Sounds Springing in the City

I am sitting at a table near an open window at a tapas place. I’m waiting for my dinner companion to return from the bathroom that I know is in the room, in the back, at the bottom of the stairs, in the bowels of the café. It’s a spring day that actually feels like a real spring NYC day. Not that hint of March lion where, just watch, tomorrow will be 20 degrees again just ’cause. No, it’s that warmish spring air that tells you it’s going to stick around.

I hear a cacophony of sounds on the sidewalk and street in front of me. It’s the usual discordant din that is not quite the white noise of living in a big city.

Sirens from ambulances and police cars speeding by assault my serenity as I nurse my large cup of black coffee. Buses and trolleys rumble by. Motorcycles and motor scooters, too.

There’s a group of teenage boys loudly playing rap music and performing what I assume to be some sort of rhythmical dance moves as a small crowd of onlookers gathers around them. Across the street a woman walking down the street spews random profanity at passers-by of her spot in the middle of the sidewalk.

I look up between the tall buildings to the sound of a passenger jet overhead, only to be distracted by the voice of the homeless man asking those who sat at the outdoor tables for any spare change. Some give, some don’t.

Down the block in the other directions the sounds of a musician playing acoustic guitar, accompanied by someone drumming on a large plastic pail turned upside down, wafts toward me. It’s not unpleasant.

Around me I hear the many conversations of the other diners that blur into its own white noise as well the ambient music playing in the restaurant itself.

I find myself smiling at everything and nothing.

My dinner companion returns and a velvet baritone breaks through my pensive listening. “You all right, Rai?”

And on this first day of spring in New York City, listening to the sounds around me, for the first time in a long time I realize something…

“Yes, I am.”

Day 20 of 31 –

15th Annual Slice of Life Writing Challenge
Two Writing Teachers


Last week a disgruntled me posted the following on my Facebook page.

Facebook image of angry woman with quote: I am ready to throat punch the colleague who WON'T PICK UP THEIR DAMN FEET!

My cubicle is in a high traffic area where one path leads to the pantry in one direction and to the bathrooms in the other. There is a constant and I do mean CONSTANT stream of passers-by. For the most part, they blend into the white noise of office life and I do not notice them.

But I then I started hearing the shuffle and it’s not the Cupid Shuffle.

This is someone new to the floor. I know they are new because I know I was not hearing the regular sound of loudly shuffling feet until a couple of weeks ago. They are not someone I work directly with so I do not know who they are, or what unit they work with with.

My first thought upon hearing it was the person was tired. We have all had those days where we are just exhausted and can barely put one foot in front of the other. I was forgiving of it that first day. After a couple of days I realized, no, this is the way this person walks – period. Remember where I said I sit. Think on how exceptional this person’s walk must be to stand out so.

Shuffluffagus™ (I know I’m wrong – shoot me), passes my cubicle hourly on average. I hear them before they approach, as they pass, and after they’ve gone by. The majority of those who also have cubicles in the path wear headphones/earbuds. I envy them. I do. I cannot sit in my headphones/earbuds all day. I can barely get through a multi hour training session without constant adjustments of my headgear because they irritate. Not that it would help for I have conducted virtual trainings, been in virtual meetings and have heard them pass. Muted, but still noticeable. In a seven hour workday – that is a lot of shuffling.

In my head, I often hear my southern grandmother yell “Pick up your dang FEET!” when they pass.

Each time they pass by on their way to the pantry or bathroom it is distracting. My head unconsciously pops up most of the times they pass. Which is its own frustration for even the ten-fifteen seconds I’m pulled out of my concentration. Fine, it’s Shuffluffagus, I refocus on my work but then a minute or three later here comes the return trip. Then a respite that lasts anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour or so, before wash-rinse-repeat shuffle.

Because the distraction is enough to make me raise my head, or at least turn it, sometimes there is momentary eye contact with them. I know me; RBF -Resting Bitch Face to those not familiar with the acronym- is my norm. It’s how God made my face. However, I know on occasion the constant distraction has taken my face from resting to active. I also know from the way they have taken to not look at me now and again means that active face has been seen.

I genuinely thought it was just me being overly sensitive, and as I posted earlier this year, my fuse has been shorter than usual. What can I do? Nothing – their walk is their walk. So I bite my lip, try not to look up each time their shuffle distracts me and bear it.

Then this exchange happened [I am the blue text aligned to the right.]:

I wrote down the name “Shuffluffagus” and showed her. Her peal of giggles made it worth it. I was so grateful to know that it was not just me in my misery I threw emotional confetti. No, it doesn’t stop the annoyance of the Shuffluffagus, but clearly Misery really does love Company, because having someone to commiserate why I want to throat punch Shuffluffagus has lessened the desire to do so. Slightly.

Day 7 of 31 – Come see how the rest of us are slicing it up today!

15th Annual Slice of Life Writing Challenge
Two Writing Teachers

Ummm Why?

The more I think I cannot be caught off guard by the “ummm why?” of those people with whom I share the office floor, the more those people – and note I did not say co-workers or colleagues, but those people – are determined to prove that I in fact can be caught off guard.

Exhibit A: I walk down the hall at work and encounter this: someone left their dishes in the water fountain.

Okay, “dishes” is bit of a misnomer. It’s not as if there is a stack of plates with remnants of mom’s spaghetti. [Dammit – and here comes Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” to rattle in my head for the next hour.]

I’ll even give credence to the fact that despite the literal dishwashing implement in the dirty mug in preparation for cleansing, clearly the incredibly rude person who did this was only storing the items there momentarily-likely while the used the nearby loos- before they could be taken to the sinks in the pantries. Regardless, that was just wrong.

Yes, there are water coolers -with better tasting, colder, better filtered water- located elsewhere on the floor that most people use. Those water coolers are located in the pantries that bookend the floor. As my floor hosts about 400 seats, 80-90% of which are occupied on any given weekday; the coolers are literally a full street block apart from one end of the floor to the other. This classic water fountain is centrally located on the floor. Regardless, that it is used much less often, it remains a working fountain, I have seen people use the fountain as intended – to drink from.

I can only imagine the utter repulsion of the poor souls who wanted a quick sip at the moment without going to polar ends of the floor to do so and encountered that nonsense. I know I shuddered at the thought.

So typical me, printed a sign and taped it above water fountain: This is not a dish rack. It is a working water fountain. Just because YOU don’t drink from here does not mean others do not.

The fact that I saw the dishes, got annoyed, created and printed the sign and the items were still there when I returned to the fountain to post said sign proved its need for it (in my humble opinion – and some of you know how humble my opinions are). Sign printed and posted I forget about it.

When I left for the day I pass the fountain and note the dishes are gone, but the sign remained. Only now in tiny print in a corner was scrawled Oops Sorry. This morning the sign was gone.

I have no idea if the offender knows I posted the sign. Unless I see the person with the mug I will have no idea of the offender’s ID.

I do have an idea that at least that person will not be so presumptuous about turning fountains into personal dishracks.

Day 4 of 31 – Come see how the rest of us are slicing it up this Friday!

15th Annual Slice of Life Writing Challenge
Two Writing Teachers