Monday, April 26, 2010
Keenie the Beanie and the Blustery Day
And, can I just say, that was the best first day of work I could've had. Because as an accountant, I could pretty much work for any company in the world (assuming they would have me, which I'm not). Every company needs someone to count the money - even if they're losing it. As a result, I come to positions with a good idea of what I can do for them, but only a general idea of what it is they can do for their customers. I mean, if you are a doctor, librarian, book editor, whatever - you probably know what it is your company does, but the person counting the money... not so much. Particularly if you've just joined a company (as I once did) that makes "semi-conductor link processing systems." Whaaa? I still don't know what that means and I worked there for 4 years.
Anyway, for this first day of work, I got to sit quietly and listen while the execs talked about the company, our customer's requirements and how the R&D and the sales processes work to develop and deploy products to meet those needs. And I was awed, because these people are smart with a capital S and they are excited about what they do and the company managed to grow 20% last year even as the economy was collapsing around us. And I'm sure that if I had seen it all before I would have been bored and checking my crackberry every few minutes like some of the people in the room. But it was my first day, so I listened intently and it was quite an education.
So about the blustery day. We were sitting in a conference room that opened onto a terrace 10 stories up and in the afternoon the wind was howling so much that it was blowing around the plastic chairs that had been around the little cafe tables outside. I was worried one of those chairs might flip over the railing and tumble down on some unsuspecting person below. What a sad way to go. St. Peter at the gates of heaven says in mild surprise, "you're here early," and you go, "yep - never saw that flying plastic chair coming."
In the afternoon, when the presentation was done, I had to get back to my car which was parked 18 blocks away from the offsite meeting location. I took the streetcar line 8 blocks and then stepped off to transfer to a cross town bus... and into the stiffest wind I have encountered in a long time. I was tottering along in my pumps, leaning far into the wind and struggling to make forward progress as my laptop bag bumped on my hip, occasionally caught by the wind and turning into a sort of heavy sail that threatened to drive me back into an ungraceful pile of limbs flailing about on the sidewalk. I got to the bus stop and stepped into the shelter of a building vestibule.
For a long time, Portland has had what's known as the "fairless square" in the downtown core where you could ride any of the three public transport options for free. Since I haven't worked or lived downtown in many years, I didn't know that as of January 1 this year the buses are no longer part of the fairless square arrangement. Gratefully boarding the bus, I discovered this fact from a poster tacked above the windows. I thought maybe I could just claim ignorance when I got off the bus 10 blocks later and perhaps skate the $2 fare - which I didn't have change for anyway. But no, I immediately pulled the stop request cord and the bus pulled over. I walked up to the driver and explained that I was only going 10 blocks and had just discovered the termination of the fairless square and could I please disembark without paying the $2. And she just stared at me. Straight in the eyes. Unblinking. No barely perceptible nod, no insistence that I pay anyway. Nothing. It was like we were in a third grade staring contest that she was determined to win. So I cheerily said, "Right, ok, thanks, bye!" and hopped off. It was SO weird.
The best part - the wind had subsided and I started hustling to get to the car before it picked up again. And after traipsing 8 blocks, I arrived onto the block where my car was parked just as that very bus was pulling away from it. Who needs your stinkin' fairless square, anyway, lady?
Photo by Lize Rixt