Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Working Mothers and Other Nut Cases

Having grown up in New York City, I'm used to crazies. On the sidewalks, on the subways. In delis and doorways. Some are angry. Most are harmless. All are really sad.

Greater Boston isn't immune to these characters. They panhandle at intersections and I slip them a couple of dollars when I can. I keep a roll of ones in my glove compartment just for this purpose — right next to my precious Sacred Heart of Blessed Jesus Auto League medallion, a gilded plastic premium item I once received in a direct mail fundraising package. 

It can't hurt, right?

These encounters aren't confined to cities either. I spend an inordinate amount of my life in a Dunkin' Donuts on Boston's North Shore. It's about a mile from my teenage daughter's stable and has WiFi. I typically order a large hazelnut decaf with skim milk and nurse it for the hour and a half or so that my daughter needs for tacking, riding and untacking her horse, typing away on my laptop all the while. This particular "Dunks" attracts the usual suspects: high school students buying super sweet frozen Coolattas, young mothers breaking soft bagels into pieces for their toddlers. And, of course, a handful of crazies.

One older gentleman comes and sits with me sometimes. The restaurant has a half dozen or so tables for two. I'm only a single, obviously, and if the whole place were full and someone really needed a seat and the seat across from me was the only empty seat left in the entire place ... well, that makes sense. Right? But no, this dude comes and sits across from me when there's no one else sitting down at all. The first time it kind of freaked me out. Now, I just roll with it.

There's also a young woman who sits alone at the other end of the donut counter. We're maybe twenty, thirty feet apart. But, this doesn't stop her from talking to me ... FULL VOICE.

"DO YOU KNOW WHAT I'M DOING THIS AFTERNOON?" she yelled to (at) me across the store the other day.

"Uh ... no," I shrugged with a friendly face.


"Uh ... no."


Truth. Crazy, but ... truth.

So, here I am, the only sane person in the bunch. At least, that's what I tell myself. Until I take a closer look. 

I'm usually in the middle of a hundred different things when my daughter shows up at my office door with that impatient "Mo-o-om, we're going to be late" 'tude, so it's rare that I arrive at the donut shop in what you might call a pulled together state. Often I'm still in yoga pants and a sweatshirt purloined from my husband. Chances are, I've thrown the work I need in a tote bag and have my arms full with laptop, cables, and mobile phone. 

Have office, will travel. Welcome to the 21st century.

Once I acquire my tasty beverage, I tend to spread out at one of the tiny tables (unless, of course, my gentleman caller mentioned above happens to be there). But from then on, everything I do is perfectly rational. Absolutely normal. N-o-r-m-a-l. For example ...

I write advertising copy, and then read it (out loud) to make sure I've said what I think my client needs to say. It's very important to read aloud, you know. That's how you catch awkward phrases. The process itself isn't awkward at all. Especially in public.

If there's no agency work to be done, I go through back issues of The New Yorker, dissecting each magazine and creating piles: to read, to toss, to pass along. No one minds the tearing sounds, do they? And, the activity certainly doesn't resemble anything related to OCD, right?

Work or play, my behavior is completely apropos. And heaven forbid I use the time to actually relax. "Too much time, too little to do." Wait! Reverse that.

Of course, all of this busy work does lead to a certain amount of stress. But, that's okay.

I can always go bowling.

If you enjoyed this post, order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at

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