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   Friday, October 31, 2003  
Flying back form NYC, the pilot announced that the Northern Lights were visible over the left wing because of the recent solar flares. They weren’t, of course, at least not to me. I count myself very luck that I have actually seen the Northern Lights. It was on a canoe trip to Verandrye many years ago. It was late and we were driving and driving north. It was so amazingly beautiful—like a shimmering blue-green curtain moving across the sky. As someone once said of the western landscape, it reminds you that you are living on a planet.
   posted by Andrea at 2:03 PM

   Thursday, October 30, 2003  
I had the increasingly rare opportunity to spend the day in NYC yesterday. When I arrived, it was coming down to beat the band. It rained in sheets, water swirling down subway station steps. And then the sun came out. Ah! Two items that I walked away with (1) It is important to go to the City every now and then, if for no other reason than to do a fashion check. This is hardly news but hey, it bears repeating. This season’s must have, totally cool accent is orange. Orange blouses and sweaters are this season’s pink raincoat. Unfortunately, not for me. I can’t do orange. Eat them, yes; wear them, no. item (2): OK, I know that I am out of shape now but there was a time when I could haul a stroller, plus child, up six flights of stairs while also laden with purse and diaper bag. That was a long time ago. A long, long time ago. Funny how it never caught on the same was as, say Pilates or step aerobics. Quite a workout but I guess it is harder to sell. Maybe Richard Simmons could sell it…
   posted by Andrea at 2:12 PM

   Tuesday, October 28, 2003  
Among the other pre-law jobs I have enjoyed or endured—false teeth delivery person [a/k/a tooth fairy (but don’t tell anyone, I had a confidentiality clause in my contract)], telemarketer [ugh!], soap factory line worker [where I spent eight hours per day minus state mandated breaks moving the index finger of my right hand up and down to control the flow of soap bars into the machine where they were stamped with the brand name—don’t ask—more confidentiality issues] and catalog store counter person, to name a few. One of my most memorable positions was as an elevator operator for Berger’s, an upscale department store, now defunct. I was home from college for Christmas break and hey, I got an employee discount! I got to wear a uniform including a cardigan sweater embroidered with the name of the store and white gloves. It was okay but as boring as you would expect. I lost count of how many times people commented on my job having its ups and downs, looking at me first expectantly, then, when I failed to collapse into guffaws at their sparkling and original wit, frowning at “my” lack of a sense of humor. Yes, all was tolerable until one night when I reached the floor, announced ladies sleepwear, slippers and gifts and the doors abruptly closed, nearly decapitating me. Not one inclined to lose my head, I escaped and returned to college, again renewed in my resolve to study hard and thus avoid the need for another job like that on a more permanent basis.
   posted by Andrea at 9:54 AM

   Sunday, October 26, 2003  
Yesterday’s This American Life was about conventions and featured a piece by Dishwasher Pete. Listening to it reminded me of some of my own encounters in the restaurant biz. Yes, before I became a member of this glamour profession, I spent many years as a waitress.

One summer while I was in college, I worked at a resort in the Catskills. While it was long on characters, stories and social bonhomie, it was decidedly short on cash. The way it worked was that pensioners would come to stay, usually for a week at a time. They would be assigned to a certain table and waitress, who would then attend to their every whim, three meals a day for that whole week. Inevitably, as they were checking out, they would gush about the great service and press an envelope into your hand. As the end of the first week approached, I was practically giddy with anticipation of the riches I would reap. Then, having received envelopes stuffed with anywhere from one to five dollars, yes, for the whole WEEK!!, I caught on that this was not going to be my summer of getting rich. But I digress.

The kitchen at this resort, as every kitchen, had a definite pecking order among the employees. The chefs were obviously the big fromages, followed by prep chefs and so on until you reached the cleanup crew. Busboys ranked above dishwashers and dishwashers would have been at the bottom of the heap but for the presence of the potwashers. At this particular place, the potwasher was Nelson, a guy of somewhat advanced but generally indeterminate age. One of the things that made it hard to tell his age was that, although he had few teeth and was obviously not a hockey player, his hair was often jet black. On those occasions, you could see the source of his style, namely empty boxes of Rit fabric dye next to his work station. As the meal wore on and clouds of steam billowed from the Hobart and from the sinks, his youthful color generally ran off and down his shirt. Not only was he dapper, but he was feisty as well. For a time, he and the head chef were feuding over something or other. On more than one occasion during that period, walking into the kitchen to pick up your food for table #3 meant taking your life in your hands as the chef and Nelson hurled red hot pots and pans at eachother across the kitchen. Even if something didn’t break on your head, you ran the very real risk of being burned, either from the pots and pans or from the dripping gravy, creamed corn or other comestibles that were inside. Alice had only to contend with the possibility of breaking china.
   posted by Andrea at 12:37 PM

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