Two Roads Diverged in a Suburban Parking Lot
March 01, 2010
Noah's private school is around the corner from my old office. On Mondays I drop him off and then hang out at the shopping center across the street, poaching WiFi from the sandwich place where I used to get lunch. The parking lot is still a pain in the ass, the chicken salad is still too dry, but that's where the nostalgia ends.
I've been coming here since last summer, when I brought a very, very different little boy to the school's summer camp, and yet I have never once bumped into anyone I know. I drove by the office every day for months without noticing that the company name was no longer on the building -- they'd moved a couple blocks away, to another building that I drove by every day, but the name on that building is different too. The company was sold awhile back, then renamed and rebranded. I had no idea until I joined LinkedIn and tried searching for coworkers. Most of them are still there, though there were quite a few layoffs in the wake of the stock market crash.
I still can't listen to stock market reports without thinking about my job -- if the Dow or NASDAQ closed up or down a certain number of points, I had to stay late and send out one last update. When I started, the updates were recorded over the phone. Subscribers would call and listen to a pre-recorded message from their investment adviser about the day's action. When we started sending the updates out via email, I had to call the phone number over and over again to transcribe the messages, because some of the advisers didn't like typing it out first, but preferred to just call and ramble on for awhile about whatever they felt like. One guy was downright epic -- he'd talk for 15 minutes about everything from the Presidential election cycle to the auto industry to the Olympics to the yuan to the bulls and the bears and lagging indicators and buy some blue chips and short the dollar and by the way I'm recording this message from my yacht, have a nice weekend, folks. He always got a few ticker symbols wrong, and to this day I still know a good 200 of them by heart.
It's not my job anymore -- and that particular bit of drudgework hadn't been my job for awhile, as I lobbed it off on assistants and interns as soon as I could -- but I still call it my job. When a former boss sent out an employment posting on LinkedIn for a managing editor with an eerily familiar set of duties, I forwarded it to Jason and said something like, oh how funny, I could get my job back. I don't want it back, but still.
I was so terrified when I quit my job. That job. Whatever job.
The title and responsibilities sound the same, but not much else would be. The new building has cubicles instead of window offices and I hear the formal dress code has been relaxed. It's all very Internet-y now and I have no idea if they still do any actual publishing. Like on paper. Which was a thing, back then. Way back in, you know, 2006.
I imagine, if I hadn't quit outright, I probably would have dropped down to part-time by now, what with the realities of two babies in daycare, twice the cost and quadruple the sick days. Being away from Ezra for 40 hours a week sounds about as attractive as dropping off a couple of my limbs. And who would drive Noah to evaluations and therapy and private school in the afternoon? So maybe I'd be freelancing or contracting. Maybe copywriting, or handling the after-hours grudgework that nobody else wanted. Maybe I would have been laid off already.
I think all of this over just about every Monday, as I stare out the window at the building that the company I no longer work for no longer occupies. I wonder about that life for awhile, like it's the alternate reality B-plot from Lost. Then I get back in the car to go pick up the first of the two greatest decisions I ever made.