Enjoy the Silence? I Don’t Think So.

Posted by mwallach on February 2, 2012 in New To You |

Dear That’s Life,

While there are plenty of people who can only work in sterile and silent conditions that make libraries look like carnivals, I flourish amidst noise and chaos. The noisier, the better. Music blaring in my ears, I cannot concentrate unless life is going on around me, with an added dose of Van Halen flowing through a headset. In this case, silence is deafening.

Some people work in an office and others work from home, though I find the latter to be flat-out impossible. It is not because my house is too quiet – Ha! Rather, I find that when I am home, all I wanted to do is housework. I cannot allow the beds to remain unmade, or a toy left out of place or the floor unswept, all resulting from a busy morning getting the kids off to school. Instead, I must finish straightening the house before I sit down to do my other work, the work for which I actually get paid. And as a result, when I leave in the morning to take the kids to school, my work bag is in tow and my mind is already ready to face the assignments before me – all of which will be accomplished outside of my home.

Some treat various Starbucks locations as their place of work, where they meet clients and treat them to lattes. For many reasons, it has become an accepted practice. I, on the other hand, follow that mindset but regularly visit a different location, one that I actually have the chutzpah to refer to as “the office.” A table at Gotta Getta Bagel in Woodmere is where I can often be found clicking away at the keys on my semi-functional netbook, Ipad situated next to me, eating a large salad bite by bite. I am here so often that the staff knows me by name and when I tell certain friends I am at the office, they know where to find me. The hustle and bustle of the store might be distracting to some but it is exactly what I need to be fully productive.

On occasion, my husband stops by to pick up lunch or just to check on me. Recently, in the midst of working on a submission, he walked into the store to pick up his order. Sitting beside me for a moment, he tended to a business call and began to innocently nibble on my salad. My eyes bugged out of my head. He did not even realize what he was doing, as innocuous as it might have been to a normal person. I, on the other hand, am not normal – and I don’t share my food. A couple of minutes later, bag in hand, he was out the door and on his way to work. Stupefied by what had just occurred, I began to rant at a closed door after he was clearly out of earshot. “Do I go to YOUR place of work and eat YOUR food?!” I wondered out loud, the staff behind the counter laughing hysterically. Walking it off, I resumed my work and got back to my salad. This, for me, is just another day at the office.

Knowing many people in the neighborhood, there are few days that go by in which I do not see at least one or two with whom I have a relationship. Some know that I am working, so they smile, allowing me to continue and not break a train of thought. Others ask me if I am writing my next column, hoping I may give them an idea what the topic du jour might be, while others are simply interested in sharing some feedback about something recently published. Either way, I am appreciative that they have taken a moment or two to say “hi”, even when tell me they have not enjoyed what I’ve been writing lately.

Admittedly, maybe I spend too much time at Gotta Getta, though Joel (the proprietor and a friend) swears he does not mind. One woman who has seen me here on numerous occasions told me she does not think it is nice that I plug my computer into the outlet in the store and use Joel’s electricity, something I do not pay for in the cost of my salad. I showed her that, in fact, my computer was not plugged in but was running on battery. I have had to plug my computer in on occasion, I told her, but it is a rarity and, again, Joel did not mind. Upon further review of the evidence, she apologized but still questioned whether treating the store as my regular hangout was acceptable. I thanked her for opinion, reassuring her that I purchase food each time I am here. I don’t loiter – I pay to play.

My friend Julie joked with Joel that for the amount of time I spend here, I should be paying him rent. She may be right. I have sarcastically offered to help behind the counter if necessary, though I am not sure I’d be anyone’s first choice in a customer service industry. It was a few weeks ago, when the store was really full and they were understaffed, I literally heeded Joel’s call when he asked me to pitch in.

The phone was ringing off the hook and high school seniors with limited school hours because of finals had flooded the store. People were waiting for custom salads while others just wanted a bagel – but either way, the place was hopping. My work done for the day and my salad bowl empty, I was ready to pack it in. Cleaning up my space and freeing up a table, I gathered my belongings as the phone continued to ring. Finally, like being called up from the bullpen, it was time to take the mound.

“Miriam,” screamed Joel, “can you get that?!” The rookie that I am, I was taken aback, but ready to help my team. “Really?” I asked him, but he was dead serious. Picking up the cordless phone from the counter, the words “Gotta Getta Bagel”flew out of my mouth as I answered the phone. Of course, I could not help the person with his request and Joel, knowing who it was, told me to just ask him to call back later. A persistent caller, though apparently not a customer, he did not want to take “no” for answer. I kept at it, finally convincing him that he’d be happier speaking to someone who knew what he was talking about if he just called back in a little while. I must have convinced him, or sounded like the complete idiot I seemed to be, because he took my advice, promising to call back in an hour.

I hung up the phone and smiled, satisfied at my semi-competent contribution to the team. “See?” I said aloud, beaming with pride. “I really DO work here.”


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