On Privilege, Databases, and Clumps of Hair

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I was undressing at the gym tonight post-workout, and thinking about a job decision that I deliberated and dramatized for hours on end today. I was just in the middle of ruminating over the scary thought that maybe I was being too picky and Don Quixote-ish by turning it down, when I noticed the nightly cleaning woman coming through the dressing room with her mop and gloves. Head down, just like every night, although I always try to catch her eye to smile or say thank you.

She was just doing her job, probably none too enjoyable– given that her job consists of picking up matted clumps of hair out of shower drains and sweeping away sock lint from the area beneath the lockers– but it got me thinking. Here I am, blabbing on and on to my friends about whether I’ll get more fulfillment from challenging intellectual program tasks versus three weeks paid vacation plus Jewish holidays, and meanwhile here’s this woman—I don’t even know her name—sweeping through my pathetic panic attack with probably very little choice as to her career and how she makes a living.

She sweeps to make a living because that’s what’s done when you live in America and need to eat and don’t speak English as your native language. Not clinging on to the cushy life of a freelance writing gig, or scoffing at job offers because they’re too database-y and thus, beneath me. And especially not taking shelter under the loomingly huge (but heretoforth unnoticed) stormcloud of privilege that floats around with me like a big protective translucent bubble.

I figured trying to give a tip could get awkward, so instead I filled out a feedback slip and dropped it into the suggestion box at the front desk saying “the cleaning staff does a lovely job—you should give them a raise.” But just as I was patting myself on the back for “taking action,” I thought, “Jesus. Is this what my activism has come to?”

Good thing I start volunteering at Imani House tomorrow… I think I need a good dose of reality.

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11 Crazy Things I’ve Thought While High on Caffeine

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They say that coffee is a drug, but I never really understood that as a kid. It didn’t seem to me, from watching my dad drink a cup or two of Peet’s strongest brew on weekends, that coffee had the power to make people hallucinate or leave reality. Sure, it made him talk at maximum speed (and volume) while recapping the latest Giants game or Phil Lesh concert to his BFF Sandy over the phone, or catching my grandma in Delaware up on events from the week….

“OH HI MA,” he’d shout into the receiver, “YEAHHHHH… WE’RE DOING GREAT OUT HERE, HOW’S YOUR TEMPORAL ARTERITIS THIS WEEK? … YEAH IT’S GORGEOUS AND 70 DEGREES HERE, WE’RE JUST SITTING AROUND AND…. WHAT? WHAT’S THAT? Oh, Deb is telling me to lower my voice… Oh… Yeah, she says she can hear me from next door… so yeah HOW’S THE WEATHER OUT THERE?!”

Aside from overexcitement and extended trips with the Sports page to the downstairs bathroom, I never noticed anything exceedingly abnormal about my father’s personality while under the influence of caffeine. And so I always assumed it was a harmless, albeit bitter, one of adulthood’s simple pleasures. Continue reading

The Meaning of Life (According to OK Cupid)

Friday, January 4th 12:06 am, sitting at my kitchen table and eating a delicious dinner of tuna salad with sweet red apple and red onion, fresh red lettuce leaves with oil and balsamic, and challah with fresh cheddar cheese… which I savored only because I turned my phone on silence and left my laptop upstairs.

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Photo on 4-12-12 at 2.51 PM
Humans can be incredibly oblivious creatures.
That’s why when I notice something: a cardboard box in a garbage can, or a piece of litter on the street… a homeless person on the street I’d rather not make eye contact with… I try to force myself into action. On those few and far between instances that I actually notice an opportunity to make a difference, I should take it—to begin making up for all the times I’m not aware.

On a completely separate note, I spent a lot of time today thinking about a particular question on OK Cupid, which I recently joined in an effort to get over my recent ex and start meeting new guys to entertain myself with. While I don’t mind being single, at the moment, it would be nice to have somebody to share life’s ups and downs with. It’s sort of like this thought I came up with while eating: Continue reading