Thursday, July 16, 2009

around the corner

I wonder which is harder – to work afresh after having already worked earlier in the day, or to work at your second job on week-ends. Perhaps it’s the latter: you feel like you have given up any scrap of being free. You belong to somebody else every single day of the year. Except for Christmas and Thanksgiving.

It was only my second day lighting that moon of extra work (at a shop not too far from where I live). I still dressed with care – in the way that you do the first day of school and maybe the second, but not thereafter.

It struck me how lucky I am to have been interviewed by a gutsy hiring person with a sharp sense of the world out there. When the corporate office questioned picking a law prof for the job, unconvinced that I should want their small dollars, she did a masterful job sticking with my application. Such a good break for me, especially since I have as much experience doing this line of work as I had cooking professionally when I was hired (also by a gutsy woman with a sharp sense of the world out there) a decade ago to moonlight at l’Etoile.

Learning to function in new worlds is probably (after the dollars earned) the most gratifying part of taking a second job. I am reminded of first meeting Ed some years ago. He introduced me (at least tangentially) to the world of machines and engineering tricks and mechanical solutions to common problems I thought how cool it is to explore places where what you say or write matters less than what you think and do. Very quickly, Ed became my traveling companion, even in months that we stayed in Madison.

And I like this, too, about working now beyond Bascom Mall: the clock moves in a different way at hourly jobs. The goal is not to get something done, but to stay focused on continued action, but only for your set of hours – nothing more, nothing less. And after you punch out, no one cares where you head and what you do next. You’re out the door. Good bye until you punch in again.

We’re a small set, over at the place where I do my extra hours. Women, all women (how different than in a professional kitchen!), three, like me, filling in the gaping holes of underemployment, or as in my case perhaps -- overreaching (chasing goals that are just a little beyond the doable). None of us fit the mold of “woman picking up extra cash now that kids are older and she can get away more.” Indeed, I think I’m the only one who even has children.

There are never more than two of us at a time and at some point, I know I will be alone in the shop – opening it and closing, like the mother in the Umbrellas of Cherbourg movie, dusting off shelves in the quieter minutes. I like that image.

It’s cool outside now. An evening chill that warns of an unusually cold set of summer days ahead. I don’t mind. It’s warm in the little shop on the corner. And the smell right now is of fresh lemons.