Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Weeping Nuns and a My Little Pony Sunrise: An Update and Vignettes

A wonderful writer friend whom I hold in high regard wrote to me in a Facebook message the other night that my posts here are often "lengthy and heavy" ("not a criticism, just an observation"). He's right -- and they can't continue to be so long, and so heavy, if I'm going to stand a chance of keeping this blog going. Or OK, maybe they can be short and heavy, little non-fiction haiku. But I've (happily) got a lot going on these days, so I really shouldn't spend hours of a Sunday writing and editing and agonizing over a blog post, opening the door of my office room as I emerge from "the writing daze" to march zombie-like up to my boyfriend and tell him, again, how amazed I am at how late it is. I swear, when I'm in the zone, I don't feel time.

So for now, just a quick update, and some more Metro vignettes for you. Oh, I found that Elvis card up there on a Metro platform. It's my new bookmark.

The job is going great. (That's right -- I say job now, no quotation marks.) Today I worked hard, taking only the merest five-minute unauthorized break in the morning to slip away to a restroom that's not on my floor, so I could crouch in a stall and finish reading this Chuck Palahniuk article-essay about Amy Hempel, my favorite short-story writer, that appears in the book I've had with me on the Metro the past couple of weeks. I cranked out work like some kind of nerd, checking off all the little boxes I'd carefully drawn next to tasks on my notepad from the supply closet. I got a bunch of e-mails from my immediate supervisor that had smiley faces in them. With this particular supervisor, I gauge how pleased she is with me by the smiley-face-o-meter, and today my reading was high. 

I shared ideas to make the organization's Intranet more compelling and better organized, once during my daily half-hour catch-up meeting with the chief of web stuff, over in magical Marketingland (versus dull HRtown where my cubicle is), and I also e-mailed a draft of how this one web section could look (complete with links to existing relevant Intranet content, suggestions for new content, image ideas, and some special features that I think I could whip up with my limited webby skills) to the woman in charge of that section. (She seemed frazzled and swamped today, so my e-mail was just to help her out, and she took it as such. I wasn't trying to show her up, didn't CC her boss or anything jerky like that.)

A high-up editor in charge of content for the organization, who oversees their fun new website that posts personal-finance articles and ideas for young people (its target readership is people in their twenties and thirties), told me to go ahead and submit some feature articles for the site. I found myself gushing to her about how "I'm such a writing nerd, omigosh" and how, although I'm happy for the web-content experience I'm getting there, "my heart is really in the creative stuff" -- not undermining what I'm doing now, just dropping the hint that hey, I might be someone to keep in mind if a cooler, more creative gig in her department opens up. I want to work in the part of the office where the girl with the fireplace made out of felt sits.

I've been drafting some new "documentation" (fancy bureaucratic word for "step-by-step, how-to guides") for how to perform various tasks using the organization's Intranet CMS. (Content-management system, the thingie that allows non-computerry, non-webby people like me to do stuff to a website. Hey, I didn't know what that stood for until my last full-time job, when we couldn't afford to keep a webmaster on our staff so I had to step up to the plate, so I am not just going to assume you know what it means). I also heavily revised (i.e. rewrote) their existing documentation. Now it's much more user-friendly, and I fixed some mistakes in the steps. I didn't expect to enjoy this part of the job as much as I do -- it's technical writing, after all, not terribly creative -- but I find myself relishing the chance to set aside a chunk of my day for making the guides easier to use. It's satisfying to take something that might seem daunting to some folks, and to provide them with clear, easy-to-understand steps that make it doable for them. 

Tomorrow I take the documentation for its first test drive, when I train one of the HR managers to post this weekly HR update/e-newsletter deal that they like to have up on the Intranet homepage every Monday morning. I'll be teaching her how to do stuff like make anchor links, and about the "workflow process," and all sorts of shit. 

Also today, my immediate supervisor asked me to put a bunch of meetings on my Outlook calendar for April and May -- which means that either she forgot that my contract is ostensibly up by late March, or that they'll need me to stick around longer than that. I wouldn't be surprised if they asked me to stay. I do a lot of stuff there. I told you I would be the big shoes to fill. (That's a long post; go to that link and do the Control+F "find" thingie and type in "shoes" to see what the hell I'm talking about. I promise you that my actual documentation is more professional than that. Nowhere in my work documentation do I use the word "thingie," much as I have wanted to.)
Tomorrow I finally FINALLY am making myself go to the short-fiction workshop that I was so jazzed about in December. (Yeah, remember that? Of course you don't -- I haven't talked about it in ages. You would have to click on a whole 'nother year over there in the Archives to see it.) It's in DC, so I'm going to just wait it out after I get off work at 4:30, grab dinner and maybe wander around DC and ponder whatever story I plan to share until it's time for the workshop at 7. Or hell, just write a new one while I've actually got some downtime for once.

And on Saturday I go to the second of this month's three 9-to-5 volunteer-training sessions. Strangely, I'm more excited about this than I am about the damn fiction workshop. I think part of it is that I've heard such nice things from friends who read this blog, and have thereby regained my faith in the power of authenticity afforded by a personal, non-fiction narrative. ... Holy shit, did I really just use "thereby" and "afforded by" in the same sentence? About emotional authenticity? I mean, I could easily just backspace-button Pac-Man that mess up, but nah, I am just too tired right now. 

So I'm tired, but it's that good kind of tired that means you deserve a halo. Things are happening, or rather, I am doing things. And as for the title of this blog, I am most definitely digging these days. In a decidedly outward direction. 

And now, as promised, Metro vignettes. Here are snapshots from my wonderful, jostling-with-the-masses, germs-and-perfume hothouse, mixing-with-folks-of-all-social-strata commute.

Things glimpsed from the window of a Metro train: 

A goose-infested baseball field in cantaloupe-colored light. 

A Muslim woman dressed all in white on an apartment balcony, looking out at a sunrise the color of My Little Ponies.

Things that have happened at Union Station, where I eat both breakfast and lunch on workdays now:

Putting on my make-up in a large public restroom next to a bag lady washing her hands. 

A blind couple, with matching serene milky eyes and walking sticks, going into Victoria's Secret together, the guy jokingly (?) asking, "Is this a hardware store?" and the woman asking the salesgirl to assist her in finding "something sexy" (and the salesgirl asking the blind woman, "What's your favorite color?"). 

A Hispanic guy in the front window of a cobbler shop, next to shelves of beloved and broken leather boots and high-heeled sandals, singing in Spanish with the radio every morning. 

A phone ringing and ringing, and no one answering it, inside a closed-for-the-night Auntie Anne's Pretzels cart with a canvas hood over it.

A TV news reporter, or at least, a guy in a preppy suit with a microphone and a cameraman hovering around, standing in the cold and selecting passersby to ask some question or other about some thing or other. He did not select me, maybe because I wanted him to.

A van out of which aggressive people were giving out free "tall" cups of Starbucks Blonde Roast coffee. 

An indoor tent out of which aggressive people were giving out free scoops of Ben & Jerry's frozen Greek yogurt in a berry-swirl flavor. 

A woman who sits on a stone step I walk by every morning, who mutters snide things, maybe about passersby or maybe about people who aren't even there, and who holds up a cardboard sign that says "TRAVELING -- ANYTHING HELPS," as if the "TRAVELING" part helps her hold on to her pride -- she's not homeless, not begging; she is TRAVELING.   

Around the corner, in front of a giant post office -- a sign raining letters that now says: "U.S. P S OF ICE."

At the Franconia-Springfield Metro station, in the pre-dawn dark: 

The clack of luggage wheels on hexagonal tiles. 

Next to me on my Metro train home this evening: 

A nun, weeping or with a cold, dabbing at her eyes and sniffling now and then.

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