Friday, May 23, 2008

The Office

When my wife asked what I wanted for Christmas, I told her I wanted this really neat poster I saw for Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour on XM Radio.

“A poster? What are you, in eighth grade?” she asked.

“Nope, but my office is,” I replied.

I spent 15 years working in a dank, windowless basement office in our old home in Youngstown, Pennsylvania. I used to wear a holstered super-soaker squirt gun to fire at the dog and the cat anytime they got into a hissy fight when I was on the phone trying to conduct proper business. It was invariably the highlight of those soul-killing days.

It was like writing stories from the set of “Das Boot,” the claustrophobic submarine movie that managed to make a bunch of Nazi U-boaters seem as friendly as a gang from the local bowling league. You actually feel sorry for them when the killing waters began pouring in.

But if water ever began pouring into that old basement, no one would have heard my dying screams. It was very lonely and depressing. I’d pray for any happy distraction.

Those prayers were often answered when one of my many unemployed friends would call and see if I wanted to go golfing or to a Pirate game. They called often because I always said yes and usually sprang for the fun.

Then in 2000 our first daughter, The Outlaw Josie Rodell, was born, and soon a whole new set of Barbie doll-bearing distractions started coming down to brighten up the basement. She was more fun than even my unemployed friends and way less expensive, something I’m assured will change when prom seasons start getting marked on our calendars.

I was such a reliable buddy for her that one day when her friend said, “My daddy helps sick people. What’s your daddy do?” She matter-of-factly responded, “He plays with me.”

I thought, man, that’s not going to look good on the next loan application.

But in 2007 we moved about a mile a way up the mountain to a great new house in the woods. It’s perfect in nearly every way except it doesn’t have a dedicated office space. So my wife suggested I get a cheap apartment in Latrobe.

I put the word out and immediately my two favorite bar owners engaged in a reverse bidding war to have me as a reliable tenant near their taps. The bidding began at $250 a month and immediately ceased when the counter proposal dropped to free.

Of course, I couldn’t do that. He’s providing a service and I knew the bar where I spend most of my time would benefit if I pumped more money into the place (it has so much that I argue I should be eligible for employee-of-the-month consideration).

So I shrewdly negotiated back up to $150 a month for a two-room, second floor apartment that overlooks the parking lot across from the Latrobe Steel plant.

No TV, a cool Bose stereo, a golf chipping area and a trash can nailed into the wall at 4-feet for paper wad basketball, it’s really more of a clubhouse than an office. It’s the perfect escape for someone who spends the rest of his day in a house with three girls. My motto is: “My door is always open, and my toilet seat lid is always up.”

Now, instead of having a 4 year old showing up to distract me with Barbies, I’m distracted by middle aged men with beer bellies.

No body in the bar believes I actually work and I sacrifice countless work hours in the bar trying in vain to convince them I do.

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