A Beige Day March 10, 2012Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Moloch, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
It’s impossible to talk on a cell phone in the lobby over the roar of the fountain but they try anyway, bellowing to invisible parties, wandering the floor hollering and looking for a quieter spot as if this were the lounge of a madhouse just before medication time. I pass the utilitarian dry cleaners and UPS store, both open for early business, and admire the display lamp radiance of the jewelry store, which is not open but serves as a gleaming reminder of forgotten birthdays and anniversaries. I’ve been here perhaps twenty seconds and already I want another cigarette but I head for the elevators instead, business casual among the intent lawyers discussing cases as if we were not all there to hear them, their attractive secretaries in modestly revealing dresses, heels and hose. Eighty-thirty is a good time to arrive, as the fourteenth floor express turns into a cross-town local at eight and again at nine, stopping at every other floor to collect riders from the garage. I am not in a particular hurry to return to work after four months off but I want coffee, waiting for me on eighteen.
I would stop on the fourteenth floor if I could if there were coffee and wireless (and O! ashtrays), sink into the moderately soft but utilitarian transit furniture and spend the day there on my computer. Noise is suitably intermittent, not much worse than the office, and there is a view. I once could watch the pigeons in the adjoining building (and not much else) until they moved my cube for the third time in six months, leaving me windowless at a busy corner near a shared conference room and the copier. I wonder at the cause of that past punishment but then the entire environment of a cubicle-filled office seems some waiting station, not exactly purgatory but an uncomfortable place for the expiation of bills.
On the fourteenth floor the terrazzo is cool and bound in soothing shades of cream and vermilion. If I select a chair instead of a couch I have my choices of views of the river. The best looks southeast toward the Algiers bend, the city stretching away into the distant frosting of humidity, the periodic excitement of a down-bound ship navigating the treacherous turn, engines furiously churning the water as the vesslrel bides into alignment with the river’s eastward course past Chalmette, recovering momentum just in time to miss the Esplanade Avenue wharf. On this side, however, you have the concierge, a vaguely attractive woman dressed in business sexual but her voice is a screech, and too many of the buildings other workers stop by to chat. If I stop I would choose the southwest view, although the prospect toward Gretna’s working waterfront, not wharves but a collection of tank farms and barge moorings is less attractive, and partially obscured by the adjacent building, but it is quiet.
I don’t stop.
I am being paid by the hour as a contractor and the sooner I get started the sooner the money tap will flow. I had enough cash to finish the semester as a full-time student, and relished the idea of a sabbatical from the corporate grind, but the offer was too generous, too tempting, the chance to stretch my severance out perhaps until next winter or beyond if they keep me, allowing me to stay in school at least part time. Doing both will be hard, but at least I’m not waitressing well into the night like the woman next to me in Writing American Nature. The downside is I must do more than remember orders but engage my brain three days a week in the service of Moloch Bank, N.A., puzzling out the arrangement of what is wanted and what is possible in the matter of software, not writing ambles through anywhere such as this but instead atomic nuggets of specific deliverables, in a clear prose both a code monkey and an approving executive can understand.
On the 18th floor the same painting still hangs in the elevator lobby, a vague landscape suggesting not so much an exterior as a waiting room redolent of antiseptic. Four tree-like smudges stand on a muddy red foreground against a sky of beige close to the color of the interior office carpet and cube wall fabric, as if they meant us to think that at our metal desks we were somewhere else, somewhere under the sky. I found my old cube the same disheveled, disinterested mess of an exit mentality I left it, down to the pencil. Someone had taken the adapter cord required for my monitor but I wasn’t surprised. The looting had started before I left, after the first big wave of relocations to Richmond. I had to remove my old wall postings to make room for the new. They still haven’t turned on the white noise they promised when we moved into Place Sans Charm. I go out onto the internet to find the sound file I had on my prior computer, my own pink noise loop (pink closer to the sound of an untuned AM radio and thought superior to the white), and I find that Moloch, N.A. has blocked the website where I once found it.
Welcome back to work.