So much happens, why not see it for yourself?
|There was never anything to do. But that was okay. Yeah, the traffic went along, the trains went by, the bike messengers greeted random apartment buildings they had never seen. That’s just how it went. You could run into a thousand strangers in a day and not remember a face. That’s just how it was. I’d go on walks with no destination in mind, just to see the walkers, the stragglers, the slow movers, the quick pacers, the stand and talkers, the road racers, and the car chasers. The rhythm of the city hasn’t changed in years. The look of the buildings are in constant revision, but the man with the messenger bag still goes to the same sandwich shop he always does, the woman stopping for a cab still has goes through a handful of cabbies before she gets a ride. Everybody is going in one direction, rarely do you see people zigzagging through the crowds, running down the sidewalks, or singing, dancing like nothing matters. Rare things are rare. The roads have the places they like to go. Where you end up in fifteen minutes as familiar as when you first walked out of the house. You’ve been there before, and you’ll be there again later. But what if on a walk to the office or the apartment something glances your eyes? What if something that’s always been there, but somehow today, you couldn’t help but give it more consideration? A standing mailbox is more than just a mailbox. A storefront window is not just signage and a few letters. And the street isn’t just a road, it’s another way to a new life? What if what the words on the wall are just as rare as the road that leads somewhere else? What if you finally saw it for yourself?
I could only see so much from my vantage point. Like leaves blowing in the breeze in a park. The people below just go along. I don’t think much about it anymore. Just a glance to remind me that society is still trying to do whatever it needs to do. What a million people do in one city isn’t really what isn’t what I need to think about. Not many people do. What I do need to think about it. What does concern me is what these people see. And why they see should see it. And I happen to think these days, that they are ready for something else. You’d never know it. But what you’re looking for is in plain sight. It’s not hidden, it’s not under a pile of rubble, or inside a heap of old newspapers, you don’t have to find it at 6 am or before you lay down in the evening. Just blink. Look. You’ve seen it all before. You’ve seen it for so long, that it looks the same. Why is that? Is it you? Is it that you’ve forgotten what your old shoes felt like, how the cushions felt in your first car, the distant relief you once had as you left your hometown only to find a life that you neither planned nor expected? Can you still picture who you were before? Before you saw for yourself today, and thought, ‘There is something else for, but I don’t know what that is.’
On this morning I didn’t expect anything different. I got up a couple minutes after my alarm. Usually, I just stand by my window taking some
deep breaths in some attempt to ready myself for what felt like the thousandth day of the same meetings, the same questions, the same answers, and the same coffee that is never ready by the time your ready to have some. I don’t say anything about it, why would I? I should just quit drinking caffeine. The only thing it helps is when you need to leave a conversation about the morning reports, in which the only difference is whether the advertising is for indoor or outdoor use. I stepped out after the meeting went on a tangent concerning the size of the font on a three letter poster ad for a nearby bicycle shop. When all it said was, ‘Get in Gear.’ I thought I’d get up to go see if anyone made an effort to make some more coffee. Either way, it was only 9 am, and I just wanted to go for one of my walk-rounds. I had something I was working on, but I thought I’d leave it for later. It wasn’t part of the companies itinerary, signs like these usually aren’t posted. But I wanted to see something new. We all want to see something new. The smell of coffee was strong, but somehow when I got the break room, I just didn’t want any anymore. Maybe not being able to choose a font affected my morning java need. That happens more often than you expect. I don’t really notice it. I know what I think I need, and more often than not I never really want it when I get there. I can handle it. I have something I want to get to. And it’s a lot better than something I don’t really want. I didn’t want to sit in the meeting room all day. I can only liken it to watching an oscillating fan rotate. The employees I work with, they’re all great people. Most of them have well-earned degrees. Mostly in advertising, marketing, and business. A few are temps, a couple are interns. I’ve been with the place for about three years. I enjoy it. I’m not making priceless artwork or creating for the front cover of Adbusters, but I have enough skills to make any ad campaign big or small into something you’d be happy to keep in a nice mania portfolio for later. Or as something you’d want to remind yourself about later.
Etches and Plotters isn’t the only company in the building. It’s not some one-off place in the west end of the city that deals with clients with large pocketbooks or firms looking for a multimedia campaign with all the bells, whistles, and agencies that make you reach deep in your wallet. No, we try something which makes more sense to a designer of a rube gold berg or a maze, you could liken to a series of dominoes which topple slowly, picking up pace, then as you watch, the joy of where it’s all going is tantamount to spinning a bottle and seeing how much you want to fall in love with what you have seen. I glorify my job, of course, but I just work behind a wood desk at a computer which is probably as old as a flip phone. Life around here moves fast, but it doesn’t have a choice. I like to go a bit slower. Really take in what you need to see, what you need to show yourself. Because really, that extra second is all it takes to change your life. You can do it now, you can do it later. You can watch the wheel of your life spin more every day. But when it finally stops, maybe you can get close to the wall, inspect it closely and try to tell yourself that you went all this way just to stop. And I’m happy you made that choice. Would you like to try something new? Yes? Well, thank you for your consideration. Please, take a second.
Each office is something entirely different than the next. You could run through this building up and down and still have no idea what goes on here. I can’t say I’ve done this. But an intern that use to work here once tried to open each door floor to floor. I asked him why he didn’t really have a reason. He said that all these fledgling businesses have something in common that makes life almost unbearable to him. He told me of one office at the top of the building suite 1137. The intern told me that only one guy works there. In there all there is one kiosk. One terminal. The place is called Cognito Industries. It doesn’t do much. With a name like that you’d think it would be a medical or psychological service platform. But as with most things in life, just because it says something doesn’t mean that is it what it is. My breakfast sandwich isn’t just a sandwich it’s the mega-million dollar example of why you should always keep five bucks on you. So the intern tells me he walked in there without needing the knock. Nobody was there. He walked around to see the back room, and it was just a row of fifteen computers buzzing and chiming. He looked at one of the monitors and saw something that most people would just turn a blind eye, but this kid was smart, he tapped on the screen and saw about a hundred different counters running. Each with digits flipping like an out of control Rolodex. At first, he didn’t know what it was, likely some website page viewer counter or some surplus and product purchasing calculator.
I had to tell him, "That is more common these days. That you could run a whole city from a smartphone if you wanted to."
"One day someone will catch on to that." He told me, "Get inventing."
I had to say, 'that business is just an automated number factory,"
He said, “Yeah, but that doesn’t mean each person these days isn’t just hooking up computers and making silver coinage.”
I told him that, “A lot of people in this country would rather have an endless supply of computers doing their jobs for them, buying product after product with the intention of helping the number counter. People like to contribute. But then again people like to keep to themselves. It’s what we all do, we like to contribute or participate, especially when we’re all a part of something more than ourselves. Social media, comments, and editorials on news site, the GoFundMe’s, etc.”
He said, “we have that already, that’s the internet, you idiot.”
I said, “yeah, that’s what has become of collaboration. We’ve made life a button push away from having to do absolutely nothing.” Then I also said, “The one firm and his computer band are just like the boring roller coaster at an amusement park.”
The intern said, “Yeah, but no one has fun going over the same tracks over and over again.”
I went, “Yeah, when was the last time you got off the ride and thought, each one of these is the same. I want to ride the one that does something else.”
“I say that no matter the ride,” he said.
“Then you must have left the amusement park looking back and just tossed your ticket in the trash thinking well that was a waste,” I said, rolling up my breakfast sandwich wrapper.
“Yeah, if it sucks I don’t want to remember it,” the intern said.
“What do you think the guy that started the fifteen computer business would have said to the roller coaster?” I asked.
“I’d say he’d want each ride spinning 24 hrs and day, morning, noon, and night to make sure the thing stays in business. Who would want to go around and around endlessly and still somehow enjoy it?”
He didn’t give me an answer, but somehow, I think he knew that no matter what we all try to do, to make a paycheck, or try to be something better in life, we’re all on the roller coaster, and only a lucky few get the most out of it.
“We all want off the ride when the ride isn’t what it felt like the first time,” the intern told me with a sad smirk.
“Only thing is,” I said, “is that most of us are having fun and the ones that aren’t are just counting the seconds, ticking their counters until the thing stops.
“What happens when it stops?” The intern asked.
“You don’t need to ride the ride anymore,” I said.
With all the roller coaster talk I was feeling some nausea of my own. Probably from not having my morning coffee, but probably because I was standing on the top of the 30 story roof with the intern. I took the last bite of my breakfast sandwich and looked down over the edge of the roof. The intern finished his red bull and peered over, looking for something that was completely out of his line of sight.
“What are you looking for?” he asked.
“I’m looking for somebody that wants to have some fun.”