I’ve now contracted at Microsoft for six months. Today for the first time I had a meeting in a different building. The buildings are numbered; I just had the number but didn’t bother to look up exactly where it was, they all have signs. I spooled around a while turning, following signs, the Microsoft-branded shuttle vans, pedestrians, all of them either contractors working for Microsoft or full time employees. I considered the metaphor of all that turning and navigating and driving, to searching for something on the internet. I thought about the fact they’re an engineering-led company and the thoughtful coding on the parking lot floors. I had to go to that building because my client was out of the country and I’d offered to stand in for her, to present her team’s plans for an upcoming conference. But part of me regretted it, and wished I wasn’t such a go-getter. The room was big enough to seat 50 probably and you had to stand up in front with a microphone. There was a huge screen in the back, the size of a movie. They had it on video and audio recording, with many others on Skype. I sat down and tried to look normal.
In the morning before I went in I walked Charlotte and the dog to the bus stop and caught the Comcast service guy in his van coming by to inspect our lines (they’re hanging low from a recent storm, and I’m hoping they’ll lop off some limbs so I don’t have to pay the arborist so much). Dawn wants the trees taken out but I like them: they remind me of my aunt Helen’s house in upstate New York, one Thanksgiving there was snow, I’d never seen trees so tall, and inside it was warm and cozy and the three of us (my mom, dad and I) slept in the same room. There was a German Shepherd named Tiger and in the morning my aunt cooked scrambled eggs and I sat there at the table thinking this is my family.
In the bathroom at the Microsoft building it was so clean it smelled like the soap Irish Spring. It looked too clean to use, as a bathroom. I came out of it feeling better than I did going in. I regarded myself in the mirror and splashed water on my face, grunted, made a yogic breath urging the tension out.
When I got home Dawn was in bed with the flu; though she’d been on the meeting where I presented and listened in, said I did well, sounded good. Kept my composure when challenged. I hadn’t done anything like that in a good two years. Like speaking a foreign language, you can rehearse the phrases and sound convincing enough but once they say something off-script, you’re on your own.
Dawn’s given up caffeine, sugar, and alcohol for Lent—calls it her Jesus Cleanse. She had to leave the meeting before I got there (our cars passed one another on the road) and when I found her at home she had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios on the nightstand next to her.
I had enough time to send more work email, to play with the dog and cat, and then I went to the bus stop for Charlotte and stopped to look at the cables hanging down from the telephone poles, low-voltage land lines: Verizon got bought by another company but that company didn’t have us in their coverage area so they flipped me back to Verizon and Verizon doesn’t have a good way to contact them for service requests like ours. I studied the strand and where it came undone, where it connected to the NID (the network interface device), thought about cutting the lines, just tearing them out and how freeing it would feel, pulling the line out of the trees. How long it would take for anyone to notice. How long we’ll have to live, looking at those lines. And who uses them nowadays. The old, or terribly young. Anyone who really matters is somewhere in the middle.