09 April 2011


I work from an office in the sky, and whenever it's the least bit gloomy at ground level, fog presses tight against the windows. Sometimes it will clear for a moment, and then I can look out and see neighboring skyscrapers similarly swaddled within a protective cloud. On a sunny day we can see straight into the very chic European hotel next door. Sometimes I can glimpse a program playing one one of the rooms' large TVs, or a pair of bedside lamps, one on, one off, but the rooms' inhabitants must generally be reclining somewhere out of view.

I work at the crest of a hill, built on layers of roads and girders rather than earth. The city swoops up here before it drops off into the lake, and navigating the lower, sunless streets you feel that even the highest buildings on these blocks might be only the iceberg-tip of stacks of subbasements stretching for miles below. Sometimes when walking here, through this densely-packed space that no longer even registers as land, you come across an empty lot, a missing piece in the puzzle, where a quarry of grass grows yellow at the bottom of its quadrangular well and perhaps a bulldozer dozes to one side. It is as shocking as I found the lake itself the day when, after my first few weeks in the city, I walked to the shore at Addison and for some moments could not at all understand the suddenly empty skyline. And the job is, in some ways, as stratified, as artificial as this landscape. Together, a massive organization works in precise stages, more or less anonymous to the outside world, to achieve the monumental task of selling goods and services to people who must be made to feel that they are not being sold to, that we're all in this together, are all friends.

It does not feel important. It is not. But this kind of insulation from the sort of public that was mine in my previous job fosters a kind of collegiate ease and pleasantness. I come in every day, more or less as I wish, and after some wriggling around to find the most comfortable position atop my exercise ball (that symbol of the enlightened modern workplace), I begin writing. It has never before been my only job to think of words and write them down. This is really about all I must do. I sit among people around my age, whom I genuinely like, who, like me, want to be creative and funny and, being new, as I am, are still a little in awe of the fact that they are being paid (though not a fortune, certainly) to keep making these attempts.

None of it seems permanent in the least; I feel I am entirely prepared for the whole edifice that employs me to crumble rapidly some day, as internet startups are supposed eventually to do. But I'm content to bask in weightlessness a while – strange luxury. And strange, of course, for work to seem a luxury at all.

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