I walked to work

Sunday morning we woke up to snow. It had rained quite hard the night before, and a cold front came in during the night. If there had been snow in the forecast, I missed that news. Anyway, it was not the usual snow of a New York winter, but the heavy, wet, out of season stuff. 

What I saw: I was walking to work in the winter of 2008. We lived in Seattle then. I had a paying job and neighbors I knew. A different life. 


What I did beforehand: got up, got dressed, got the dogs squared away, got my kids up, did some get-ready-for-school yelling, made my lunch, complained that it wasn’t a snow day, decided whether the walk to school in the slushy snow was going to ruin my boots. The snow hadn’t stuck to the pavement.


What I wore: tights and boots and a wool skirt. The school had a strict dress code for students. I would have just as soon worn jeans every day, but jeans were only allowed on Fridays, except when there was mass. Mass days were dress-up days. I had a heavy bag full of grading and a sack lunch.


Who went with me: I walked alone to school—alone with my resentment about the disconnect between my salary and the preparation and challenge of the job. 


How I got hit in the face with a snowball: I saw him before he threw it. He was standing on his porch, getting his New York Times. 

Why I got hit in the face with a snowball: it doesn’t snow in Seattle very often, and I must have presented an irresistible target.

Things that were sad: it hurt.

Things that were funny (with apologies to Mel Brooks): snowballs that connect with other people are comedy. Snowballs that hit me in the face are tragedy.

Things that were not funny: I had no witty comeback, no arm to retaliate, and no time to do anything except keep walking to my job.


Something I ate: sweetened iced-tea, a non-fat peach yogurt, a banana and a granola bar that I brought from home, but what I really wanted was a ham sandwich with a lot of mustard on Jewish rye bread, chips, a pickle, and a Coke. Every day when I ate my lunch, lunch-eating-me resented the hell out of lunch-making-me.


What it is: a harmless prank, committed without forethought, calls for a commensurate reply. Before we moved I used to think about bringing this neighbor a supply of snow from the mountains, which is something you can do in the spring in Seattle, where the mountains are a little over an hour away. Another idea I had involved planting something unexpected in his garden. I never did anything. 

Who should see it: they do say revenge is best served cold, but this one will have to go up to the universe as another un-righted wrong. 

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When I was a kid, my dad was a businessman. He worked in an office in a tall building with sharp corners and many windows and he sat at his desk and talked on the phone and also went to meetings. He had a secretary and he carried a briefcase. I could picture him sitting in his office looking at papers and sometimes looking out the window.
Every day, when he got dressed, he put on a shirt with a lot of small, white buttons and a three-piece suit which was: a pair of pants with a matching vest with other buttons and a jacket to wear over that (and I knew it was called a sport coat). He wore a tie, too. When he came down to breakfast his necktie was tied but he had always forgotten to zip his fly. This was my job, to tell him to zip his fly. I don’t know if I said, “Dad, XYZ!” but I probably did. That was what we said, “XYZ!”
It stood for, “eXamine Your Zipper!”
When I went away to sleepover camp, I would get a letter or two from my dad, which he dictated to his secretary. These letters were among the very bests thing my dad did for me, and I went to camp knowing they would come, like a prize.
Bufo Americanus, American Toad, Dutchess County, NY
Now I am a grown-up, and almost an old lady, I have a husband, who I sometimes call the Bacon Provider. He has a job in the city, and by this I mean New York City. Every day, when he gets dressed, he puts on a shirt with lots of small, white buttons. Sometimes, he carries a briefcase. He doesn’t wear a tie to work, but he does have a secretary, although she isn’t called that, she is called his assistant. He rarely forgets to zip his fly.
At the farmhouse where we spend weekends, there are toads. They’re like the size of an apple, maybe, and speckledy brown and bumpy. Toads come out on our patio and just sit there. They have grumpy, frowning little faces, and brown all over bumps, and their front feet turn in. Maybe they make a toad noise but I haven’t heard it yet.
Anyway, sometimes the toads are there when we drive up to the house, sitting in front of the garage door. Other times, when we are driving down the driveway to leave on a Sunday night, there is one of the toads, sitting in the middle of the road, not moving at all. I always stop for a toad, not wanting to squish it, and hoping that the lights from the car’s headlights will scare it away. Nope. It doesn’t move. It never does. In the face of imminent danger, it just sits there. So, my husband, the Bacon Provider, he is the one who always hops out. He is a champion of small, helpless things and he walks to the front of the car. The toad never moves. The Bacon Provider stomps on the ground, but the toad just sits there. Some toads stiffen their front legs, to make themselves look tougher. The Bacon Provider very gently nudges the toad’s butt-end with the toe of his shoe. The toad will take a single hop, but it will still be in the path of the car. He has to touch it again and again to get it safely out of the way. 

I think This is all the Bacon Provider does at his job in the city, you know: Walking in front of the car and gently encouraging the toads to get out of the way.