September 27, 2006

The Big Apple

I have to formally apologize for my lack of posts as of late. But I have a very good excuse. I took a last minute, spur-of-the-moment trip to New York City this past weekend.

Between getting work stuff in order to go before I left and then being there, I have had no time to post. But to make up for it, I plan to write about all the lessons I learned while visiting NYC. And they are a plenty. So please oh please keep reading. I promise I'll post a real post very soon.

September 19, 2006

Time is Money

Today’s lesson is one of time and economics.

It takes 13 minutes to get from my office to home (after rush hour) by cab. I know this because for the first time since I started work at my firm, I took advantage of the free-cab-ride-home-after-7 p.m. service.

On the contrary, it takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour for me to get home by bus. I know this because I have taken the bus every other day to and from work.

The cab ride home from work costs about $11 + tip. The bus ride costs about $1 per ride thanks to my unlimited monthly CTA pass.

I will continue taking the bus daily.

September 14, 2006

Just Say No

My new job has a lot of perks. It’s been a strange but nice thing to get used to. I had never worked somewhere prior to this firm where I felt like there were perks aside from receiving my paycheck on time, which some of my previous jobs didn’t even have that perk. But my firm is quite different. It promotes a very pleasant working environment and makes a very conscious effort to let the employees know their work is appreciated. When they took us to the White Sox/Cubs game on June 30 and followed it up with a four-day Independence Day weekend, I considered myself one of the luckiest girls in the world.

It’s not always the big gestures though. A lot of the time it’s the small ones. And I have found one of the smallest ways the firm shows its appreciation on a continual basis is with food. My motto with food has always been “I never turn down free food (and sometimes go back for seconds).” However, I may have to amend this given my firms’ affinity for edible treats.

Take yesterday, for instance - a perfect example. I didn’t pack a lunch for work that day because I knew we were having our paralegal luncheon. All us paralegals get together once a month to talk about our cases and any issues we are having, and of course there’s food - loads of it. The menu that day consisted of salad, pulled pork sandwiches, BBQ chicken, ribs, baked beans, potato salad, cornbread and, for dessert, bread pudding and brownies with the requisite toppings. (There were only two things on that list which were not on my plate.)

But before I even made it to lunch, there were cupcakes on the 51st floor in celebration of an attorneys’ birthday. I had a vanilla one. Immediately following our luncheon, I headed with a coworker to the Sears Tower to a card store. I was feeling very full and decided I was most definitely going to come crashing down at my usual 3 p.m. time from a food coma. To curb this, I got a grande coffee with half and half from Starbucks.

After lunch, I was walking back to my desk after scanning a deposition and some exhibits when I spotted a basket on a secretary’s desks. I sensed it had food and sure enough it was a basket of sweets with a note that said “From the Building.” I snatched up two tangerine gummy bears. Yummy, but not at all necessary. To add to this, I had been popping strawberry flavored vitamin C lozenges all day to try and ward off an impending cold.

I felt like a slug by the time I got home.

Yesterday would not have been all too bad if it weren’t a regular occurrence. I would say at least one day a week there are random treats sitting in the café from this or that meeting. Or sometimes the firm in appreciation will have breakfast catered in. I also belong to the firm’s breakfast club, which means every Friday someone takes a turn brining in a delicious assortment of pastries. Plus, whenever you work past 7 p.m., the firm provides a free cab ride home and a free dinner.

While this is all terrible on my waistline, it’s excellent on my check book. I get at minimum four free meals a month. Factor in a few late nights and random snacks in the café and I’m saving at least $15 a month on food. That’s about $200 by the end of the year.

I see where this all is going though. With the holidays just around the corner (I HATE typing that), I imagine enough food sitting around the firm that I could wander the halls grazing all day. If I continue with my current my motto of “I never turn down free food” I might not be able to continue my job after the first of the year because I won’t be able to fit in the elevator to get up to my floor. And lord knows by then I won’t be in any kind of shape to walk up 50 flights of stairs. As a result, my lesson today has been to modify my motto from “I never turn down free food” to “Just Say No”… sometimes. I can’t quit cold turkey. Yum… turkey.

A Shitty Job

After a yummy sushi meal with the girls downtown the other night, my friend Carly presented us with a most unusual fact. I don’t remember how this fact was brought up, because I have to believe it is not something that would be shouted without provocation, Carly told us that mascara is made from bat poop. Being somewhat of a skeptic, I decided to look into this.

Typing in the search words “bat poop mascara” in Google, I got quite a few hits. I clicked on a lot of the links but found a lot were discussion boards or links that no longer worked. I did find a few that mentioned “guano” (AKA bat poop) which has been rumored to be in mascara. The idea is that mascara was made of coal and petroleum jelly at some point. When mining the coal from caves, sometimes workers would collect bad droppings from caves to be used in mascara. I couldn’t find much of anything definitive. I tried typing “guano and mascara” in Google and didn’t get that much more variety of to my responses. I found this Web site which I considered my best authority and it mentions nothing of bat poop.

I’m kind of glad this was the conclusion of my research. If I discovered this was most certainly true, I’d probably been a little hesitant while applying my mascara the following day. On the other hand, had I found Web site after Web site saying bat poop was a main ingredient of mascara, my next line of research would have included if it were possible to work at say L’Oreal Paris and have the title of bat poop collector.

September 12, 2006

Tony, We Have a Problem

I woke up pretty gradually on Sunday. It was a rainy gloomy day and I did not have to be anywhere or do anything. My only goal was to head to the gym sometime before it closed. Knowing I had plenty of time to get this done, I didn’t roll out of bed until about 11 a.m. It was glorious.

I love weekends where I have nothing planned. I do not claim to be either an early bird or a night owl, but if I had to choose one, I’ve got a little more owl in me. I base this on the fact that if I had the chance, I would wake up gradually every morning, sip my coffee, make a hearty breakfast and slowly get ready to face the day. Since my mornings are more a whirlwind of hairdryers, bagels and cream cheese and coffee to go, I relish when I can partake of the occasional lazy Sunday.

When I rolled out of bed, I went into my kitchen and starting making breakfast. I had coffee brewing, a bagel toasting and while I waited decided to tend to some of the dishes collecting in my sink. I was in the midst of rinsing dishes when the lights in my kitchen went out. I peeked around the corner and noticed the light in my living room was out too. Upon opening my refrigerator door, I noticed that light was not on. Not a good sign. But the lights I turned on by my desk were working fine. I deduced I must have blown a fuse. However, I had no idea were any sort of fuse box might be located in the building. I called my super Tony and left a voicemail asking for his assistance.

When I reached him (7 hours later) he explained the fuse boxes were located in the main building by the laundry room. (Lesson number one.) He then asked what I had on when the fuse blew. I took a quick mental inventory - toaster, coffeemaker and overhead light. That’s when Tony explained to me the combo of toaster/coffeemaker, toaster/microwave, and microwave/coffeemaker would most likely always blow my fuse. (Lesson number two.) This is what I get for living in a vintage building. The deep red brick enclosing my building is really pretty but apparently the wiring behind it is crap. Thank goodness I do not own a microwave right now. I was thinking of getting one, but I guess I will most likely never be able to use it, unless I want to turn blowing my fuse into a hobby.

I had to do laundry anyway, so on my way down to put in a few loads I took a gander at the meters. Let it be said that the laundry room in my building is very scary. Going with the vintage theme, it is tucked away on the lower level of the main building. It actually took me a couple of weeks to figure out where it is. I ventured into the main building one day, thinking it must be in there. As looked around and saw nothing but a dark, winding corridor I did not care to venture down. Unfortunately, I was headed in the right direction as Tony later explained to me. The hallway that leads there is something straight out of a 50s horror flick. It’s musty, windy and enclosed by exposed brick on all sides. Whenever I round the corner, I picture some glamorous woman in a 50s garb running down it, scraping against the brick as she runs, clasping her head and screaming while trying to flee from a man in black wielding a sharp, large knife. There are paintings and pictures on the walls which I assume were hung in an effort to brighten the space, but in reality they make it that much creepier. Copies of Time magazine circa ’48 with photos of dead celebrities hardly qualify as art and they do little to calm my nerves. The hallway also has an eerie feeling given by the exposed fuse boxes. That unfortunately was my mission.

Tony informed me mine fuse box would be located in this hallway and clearly marked. Some of the fuse boxes were clearly marked. None of those were for my part of the building though. Those boxes were for the main building. What were nestled between them and in dark corners were metal boxes that looked to have been installed circa the dawn of time with no wiring improvements made to them since then. Spilling forth from the boxes were tangled messes of wire, some marked, some not. Those that were marked gave little comfort. Adding to the eerie feeling, they were marked with hang tags that can only be described as akin to ones that hang from cadavers big toes. I began sifting through the tags one by one and still saw none labeled with my buildings address. Then I took a step back and realized even if I had found them, I was not sticking my hand in the middle of a mess of live wires to flick the fuse to what I hoped would be my apartment.

I went back outside and called Tony to explain my situation. He told me he couldn’t tell me where my fuse box was. He then asked if I wouldn’t mind waiting until he swung by the building tomorrow. Tony I can only assume does not work past 8 p.m. on Sundays. (Lesson number three.) He asked if I had extension cords I could plug my fridge into in the meantime. I do but all three are being used in my four outlets so I can have more than two things plugged into my apartment at any given time. Seeing that Tony was not going to make the trek on my account (and me not feeling like pushing him to do so.) I decided to do just that. I went upstairs and found I was able by using three extension cords to plug my fridge into one of my three working outlets. (Lesson number four.)

Deciding I had enough excitement for one day, I decided to hit the hay. And as I settled into bed the main thought running through my head was how contradictory my Monday morning would be to Sunday morning. Without the use of my toaster, coffeemaker my morning was certain to be the unpleasant frenzy I try to avoid. Thanks, Tony.


It takes 13 minutes to walk down 50 flights of stairs. I did not learn this lesson firsthand. Rather, it was presented as secondhand information by some of my coworkers. As part of the downtown evacuation last week, some of my coworkers decided to take the stairs to see in the event of real emergency how long it would take to descend 50 flights of stairs. I, knowing if it came down to it and I had to take the stairs I would haul ass and do it, chose in this simulated drill to take the elevators. The elevator ride took about 15 seconds.

September 7, 2006

An Oldie But a Goodie

I was on a stationary bike at the gym the other day catching up on my world news. The closest TV to me happened to be showing some sort of news talk show on CNN. I’m not one for the news programming on CNN, but I always enjoy watching the ticker, mainly because as Jon Stewart had pointed out before, it does not discriminate. You never know what is going to scroll across the bottom of the screen. John’s favorite example is its mention one day of the Iraq conflict immediately followed by the fact that Beyonce no longer wanted to use the word bootylicious.

That day at the gym I learned it’s never too late for a comeback. Apparently, someone in Germany had found some undiscovered music by Bach. This new tune showed up in a crate filled with 18th century birthday cards which luckily had been removed from a German libaray shortly before it burned to the ground. I am sure this music will be played by someone, somewhere, but it remains to be seen if it is good.

If it is, I am waiting for the day the CNN ticker will say Beyonce and Jay Z’s remix of it has reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100.


I am at an age where I can claim to have two homes. Not two homes like wealthy people of my parents’ generation can claim, but rather two places I refer to as my home.

There is the one in Chicago, where I pay a ton in rent to stay, and there is the one in Michigan where my parents live - the home of my childhood, the only one from my childhood. We never moved growing up, so it is natural to still refer to my parents’ place as home. Granted, there have been significant improvements (e.g. new carpeting, new kitchen, new furniture) since my sister and I moved out, but it is still home none-the-less.

I spent Labor Day weekend in Michigan getting reacquainted with my home away from home and those whom still live near it. And it was positively wonderful. I soaked in the atmosphere of home late Friday night (thanks to delays from Megabus) by sleeping in my old bedroom. I sat in my parents’ kitchen for hours on Saturday reminiscing with friends and getting updated about family happenings thanks to a small gathering my mother threw. On Sunday morning I spent my time in the company of my best friends’ family, whose house growing up I considered my second home. (It is the only place I can claim to have had an entire table dedicated to pictures of me.) On Sunday afternoon I ventured away from home to visit friends I haven’t seen in quite some time, whom fittingly are settling into their first homes and beginning families of their own.

Home is a strange concept at my age. Yes, I have an apartment where I spend the majority of my nonworking hours, but it does not have the same feeling as my parents’ house. When I did return to Chicago late Monday night, walking through my front door seemed a little empty. It doesn’t even compare to the feeling I get when walking into my parents’ house. There is familiarity and comfort there which I know will never be recreated if my parents finally move to that house on the lake they’ve talked about for years.

I remember being in Spain - farther from home than I had ever been. It was about a week into my trip. My Spanish skills were barely helping me squeak by, and I definitely felt like a stranger in a strange (but beautiful) land. One night I met up with a rag tag group of international students that had assembled by way of the loose acquaintances we had formed since our arrival. Our group of Americans, Swedes, Germans, Scots and Hollanders pulled together some tables outside a bar on a little cobblestone street. We sat under the glow of streetlights and shared the tales of our lives. I distinctly remember that night feeling like Spain actually could become my home for the next few months.

It certainly did. And this is not to say after two years in Chicago I still am searching for home in that sense. The friendships I have formed leave my days and nights full. But it is a different kind of full then I feel upon going to my parents’ home. It has nothing to do with the physical structure which encapsulates me but instead the memories of the time I have spent there. You can live anywhere, but it is the time you spend at any place that truly makes it a home.

My new apartment does not hold that same potential. It is hard to create loads of the kinds of memories I cherish when living alone. I am not sad that I live alone, though. It is something some day I will not have a choice to do, so I relish it now.
I also know someday both my present homes I will no longer call home. I certainly will not stay in my current apartment forever. My parents certainly will move at some point. Thinking ahead to that day is slightly sad, but where there is the future there is possibility. And I realize, it is quite possible that by the time my childhood home is no longer in the family I will be in the process of creating a home of my own, one which will become to my children what my parents’ home is to me.

So I take away from all this the lesson that I should treasure my time at home. Making the trip home is good for me. It is something I need to do, maybe a little more than three times a year, if for no other reason than someday I won’t have that option any more.