As a kid I can remember my mother’s frustration that Sunday was still off-limits to commerce. In late Seventies Texas, the runaway go-go fervor had not overcome the pulpit’s steadfast oratory and the blue laws held sway. Malls were closed and you could buy milk but not ice cream, bread but not cake, and only after noon. I didn’t get it. In Canada you could get ice cream whenever the little corner store was open.
For some reason I think of this as I drive to work last Saturday. As Sunday’s sanctity has fallen to capitalism’s tireless wheel, so too has Saturday has become a workday for the masses. The stores are jammed with our economic least of these, sagging in their jumpers and name tags, while the harried superior classes pick out the cheap Chinese junk of their desiring. This morning I can imagine them but am not of them in the brilliant fall sunshine, the sky as clear as that eerie day ten years and a couple weeks ago, all the greens iridescent and trim. Microsoft spends a fortune on landscaping.
It has been a rough week: sick and incapacitated on Wednesday yet forcing myself to sign papers for the house to return home into a collapsed void; out a half-day Thursday; Friday working late to make up hours. Whatever it is hums in the wings but I decide it’s worth making up hours, the day planned around this start. I got up at the right time, ate a decent breakfast, got to the building early. It is going to work out. I am going to be effective and efficient again.
No beep when I wave the cardkey. I’ve parked in the garage–they must lock this door weekends for vendors. Walk up into the sunshine past the broadleaf maples I thought had died a year ago but which gave forth resurrected leaves, the building is as glass white as a Seventies futurist movie set. The machines don’t work here either. I am stuck outside.
A guy is moving refrigerators, lunging them over the threshold to the curb as I dial the lobby phone. Naturally, Orwellian overimportance connects me directly to Microsoft Global Security. Beep. I am being recorded. Beep.
The guy is competent and efficient and security minded: he has been trained to assume I am no good. I give him my alias, the key to Microsoft’s kingdom. Last week without one I would have been persona non grata, so low as to be without identity. Now every possible privilege, right and denial is reflected through the prism of v-dedexh.
There is typing. Beep. The sound of fans. Beep. His tone becomes stern and quick. He cannot let me in to this building, the one I have worked at for the past year. He can let me into a building I worked in four years ago, but not this one. I start with but, but there is no but. I can email an alias on Monday. The voice inside the castle has spoken.
I hang up the dead phone. I’m not upset, at all. The sun shines and the guy thrusts more refrigerators out the door. I decide to text my manager and sit on the bench where the shuttles stop, under the trees. There is really nothing else to do and that is fine.
Here is a teachable moment. I can choose to flow with things and adapt to life that is always changing. I can see I have freedom to be here or freedom to go, and my not working another four hours isn’t critical. This manifestation of my worry over money can be contained and talked down. I can see the trees and be taught.
I answer some neglected emails as the sun rises. The guy hauls out another refrigerator every ten minutes or so. He’s neither big nor small but has a moderate spare tire. “Got another six buildings to do,” he says pushing one to the curb, its power cord looped through the handle like a beaten cow’s tail. “Another six today.”
Big stickers on the fridge backs date them all from the same week in January 1998. “This like an efficiency thing? Saving energy?”
“I just do what they tell me,” he says, huffing back inside.
I don’t doubt he’s a nice guy. He could be talked into letting me in, but there’s no need to risk his job. Jobs moving refrigerators are probably hard to find. I am open to knowing this.
After an hour I realize no answer is coming. My computer, left at my desk because I’d be returning in a few hours, will remain there for the weekend. I will have nothing to write on, deflecting a weekend goal. My schedule feels off, slipping–I have too much time now, later too little. I am supposed to do this and that, be here for this person, there for another. I feel orbits colliding and somehow incapable of managing things, and so I become immobile and stare out into the leaves.
But this is the bad way, the way I made all these changes to get away from. That is all the old way that doesn’t work, not the new way of return to a positive self I fuzzily remember and for the past weeks have been grasping at like a drowning man.
The key is to flow and expand into space. Letting go and being flexible in the moment is better than rigid stasis–one of those things known intellectually but hard to feel. Here is the moment inside the moment, the chance to practice doing something. I give up going to work and any guilt that lives there. I can do other things, like buy toilet paper. (Run out if you want to learn its true importance.) I can get my files saved. I can get my keys. I can go easily from one thing to the next instead of rigidly and with fear.
I will try this through the day and fail badly, but I don’t know this then. Saturday morning I am the peasant outside the castle, but the castle isn’t interested, but the sun is still shining, so why care about the castle?
When I later try to email the alias the voice inside the castle gave me, it doesn’t work.