It started snowing right after Christmas, and it seems like it hasn’t stopped since. This unrelenting weather coupled with a ridiculous work attendance policy has me regularly leaning on my good friend and, luckily, fellow Fort Lee resident for rides to and from the office. I don’t use the word carpool.
The only way to get from my apartment to my job is by way of a very steep hill. Palisade Avenue. A notoriously dangerous, unplowed, pothole-ridden hill.
She drives a BMW X5. So, while I enjoy a plush, bun-warming ride, I can barely see over the dash. Here’s a sans booster seat idea of what the main drag looked like this morning.
Like I imagine most carpool...er...ladies who ride together do, we spend our commute bitching and moaning about work, life, love, and all sorts of crap that we think we have more control over than we actually do. She is one of my best friends. She just turned 30 last week.
Pulling into the garage, we see the snow removal guy smoking inside his mini-bulldozer thingy. “Doesn’t he know this is a smoke-free campus as of January first?!” We mock the new no-smoking policy while in our hearts we question how, once “on campus,” our right to engage in a free and legal activity becomes subject to HR Administrative Policy 300.4. We think the contractor is probably getting paid more than we are.
I shuffle into my cube an hour late and look out the window. You’d be surprised at how many hospitals actually share property lines with cemeteries. Look next time. This is the view from my desk.
If you know me at all, you know that no one can rock an existential crisis like I can. So, I call an equally frustrated coworker over to look at the oddly soothing graveyard scene. “Some days I look at this and think things could always be worse. Other days – today for instance – I think the opposite.” She laughs and says “You want to get morbid?” I clear some papers from the extra chair.
“You know what I realized? I know what the phrase ‘over the hill’ really means. It is actually a very accurate metaphor.” She’s about 60. “When you’re young, you have all this energy pulling you to the top. Then you get to the top – and it changes. It’s like your past, what’s behind you, is pushing you down. Mentally, physically – down the hill. You think about your mortality but it doesn’t seem scary, just inevitable, and you’re kind of fine with that.”
I take off my glasses. And, apparently, make some kind of “face.”
“No,” she says. “My daughter is always screaming how she doesn’t want to get old but I try to explain to her: it’s like where you are, agewise, is where you need to be. It’s strange, but it works out, trust me.”
She goes back to her cube. I look at the clock and think about how I am going to handle six more hours of this shit.
Meeting. Email. Phone call.
I start thinking this day might go quickly after all. Thinking that soon enough I’ll be taking the running leap into my young friend’s luxurious tank. And how, for now, the ride home is uphill.