community

Offline Connections

So, I’m thinking about a few things this morning as I sip my coffee.  I’m thinking about how my dog poos, salads, and how we connect in the real world.  Let me explain.

I’m up for a new job, a good one, with a digital, creative, ad agency.  However, I do not want to get my hopes up because I’ve been on the precipice of just the right job before.  But, this new job and our move into the big city have me thinking about several things at once.

As it relates to the job, I’ve been thinking about an old, co-worker of mine – we’ll call her Katie.  Katie was amazing, in every sense of the world.  I wasn’t sexually attracted to her in any way, but I WAS attracted to her as a person.  I wasn’t the only one.  Katie just lit up a room.  She was sort of Amazonian.  A big tall girl with long, curly, red, hair.  She had this huge personality and everyone at the company loved her.  Everyone.  Because Katie had that amazing thing where she could be larger-than-life, but never obnoxious.  If you know larger-than-life people, then you know that the spillage over into obnoxious-land can be quite common.  Katie never did this.  She walked through the halls with a grace and a guffaw.  She was uncommonly funny and warm.  We were friends when we worked at the company, but lost touch after that.  I could look her up if I really tried, but it’s not necessary, we weren’t friends like that.  What I admired about Katie was the way she connected with everyone and with ease.  I’m a really good connector too, but sometimes I have a wicked mean disposition.  I don’t mean to, it’s just part of my upbringing.  I can’t help, but think about Kate’s upbringing when I think about her roaming those office halls like a master.  Her parents must have either been perfect or Kate learned, very early, how to win at the emotional intelligence game.  I don’t know, but I do know that she was gifted.  Maybe I could work that kind of finesse now, but Kate had this concept in the bag when she was in her 20’s!!  It was amazing to watch and hard to explain.  It was a nuance – a certain way she said hello, or shared a laugh, or set up a meeting.  You just wanted to be around her.  If she ran for President, you would’ve voted for her.  She had charisma, a Bill Clinton-esque charisma and charm.  I don’t know if it was natural in her or if she worked at it, but I know that she had it.

"Katie, is that you? Would you like to go to lunch? Oh, you already have other invites...Wow, no problem."

When I think about working in an office again, I think about modeling myself after Kate.  I think about how Kate used the work environment to make real life, very human, connections.  She didn’t see it as just a “paycheck” or at least she didn’t seem to.  She had more of a – “Feck it, I’m here, I might as well build an alliance like on Survivor” kind of attitude.

Now, doggie poos and salads.  I loved the neighborhood qualities of New York.  New York is an enormous place and an enormously diverse one at that.  I’m so interested in this, that I happen to know some the statistics – 40% of New York is foreign born.  (40%, almost half!)  There are 1 million people who live on Manhattan proper – the island itself.  Then there are about 3 or 4 million who live in Brooklyn.  The rest of the boroughs make up the other 3 or 4 million making New York’s total population around 8 million.  That’s a big feckin’ city.  But, of course, it’s not the biggest.  What makes New York so unique is its diversity AND the fact that people live on top of one another in NEIGHBORHOODS.  New York leaves you with the oddest sense of community, if you open your eyes to it.  Here are some of the best examples that I can remember.  There was a great market a few blocks down from my apartment.  It was old world with different vendors selling meat, fish, produce, etc, out of their individual stalls.  I wanted to make a particular meal, so I stopped at a meat counter that I had never been to before.  I ordered my steak from the guy behind the counter, who struck up a conversation with me.

“Have you ever been here before?”

“No,” I said.  “Well, I’ve been to the market before, but not your butcher booth.”

“Oh, this is on the house then,” he said.

“Whattttt?” I asked.

“It’s on the house,” he said again with a smile.  “You see, this meat counter has been in my family for 3 generations.  My grandfather ran the meat booth and then my dad and now me and we’ve always had a policy that a first time customer should get their order for free.”

“Wow, well, thanks,” I said.

“You’re welcome,” he said.

His name was Jeffrey and I’ve never forgotten him.  I’d see him around the neighborhood delivering meat to his customers on a bicycle!!  It always made me smile.

"Thanks for the meat, Jeff." - I don't mean that how it sounds!

The second moment I remember happened with my tailor.  I had a Puerto Rican tailor – a sweet and good looking guy who had a shop right around the corner from my apartment.  To get my pants hemmed only cost $3.  Late, one day I went into the shop to pick up my pants and they weren’t done yet.  My tailor handed them to his co-worker and asked him to do them now.  Then he went up to his front door and locked it, concluding business for the day with my last pair of pants.

As he turned away from his keys, hanging from the keyhole, he said, “Would you like a Corona?”

“A what?” I said.

“A Corona, a beer,” he smiled.

“Ah, sure,” I said.

My tailor opened two, ice cold, Coronas – one for himself and handed me one.  We clinked bottles and sipped.  Then we just talked about the price of tailoring and about rents in the area, small talk, you know – normal stuff.  In a few minutes, my pants were done and so was my beer.  I thanked the tailor, paid him, and went on my way.  But, I never forgot that interaction.  Nope, I never will.

Katie, the Corona-tailor, and the free-meat butcher ALL fostered in me this sense of offline community.  I LOVE my online community, but you need one in your day to day life too.  I think it’s incredibly important and incredibly human to need, want, and have your own Cheers – a place where “everybody knows your name…and they’re always glad you came.”  The British do this very well with their pub culture.  Everyone there has a local.  America is becoming more and more fragmented in this way.  You have to drive here.  Then you have to drive there.  Interaction REALLY takes work.  However, you can get lucky.  You can find a local in some great cities or small towns that were built with the citizen in mind an not just around the highway and the car.  If you don’t have a local you can substitute that experience with a great office environment or neighborhoody interactions like I had with the tailor and the butcher.

So, what’s this got to do with salads and dog poos?  I read this great Huffington Post article (link below) where the writer discusses going to the same exact deli and ordering the same exact salad, everyday for years.  When you read the piece, you get the sense that she did this because everyone at the deli knew her name and her order.  She’d walk in and get that immediate, Cheers-community effect.  They’d say, “Hey, Laurie’s here.  Let’s get Laurie’s order ready!”  She loved that aspect emotionally and spiritually.  She ate the salad religiously to get healthy.  In other words, the salad-a-day let her indulge in pleasure when she was away from work.  Healthy lunches were the tradeoff for sinful dinners.  She loved the real-life interaction just as much as I love it when people make comments on my posts.  But, in the real world you have to seek these out.  You have to interact.  There is no real life, just hit “publish”, and wait.

"Anyone wanna hang out, offline?"

Lastly, the doggie poos.  We changed our dog’s diet.  Wifesy brought home this high fiber dog food.  Before the high fiber vittles, Doggie had been eating the same regular old stuff for years.  But, her poos.  Oh, her poos.  They were like soft serve.  She seemed lethargic and often got stomach issues.  I suppose, in doggie-speak, she was unhappy.  We changed to the high fiber brand and now Dogsey sh*ts like she’s the log-making machine doling out perfectly cut logs at the log factory.  Bing, bing, bing –  perfectly cut logs.  Everyday.  Every time, like she’s Coca-Cola.  It’s amazing.  Dogsey is so happy she practically dances away from her droppings.  Truth be told, there’s a lot of shit in the world to dance away from.  I think Dogsey is on to something and bottomline – I want that kind of happiness.

To wrap this all up in a bow, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I want to improve in a social-ish and physical-ish kind of way.  As we make this move, I’m hoping I can do it all at once.  I think I need to find a creative job for a digital ad agency in a cafe that sells high fiber salads and freshly made juices.  I’ll learn everyone’s name and I’ll be the Katie of that community, just like I’m the Sweet Mother of this one.  It’s worth a shot – hey, make it a wheatgrass.

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Interesting articles:  Social Isolation Grows in US, Huffington Post Piece

Photo creds:  Cheers, Pied Piper, Delivery Guy, Comm. Cafe