Postcard from San Francisco

Posted: May 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Bad Mom Moves, Career Confusion, Working World | 1 Comment »

I’ve recently ventured to an exotic land. And not just once. I’ve been back there day after day, for weeks now.

The thing is, this place is separated from my usual stomping grounds by only a narrow waterway and a small island. But despite its close proximity, it seems like worlds—light years even—apart from the life I’ve come to know.

But I’m alone in my aloneness here. Which is to say, there are throngs of people in this new realm. Hoards of humanity who exude an overwhelming sense of comfort in this still-strange-to-me environment.

There actually was a time when I was at home in this place. But it’s like looking at a lock of hair in your baby book. You can’t imagine that that curly, naturally-blond lock was ever really part of you. It seems impossible that This You and That You are the same person.

Anyway, it’s struck me as odd that in all the time that I’ve been away, these other folks have still been there. It’s like five years ago some director yelled, “CUT!” to me and moved me onto a totally different set, but all these other chumps are still in that same place, acting out that same scene.

And for them it ain’t so fresh any more. They clearly lack my new-girl sense of wonder about the place. Like, they seem un-phased by the Walk signs that on select intersections allow people to traverse the street not just from one corner across to the next, but diagonally as well. It’s pedestrian mayhem! And for some reason, it’s dorkishly delightful to me.

There are other strange, noteworthy things. For one, there are no kids around. Not a single playground, toy store, or abandoned binky on the sidewalk. And I haven’t seen any of those Koala fold-down changing tables in the bathrooms. For that matter, I haven’t wiped a single nose (other than my own, that is), and thus far no one has bellowed to me from behind a bathroom door that they need my help wiping their—well, you get the idea.

It’s all just so different.

And my beloved—nay, ONCE beloved—iPhone, trusty telephonic companion that it used to be, has utterly seized up in this new place. Its inability to work is infuriating if only because sometimes, at the least expected moments, it does decide to function. This intermittent success factor gives me desperate irrational hope that if I endeavor to use it to do something as outrageous as making a phone call, it may possibly perform that simple act. After so long hearing others disparage their iPhones and not understanding why, well, I now understand. I want to shout from the rooftops about my allegiance to them in their hatred. In fact, I’ll have to shout to them, seeing as I’m shit-out-of-luck at making phone calls.

The place I’m talking about is, of course, San Francisco. Downtown, or the Financial District as it’s known (even though that’s a somewhat alienating term to those of us who work there, but not in the finance sector). I’m there because, after a more than two-year maternal hiatus, Mama’s taken on a bit o’ freelance work.

Yep, that’s me. Bacon. Pan. Frying up. Bringing home.

After being away for so long I’m trying to play it cool, but I can’t help but feel sometimes like I just got thawed out after a cryogenic experiment. All the donut shops have been replaced by those tart yogurt franchises, and there are compost cans in office kitchens now. And while fiddling with my iPhone paperweight on the subway, I discovered the BART train now provides wi-fi. I can access the Internets while hurtling through a tunnel underground! It is a brave new age, people.

Though all the changes aren’t for the better. A new disease appears to be sweeping through offices. It’s striking young and old, and leaving otherwise productive workplaces decimated. This “Social Networking Addiction” was not considered problematic in my stay-at-home mom realm. But I’ve gotten the sense that playing multiple concurrent games of Scrabble on Facebook, or obsessively Tweeting mundane life details like “Just peed and it smelled like asparagus,” is looked down upon in the workplace.

Go figure.

The last time I worked it was personal phone calls that were discouraged at the office. As far as I can tell, in the Email Age office phones never even ring any more. (And God knows our iPhones don’t.) If the building catches fire, I’m guessing an email will be sent out to alert folks to evacuate.

I mean, I don’t want to make myself out as a total dinosaur. There’s plenty in the workin’ world that’s still familiar to me. Sparring over limited conference room space. Publicly berating meeting latecomers. The Office Manager’s frustrated reminders that the fridge will be cleaned out on Friday afternoon. And let’s not forget the mixed blessing of sitting next to the woman with the candy bowl. This is the timeless stuff of office life. There’s comfort in knowing it will never go away.

At times it’s been so natural being back in my old workaday skin, I’ve found myself talking about “data points,” “knowledge transfer,” and “taking conversations offline.” It’s gross and shameful when that language creeps up on you, but worse when you use it at home. I’ve mistakenly slipped into Work Speak with Kate and Paige recently, and they just ran past me squealing, then tore into the cupboard looking for strawberry snack bars. Like I hadn’t said a thing.


The Then World and the Now World, or whatever combination of the two it is I’m living in now, don’t need to meld seamlessly. In fact, it’s probably better that I set my expectations around the likelihood that when my client spills his coffee I’ll have a baby wipe on hand to mop it up. (Or maybe even a diaper to really do some absorbin’.) And someday while Paige is sitting on my lap as I work from home, it’s inevitable that she’ll hit Send, and her own gibberish type will go out at the end of my attempted-professional email.

As long as I don’t start having daily status meetings with the kids, or hassle them about the amount of billable hours they’ve worked, I think I’ll be okay.

1 Comment »

One Comment on “Postcard from San Francisco”

  1. 1 Kelle said at 9:43 pm on May 19th, 2010:

    Great post!

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