A Day At The Office
The waves don’t crash here in the gulf – they roll. They roll gently until container ships and navy boats push through and, a quarter hour on, their wakes wash high on the sand. The sailboats displace wind, not water, and they just glide atop the absent surf.
On clear days you can see Rangitoto and the barrier islands and Brown’s Island and paddle boarders and kayakers and kite surfers and red orange floats rigged to fishing nets and depth markers dotting the shipping channel and the candy-striped lighthouse flashing on the point.
People walk dogs and the dogs fetch sticks and balls and the kids burst through castles with spades and buckets and the advancing tide pushes them back to the sea wall just in time for lunch under the low clouds and high sun.
I compose on a bench and I wear a black cap and brown-laced shoes and ragged jeans and a fading leather jacket with rough cuffs and collar because I started early, the sun still low, periods of fair weather excusing themselves around the long white clouds, sparkling, shimmering, rolling gently as the water.
The joggers and walkers and parents with prams, Lycra-clad, glowing sneakers, trot or glide or leap and pump forward, crunching shells against pebbles underfoot, their words wafting up the hill to the bench, mixing with the tui’s clicks and whistles from the elm and pine trees. My ears adjust, as a child’s eyes at lights out, and I can hear the sparrows and larks stomp through the grass and peck up bugs and seeds and their wings echo past with a wave of my hand, scattering them.
The bench could use a coat of paint to cover the chips and tags, but winter is hard on everything beside the sea. In the dirt patch under my feet are bottle caps, some rusted, some new, pull tabs and cigarette butts and ponytail ties and cracked fishing lures and bits and bobs and twigs and leaves and a geocache one seat south which the boy and I will get around to finding one day on an office adventure.
I suppose I could try my hand as a barista; it’s treacherous work, fraught with the dangers of boiling, high-pressure water, potential for gashed fingers on shards of porcelain and glass, and a pervasive, credible threat of strongly-worded complaints.
As a writer I suffer less immediate pressure. Audiences do not consume my work right in front of me, mere moments after I’ve prepared it and still within earshot. But there is tendonitis and eye strain, and though my eyes don’t tire easily, the wrist – oh the wrist! A target for painkillers and liquor. But my body has come to peace with its vocation, twinges be damned.
I’ve been banged up in workshops and on building sites. Who escapes a deck installation bloodless? Who emerges unscathed from shaping and joining a toddler’s rocking horse? Not me, I can assure you. Table saws are unforgiving machines, but let’s not forget the requisite attentiveness it takes to skillfully wield a chisel to keep it from thrusting through one’s palm. A line of stitches later, I’ve a scarry reminder.
But I reckon I’ve been most marred and stung working on bicycles. Knuckles across gear teeth are no way to watch your mouth, and don’t get me started on the perils of the chain whip on a fixed wheel cog. Still, I’ve never broken a bone as far as I know.
I’ve developed a new standard for accepting full-time employment, which I’ll need to do at some point in the next couple years, Noodle approaching school age and all. It’s simple: I won’t do it unless I wouldn’t mind getting injured doing it. For this reason, I cannot go back to computer programming – not only because I’m not particularly adept at it – but because soul-crushing isn’t the sort of injury I’ve a mind to suffer. Teaching philosophy is not without its peculiar perils as well – calling beliefs and assumptions into question tends to ruffle right to the edges of brawl from time to time. Ivory Tower academics aren’t likely to break hands across heads, but the philosopher in the world is a veritable fighting machine, not to be provoked in print especially. Beware. But until philosophers of my ilk come back into vogue – in the eyes of the beholders who are academic administrators and hiring committees – I’ll keep my musings underground, here, disguised and stylized, but no less subversive than I’ve been accused, possibly rightly, on my permanent record.
My current full-time gig – dadding – lives up to the standard. Little kids have a knack for inflicting deep injury.
Remember that time he busted open my lip with his head while I frantically cleaned a pile of poo off the rug? I never saw that coming (though now I do, constantly – I’m going to need some trauma counseling by the end of this.) And I can’t believe the state of my feet. Noodle, ever defiant as he approaches four, has a thing for stepping on toes lately, as if someone whispered him a metaphor that he took too literally. If regular toe squashing isn’t enough, scattered detritus on the poorly-lit path from the bed to the bathroom punctures my arches near every time I stumble toward the toilet come dawn. And have I mentioned how many times he’s punched me in the balls? (I feel that’s a fact stark enough to need no further colorful description.)
My back is killing me, probably from my spasming hip flexors, from swooping him out of danger and insisting he get a move on when time’s running tight. My left arm has turned Popeye since I’ve been carrying him on that side for nearly his whole life now. If you had told me four years ago that I’d be able to carry thirty-something squirming screaming pounds in one hand and a bicycle and lunch pail in the other for a half mile uphill, I’d have thought you looney. Now I think of myself as having fallen out of my tree.
I tell you — if this job had a uniform, they’d be smart to include a crotch guard, a steel helmet, and a gift pack of ibuprofen and whisky.
Really I don’t mind though. I like my job, even if my boss urinates on himself and occasionally runs around in public screaming that the playground is on fire. I’m beyond embarrassment anymore, and I’ve adjusted to semi-permanent shin bangs, stubbed toes, and Lego stabs underfoot. Plus, the view from my office makes up for times of trouble.