire comprehension of the material may suffer greatly if you are led to believe that the Bay State is nothing more than a haphazard smorgasbord of random articles.

Out West – Day 8 (no more “Out West” posts)

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I spent the final day of Pacific time in conflict with a stomach ‘thing’ that dampened any joys of sightseeing. It didn’t stop us from another multi-mile trek on foot, but it did prevent me from eating anything of value the first twelve waking hours. As I noted earlier, the poor diet was one of this vacation’s underlying themes. We dined out of necessity and convenience and skipped many meals (in the process building character and saving cash and trash).

Another theme of this last day was a preoccupation with the flight home, scheduled for noon the following day. Caring little to repeat the joys of the previous Friday, we coughed up $200 for an upgrade to business class. Thinking: the free booze makes you forget the extra cost, while that extra half degree of respect from the flight attendants makes you feel just slightly more human.

***

Normally during travels I jot observations as they materialize. This time, my Moleskine notebook gathered dust and smog and the smell of crab cakes, but only on its cover; no pages were exposed to the elements or to fresh ink. Maintaining an unbroken grip on the handlebar of the double stroller left zippo time to take anything but mental notes. Still, that isn’t altogether bad, as it allowed me to discover the limits of my memory (as evidenced in the brevity of these last eight posts).

Out West – Day 7

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Our room at the Huntington Hotel in Nob Hill was, by big city hotel standards, immense. It sported vast windows offering fabulous views to the south.* Unfortunately, the curtains closed at 8PM and so did my admiration of the world outside.

If I hadn’t imparted clearly enough the tribulation of maneuvering this city’s hills, I’ll add that pushing a 20-pound double stroller laden with 36 pounds of offspring uphill constitutes a major bitch. And, restraining it while going downhill is an exercise in frayed nerves, as one slip of a finger may send the stroller careening down a 15% grade. That hills are San Francisco’s most distinctive feature isn’t news. Yet, it’s considerate to advise visitors of the need for an extra helping of carbs in your morning diet to tackle the day’s wanderings. Also, driving becomes an entirely new experience. First is the fear your car won’t make it all the way up to the intersection, and if  it does, that you’ll shatter the knee of a pedestrian jumping into the crosswalk. Then, rounding the crest and plunging downhill, that you’ll shatter both knees and all parts attached thereto if your brakes don’t oblige.

* Our pockets are not deep nor our tastes refined enough for this life (four days, really) of luxury; all it took was a daring click on Hotwire for these royal accommodations at a reduced rate.

Out West – Day 6

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Over the course of this trip our nutritonal intake suffered noticeably. Our compressed schedule relegated eating to tertiary importance. We gathered food not in pursuit of gastronomic pleasure but out of desperation and convenience; the pizza joint and burger haus were too often located right under our noses, instead of past two toll bridges, way uphill, second on the left, as they should have been. We did dine on Thai and Sushi once apiece, I proudly report, but these healthy dabblings were all too easily and quickly followed by a breakfast of Pop Tarts.

As a gesture of atonement for such a lousy start to our second San Francisco stay, we hit Muir Woods for a knee-busting two hour mostly uphill hike among the redwoods and sequioas (there is a difference: redwoods taller, sequias squatter). Back in town, I observed that the overwhelming majority of the city’s pedestrians appear fit and, had I been allowed to test, firm; denizens with curves were as scarce as—and only spotted on—flat ground.

Out West – Day 5

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For the return trip to San Francisco we selected Highway 101, which latches on to the Pacific coastline for much of its length and proved even more appealing than the fast-moving 5 through the state’s gut. Within twenty minutes of leaving LA urbanity the immense ocean comes into view on the left. It was calm, almost serene; yet an occasional splotch interrupted the surface: dolphins, perhaps, or a less exotic marine specimen splashed out to sample the air and instantly dove back under the waves.

Fast forward six or seven hours and we again entered Northern California, with its spectacular vegetation—dry, hardy, ancient. Far from Florida, where the soft loose sand supports only the shallowest of roots, plant life here on the west coast appears to be anchored firmly, as if set in concrete. Whereas green life in Florida depends on the constant deluge from the sky, here vegetation seems to be indifferent about water; it can take it or leave it, and if had its choice would do just fine without, thanks for asking.

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