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Without A Doubt

September 28, 2003

Fall edges its way into Brooklyn with a combination of crisp, life-affirming days and the humid, turbulent remnants of hurricane season. I didn’t know there’s a season for hurricanes. Baseball, opera, and abalone yes, but this is different.

The first real week on the new job answers some questions and raises others. Yeah, I can sort of handle working in a Manhattan office, answering phones and dealing with an all-female work force and their own select brand of interaction. But why have I chosen to do this for free? Somewhere in the recesses of my mind is an explanation involving “experience.”

I arrive Tuesday morning to a silent room, with four women sitting at desks and poking keyboards with bottled frustration. The quiet is broken by the frequent, double ringing of phones and sincere, scripted greetings with “I’m going to kill you” undertone. Nobody says anything to me for the first five minutes. The phones pause momentarily and one of the women rises abruptly, clenches her fist and sobs “fuck!” to the wall in front of her. She bolts from the office.

My supervisor comes over and explains that she’s left a note on my desk with instructions to follow. “See if they make sense” she says, quickly passing by. There are nine numbered steps on the paper and I read the first.

1.) Call client from list and ask if they have enrolled in BW1456000-crd/3. (Make sure that it is a crd/3 assignment, and not /4.) If they have, check to see if they have confirmed with credit, what discount they’ve received, if any, and if the appropriate code has been entered.

The woman who bolted returns to the room, blowing her nose and muttering something about “water off a duck” under her breath. Doris, my quirky middle aged desk mate looks at me with nervous smile and offers the single word “tragic” as explanation. My supervisor returns from the copy machine and asks if I understand the instructions. I kind of nod, not wanting to set anyone off. “Beans,” she says with hard smile and acres of repressed something. This is her abbreviated version of “cool beans,” which she used the first day.

***

My grandfather was agoraphobic, but when he was alive the condition had yet to be identified, so they just thought he was crazy. Roughly defined, it involves a fear of leaving the house. But the literal translation, as most know, is “fear of the marketplace.” My grandfather was the sanest one going.

***

I don’t sleep well Friday night and Saturday wander over to the Cobble Hill Cinema to see a matinee. It costs five bucks, and I am taken with what a great deal this is, particularly in the event that I’m able to catch a decent flick and grab a few hours’ distraction.

The movie is indeed decent- Sophia Coppola’s latest, Lost In Translation . There’s something about Bill Murray that makes me breathe a sigh of relief. The film is set in Japan and carries an odd air of dislocation and transience. There’s an intense, mis-aged relationship that is never consummated and as such holds added dimension. In the end the two characters split, but Murray whispers something in the young woman’s ear that the audience is not let in on. Whatever he’s told her could never be articulated in reality and works perfectly as cinematic device. They part smiling yet sad, somehow more complete.

Sometimes there’s nothing left to say. I consider this Sunday night as I ponder how best to let my boss know that the job isn’t panning out as nicely as I’d hoped. Maybe I could whisper something in her ear to the exclusion of the others, and we could part bittersweet but assured. She did say she’d seen the movie and liked it.

***

I still don’t know what I’m doing here. Something about Manhattan’s vibe and Brooklyn’s heart continue to sustain, but I find myself lonely on occasion and unsure of my next move. But then these aren’t emotions confined to the eastern seaboard. Other times a few things click, and I figure if I catch a decent break or wave of inspiration, this is certainly a setting ripe with possibility. I suppose this constant urban energy works in both directions; when you’re up it can take you higher and when you’re down it can knock the shit out of you. It would be nice to ride that high wave exclusive of the dips, and I’ve known people who maintain this perspective. Or at least they claim to – I’ve never trusted them, and there’s something not particularly New York about it.

2003 Rick Monaco All Rights

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