August 04, 2006

Hot town, summer in the city

For the record, New York passed tropical heat wave status a few weeks back. These past few days were preparation for a descent into hell. I don't care what the weather people said: to my body, it was 110 in the shade, and that was with the air conditioning still attempting to fulfill its goal of chilling the air.

Baby, it's been hot outside. Hot inside, too. This is the first day in four that I have voluntarily worn clothing inside. It is also the first day that I woke up not in Wonderland but in Maine, where the TV says it is just 68 degrees. Yesterday I took the train -- one of very few not cancelled due to tracks buckling in the heat (I did not know metal expands; I must have missed the memo on that one) -- from midtown to Boston, then bussed from Boston to Portland.

I am in Familyland now: at my cousin's suburban home. Last night my cousin and his wife fell asleep long before their children did. I think it is a sign of middle age and being plugged in to the common time grid I do not share: in 1983-84, I worked 9 to 5 (give or take, mostly take) for a corporation. That was the last time I got out of bed so early on someone else's behalf.

In Wonderland, I make my own hours: I might be working at midnight, but you won't catch me pretending coherence any earlier than noon. It doesn't matter if the doorman buzzes, the phone rings, the doorbell chimes, six firetrucks and a chorus of ambulances swing by, I will be sleeping. I consider this one of my most consistent talents. You might call sleeping my profession, with everything else as avocation. Surely there is no activity to which I devote more time.

In Familyland, the house's occupants are at work, at summer camp, flying round-trip to Nashville on a one-day business trip. It is the 21st century variation on the suburban life I led as a teenager. While some thrive on so much structure, I would not wish it on anyone.

Trust me, I was never employee of the month. Self-employment is my game. I don't clock many hours, but I am extraordinarily productive when I do apply myself. There is no dress code, no office politics, no interruptions unless I create them.

The only time I dress up is for a client meeting. Then I bring on the pearls, the pantihose, the Chanel heels, the linen (summer) or cashmere (winter) dress, and the make-up counter of any upscale department store. You can dress me up and take me anywhere; just don't ask me to sustain the illusion for any longer than necessary.

Being better dressed doesn't enhance my intelligence, but it does enhance other people's perceptions of my professional abilities. So I know my audience. When I have to, I dance the dance. I run my office like a pro.

But when the air temperature is higher than my body temperature, or when I get an invitation to stay elsewhere (last month I had a wonderful week in Gloucester at a friend's family's country house), I close the door to my office, put my financial brain on hiatus, and the city is history.

I will never be a CEO, but then again, I will never be on my deathbed thinking I should have spent more time at the office.

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Blogger scout said...

Amen, sister. Someday I hope to live a bit more off the grid myself. Not that I want to give up electricity or anything so drastic as that. (Wherever would I recharge my laptop?) But it seems to me that there are few professions more amenable to telecommuting than mine, and I'd jump at the chance to copyedit in my pajamas! Rock on.

8:32 PM  
Blogger alice, uptown said...

When I was a copy editor, I did work in my nightgown. It was my uniform, and in those days, I edited hard copy, so I could even stay in bed, never mind a desk. For work, I guess that's the lap of luxury.

The other thing is, working at home (unless, say, you have kids, or can't otherwise have some privacy) is a lot more productive than working in an office.

You get the job done in about a third of the time, and when you bill for the job, no one is the wiser for the hours you bill vs. the hours it actually took to perform the task. No need to be penalized for efficiency.

2:27 PM  

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