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Gate C2

Categories: Business tripping, Fighting the Stereotype, Missing Parent

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Two newscasters, both impossibly thin with shiny blowouts and jutting calves, make chitchat as they wait for the plane to arrive. Several cameramen jockey for position. Those of us who have been sitting at Gate C2 for an hour, waiting to depart, wonder whom the news teams are expecting.

The airline personnel seem to know what’s up. Every few minutes, they offer the news teams an update: They’re in range. The plane’s in range. Any minute now.

Another passenger notices that I am scrutinizing the situation, like she is. She sidles over to me. “Who are they waiting for?” she asks me.

“I was trying to figure that out myself,” I said

Other passengers approach.

“Do you know?” “Have they said?”

“No, we’re all wondering.”

A diverted flight, a hijacker? A politician? A celebrity, A- or D-list?

Our flight has finally been listed as delayed. This is not exactly news to the growing crowd at C2. What we want to know is who’s due to arrive.

A young African-American cameraman to my right is explaining the excitement. I strain to hear his words: “A little girl from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. She’s going to the Saratoga Ballet.”

“What did he just say?”

I feel dirty passing along the information. This is no Lindsay Lohan.

“It’s…she’s a little girl…from the Make-a-Wish Foundation.”

The woman who first approached me bites her lip. “Oh,” she says.

I nod.

The woman’s daughter trots over. “Who is it?” she asks us.

“Come, let’s go back to our seats,” says the woman.


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Happily Unreachable

Categories: Best Practices, Business tripping, Fighting the Stereotype

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I may be a misanthrope, but occasionally, I notice when my iPhone goes missing.

The other day, I realized it had been hours since I’d thought of it or heard it buzz. I went hunting.

Green tote bag, where had I put it? Ah, yes. Got home, plopped said bag on couch. There it was.

I reached inside and came out with a wad of soaking wet tissues and receipts.

This was bad. This was very, very bad. What the hell?

I dug frantically for my phone and hit plastic: a mostly empty water bottle. Cap, still on. Yet somehow it had leaked. Effity eff eff.

I fished and came up with my phone, finally. It looked fine, just a few drops of water beading on its orange plastic case. I pushed the button. Nothing.

I pushed again. Uh-uh.

Maybe I turned it off, I thought. I pressed the top button, the one that generally is not part of my life.

A BIG EXTRA-LOUD NOTHING.
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Writing in the Woods

Categories: Best Practices, Business tripping, Fighting the Stereotype

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It is difficult to explain to my daughters what I do. I don’t have an office to go to. I am a writer, and as far as they understand it, EVERYONE can write, so everyone must be a writer.

I find sometimes I forget what it means, myself, to call myself a writer. Freelance work is spotty these days. Much of what I do is working on creative pieces that don’t pay—yet, if ever. What the hell do you think you’re doing? the grumpy inner voice demands. Who the hell do you think you are?

I decided I needed a kickstart, a refresher course to remind me what it is, in this bleak and muddy season, to call myself a writer—to BE a writer. I learned about a Winter Writers Retreat, all women, in a cabin in the woods in SE Ohio. Did I dare?
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Dear Rapture

Categories: Business tripping, Fighting the Stereotype

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Dear Rapture,

Well, once again, you’ve stood me up. You’re a jerk, all right, Rapture, but I know now I was wrong to get my hopes up. I was an idiot to think that this time, yes, it might really be different — that, this time, I might actually get to levitate nude in a blue, God-drenched sky, for once in my life. Not counting the incident/wardrobe malfunction on the Sea Dragon ride in Wildwood, New Jersey, of course.

Yeah, it’s May 21, 2011, and we’re all still here. The only clothing on the floor is the dirty laundry I’ve been putting off doing for a week, figuring our date would get me out of a few last loads. What a sucker I was, man.
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For a living

Categories: Business tripping, Fighting the Stereotype

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My father told me I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up, except for three things: a lawyer, an advertising executive, or a certified public accountant. He said he’d disown me if I went into any of these three fields.

“Disown”: a funny word. As if he owned me in the first place, a lower middle-class American daughter of the 70s and 80s — child of Kool-Aid and shag carpeting and Tupperware — as if we had any family money to withhold. He intended it to be funny. He knew I would get the joke.

Still, I recall the way his lip curled above his cigarette at mention of any of these professions, as if these three were somehow worse than all the others. I didn’t understand his disdain, but for the most part, I heeded his advice — comic or not — mostly due to a skill set that kept me out of those realms. My writing career has occasionally nudged me within the bounds of the advertising world and its seductions, but I’m hopeless with numbers, as well as on-the-spot debate, verbal sparring when it counts.

Last evening, a new acquaintance asked me, predictably, what I did for a living.

“Are you a professor?” she asked first, guessing.

“No, I’m a writer,” I said. The word “writer” has never rolled easily off the tongue for me, but what else am I, at this point? I write. I barely get paid, sometimes, but I write. I write for embarrassingly little money, most of the time.

“A writer! That’s fantastic,” she said. “What do you write?”
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Sure, l’d love to write for your multimillion-dollar corporation for free

Categories: Business tripping

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You know what I love?

I LOVE when a luxury company that charges $175 for a single necktie tells me that it would like me to write a play (!!!) for its upcoming marketing campaign, but that I will not be compensated for my work or my time, thankyouverymuch.

Uh, say what?

I told them where they could stuff their neckties.

Sadly, I receive emails like this weekly. There’s an endless stream of companies looking to exploit writers by suggesting that — in this economy — writers are lucky to just “get their work out there, get seen.”

It kills me that they’ll have no trouble finding someone to write for them under this ruse.

Until writers take themselves seriously, ain’t no company going to bother to do it.
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Does a new start mean a new career, too?

Categories: Business tripping, Fighting the Stereotype

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I lost my last steady writing job just when my ex and I separated. The company was downsizing, like most other companies were two-and-a-half years ago. But I was the senior copywriter, the ONLY writer. I was sure they couldn’t dispense with their only communications person.

Uh, yeah. Not so much. They didn’t lose any sleep over it.

I, on the other hand, lost a lot of sleep. It was the job I had been counting on to see me through the divorce, to be a constant during times of brutal inconstancy.

I switched back into freelance mode, but the only people worse off than writers were freelance writers. Unemployment thankfully saw me through. I don’t know what I would have done without it, I honestly don’t. Unemployment made it possible for me to hold it together, to at least provide some sort of security for the girls as my ex and I tried to navigate the divorce waters.

Now I am considering what I want this new life of mine to look like. Freelance work has dried up completely. Queries go unanswered. Old contacts apologize profusely, say they’re sorry, but there’s just no writing work at the moment.
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Mac-in’ on epic failure

Categories: Business tripping, Colleagues and Comrades, Fighting the Stereotype, Sleepless in the Board Room

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This is the week.

This is the week of nothing going right. I’m used to the hard weeks by now, but this one takes the cake.

My old MacBook was running hot and unhappy. I had stuffed it to the gills with photos and music, and I knew its days were numbered. So I bit the bullet and ordered a new one, since writing and photography are What I Do. I figured I shouldn’t feel guilty for that. But of course, of course, I did. Starving children in the world! My children are starving from their self-imposed vegetable strike! Earthquakes! Floods! Who am I to think about a new computer?

Then I decided I wouldn’t be able to help anybody if I didn’t complete a freelance assignment from time to time.

The new computer arrived, all shiny and fabulous and wonderful. I was determined to Do This On My Own. This is my first computer I would be setting up with no help from any men in my life. I wanted to rock my own world and transfer everything from the old Mac to the new one with zero assistance. I wanted to hear myself roar, baby.

Uh, no.
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Multi-task this, baby

Categories: Business tripping, Fighting the Stereotype

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“The job requires a lot of multi-tasking. Do you have experience in multi-tasking?”

I was just asked this at a job interview recently. I did not snort. I did not smirk. I did not sing, “I can bring home the bacon / fry it up in a pan / and never ever forget the woman I am.”

I simply said yes. Of course.

Employers all want multi-taskers. I have yet to meet an employer who is not looking for a great multi-tasker.

You’d think employers would be slavering over parents who have been out of the work force for a time, raising their kids. But most of us parents who have taken time out to stay home with the kids hesitate to mention our superior multi-tasking skills. I don’t know a parent who can’t multi-task. The minute you bring home the squalling infant and realize that you won’t be peeing for three years without simultaneously jiggling the creature on your lap, you learn the meaning of “multi-tasking.” The first time you are lean out of the shower, dripping, to find your shrieking offspring’s dropped pacifier under the bouncy seat, you realize you are multi-tasking for life. Faxing while using the credit card machine and answering a client’s irritated query? Ho, ho, ho. That’s Multi-tasking, Jr.
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A desktop of one’s own

Categories: Business tripping, Fighting the Stereotype, Tentative Steps

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I have a desk.

It’s blue and squat, with a wide top drawer, and a row of drawers on the right side. World War I era. The owner of the antique store where I found it was happy to let it go for a song—$60, if I recall correctly.

“Can you believe someone painted it blue?” he said. “Ruined it.”

I am all for colorful ruin. The blue is lovely, and is the only reason I could afford to buy the desk. Inside the top drawer, someone carved the initial “W” and “1914.” That charms me.

Virginia Woolf wrote about the necessity of a woman having “a room of one’s own.” Space is scarce. I dream of a room of my own—not a bedroom, but a room for writing, for creating. A room with images I love, tacked up all over the walls.

For now, I settle for a desk of my own.
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