5: It Was a Lentil

February 26, 2009

This frakking (I’ve been watching Battlestar (judge me, it’s a good show)) chair drives me insane: When you lean the back support falls out of its ‘peg,’ which also connects the back-left leg to the ground, causing its sitter to slump left (like a table does when one leg is shorter than all of the others). It’s not detrimental to work or anything. It’s just going to add a straw on the stack of frivolous mental encumbrances, which will lead to baldness, self-loathing, poor social confidence, foot disease and insomnia. It’s akin to the drumming of neighbors the floor above and yelps and thuds and coughs and groans from all other directions (some yet to be found by people in the profession of looking for directions yet to be found), and not getting the kind of soup you want because the deli’s closed after a day of working late at an internship (that doesn’t pay) where the  work you did was found to be ultimately irrelevant.

It was a lentil.

I didn’t realize it was 2009 until today. I mean, that information was most likely stored somewhere in the back of my subconscious but yesterday I was stuck between the years 2008 and 2009. I couldn’t bring part of my mind past that annual threshold. Makes some sense to me, actually. I recently have felt that I’m incapable of investing myself in the time period I’m in, of taking in the environment of the present, sparing myself the pining for whatever the future holds, knocking off the nostalgia. And this damn chair won’t hold together either. Comfort in time and chairs: both elude me.

The technology to print documents is fascinating, especially for anyone who’s ever made their way through the elementary school system. Certificates are far more accessible when printing technology is within reach. Sometimes I consider drafting something up on Word or some other publishing software. Something saying, “We’re proud to award Stephen Jablonski, an all-around exceptional individual, with this Certificate of All-Around Exceptionalivitiness” (and there’d be an X and a line where someone would sign and date the document). But then that’s when I realize that a certificate like that requires more than its tangibility. It needs someone to sign it. I wouldn’t feel comfortable signing a document of this nature because for one, I’ve created it and for two, I don’t necessarily agree with what it’s claiming. My ego would have to be at least encouraged by one other person and I doubt anyone would sign this without bribery or blackmail, and what kind of person would I be to go around bribing and blackmailing people to sign certificates I’d made on my personal computer (PC) and/or Mac(intosh)? Not an all-around exceptional one, I’m fairly sure of that. No, I’d probably need the resolve of a body of people. Not something as small as a squad but nothing as big as a population, but some institution of reasonable individuals could most likely get the job done. And I don’t have enough money to bribe or enough time to blackmail that many people, which solves that quandary. But then, with that many people you’d think they could do better than to award me with a certificate that I had made myself. You’d think they could even spring for a trophy taking into account the finances reasonable people most likely have at their disposal. And I don’t mean one of those plastic trophies they give every kid regardless of athletic ability in soccer, baseball or racquetball little leagues. I mean something that was molten at one point and then cast into some shiny trinket (I don’t know the specific process, but I want the potential of losing limbs in the operation of crafting my award).

And that’s very demanding of me. I don’t deserve this certificate. I’m turning the computer off now.

Peace,
Mr. Stephen Jablonski.

4: Deliverance

February 8, 2009

A few days ago at my internship I was charged with the task of running a piece of equipment from our office on 39th to our office on 37th. I’ve had to make deliveries before. Making deliveries does me good: it gets me away from the desk, it reminds me that there is a sky and that I’m capable of action outside of transcribing interviews and scanning documents.

Most of the delivery runs I’ve been on are to other companies, most likely travel companies to obtain third-party footage. They require clearance from that building’s security by explaining to the guard where I’m headed and what’s in the package, or explaining to a security camera where I’m headed and what’s in the package, or polygraph or mild torture.

They always ask if they need to sign for the packages or anything. I say no, but it’s starting to make me wonder if they should. I suppose I’ll draft up some legal documents for future deliveries.

But on this particular delivery it was snowing heavily, and the object of my trek was a DV tape deck, which is by no means a light or inexpensive piece of equipment. I was given no bag to carry the deck in, so I covered it with my jacket and threw myself at the mercy of the flurry.

I still had my sweatshirt, so it wasn’t unbearably cold, but it was cold. I put my hood up and held the tape deck with a death grip, my jacket protecting it from the snow and anyone who may want to try and pawn off a stolen tape deck. I kept an eye out for anyone who may look like they would want to do so, and after a while I noticed quite a lot of people glancing at me, their eyes ablaze as if concerned with the thought, “I could potentially unarm this kid of whatever he’s protecting under that coat.”

But then I looked at it from their perspective, and I looked awfully suspicious: my hood up, my coat covering some unidentified piece of equipment that may or may not belong to me, my eyes darting from person to person, my pace brisk enough to suggest I’m trying to get away from something.

Long story short, it took a while to convince the cops otherwise. No, I never ran into the cops. Or did I? I didn’t.

I’ve been feeling less than productive recently. You could say that I’ve been feeling unproductive, but it’s not that, it’s just something less than. Maybe it’s because until I started living in New York City I’d overwhelm myself with work and commitments I could not possibly maintain, and now that I’m not stressed with work I’m stressed with the lack of work. It’s very stressful to think about.

I think the elevator is an interesting mode of transportation. Its area of travel is restricted to one axis, to only a few points on that axis and it makes people far more impatient than if they chose the other option of vertical travel (the more physically trying and less desirable method)- the stairs.

One of the most perplexing features of the elevator is its “Door Close” button. Not only is it grammatically incorrect, abruptly titled (although I guess when you’re working with writing on a button you’ve got to be economical), but it’s a convenience that gives its passengers a freedom in conflict with the public nature of public transportation. I understand that at times there is no public element to the transportation, and you’ll come to a vacant hall, and it’s nice to command the door closed with the touch of the button so you can salvage that mentally trying second of idleness. But it’s come to my attention that people also use it when there are in fact people who want to get on the elevator, but now have to hurl themselves through the closing doors to do so because the passengers on board punch the “Door Close” button like it’s the everlasting gobstopper of bubble wrap (except they won’t turn into blueberries or wrap fragile items up for shipping afterwards).

The only item that gives me an inkling of hope in the elevator is the existence of the “Door Open” button, also grammatically incorrect, abruptly titled, but designed to aid people who previously could not meet the time requirement to reach the elevator at the hands of existing passengers. Though used sparingly in comparison to the “Door Close” button, at least it’s less selfish and used nonetheless.

It is awkward standing with people in an elevator though.

Peace,
Stephen Jablonski.

Post-Script: My Apple laptop is alive and kicking. The “Genius Bar” deemed it worthy of a continued life without a price tag considering their lawsuit with nvidia. If your Apple product breaks down keep this in mind: If one so-called “Genius Bar” decides they want to charge you for it’s repair, get a second-opinion from a different so-called “Genius Bar.” It may save you $1,240.

3: Why My Lunch Breaks Last Three Hours

January 28, 2009

While I am enjoying life in New York there are a number of subtle customs or occurrences I’ve yet to acclimate to.

For instance, yesterday I took a lunch break from my internship and went to a deli that I’d dined in before but on this occasion there was no available seating. So after I spent some time waiting with my bag o’ lunch for a seat to open up, I decided that I had met the standing-around-awkwardly-in-one-place quota and had to take my leave.

To where, I don’t know. I experienced a great deal of panic. In this city, a suburbanite like myself was not threatened by the potential of a push-in-front-of-a-subway-train or a stabbing or mugging or any other perilous verb (or any string of words to form a representation of a more specific verb). Those things don’t concern me. What does concern me is that when it comes to public food ingestion, Manhattan is ill-equipped in the wintertime. I say “wintertime” because it came to me as I was wandering in a desperate search for a sociably acceptable place to squat and enjoy my panini (the most humorous of sandwich names (of which spell check does not recognize)) that in warmer temperatures the steps of the New York Public Library would suffice, or really any suitable communal urban landscape would do. In other words, the problem is, in part, climatic.

And speaking of the New York Public Library, one such lady had settled on those steps to eat, and she looked cold. Not once (I’m assuming) did she consider the taste. The cold was most likely biting enough to rush the meal and therefore exacerbate the possibility of choking to death. Morbid, I know, but this is a real life concern that has gone unaddressed. I’m trying to wake you up, society.

So I tried to find solace inside the library (if people can read in peace why can’t they eat in peace?) to no avail. Just as I made my way through the rotating doors a security guard was making a cold, thirsty woman throw away her hot beverage because apparently reading and eating when mixed become a safety concern. Ridiculous.

It had passed through my mind that I could go back to work and eat at my desk, but this brings up another (another line of) quer(y/ies). Is it socially acceptable to eat your lunch at your desk? Is there a break room at my work where food intake is acceptable? Would it be stupid to ask such questions to my coworkers, all of which are superiors to myself, a lowly intern? Am I thinking too much into this? Is my sandwich cold at this point? Would the smell of the potato salad I’d purchased be off-putting to those around me? Would the sound of my bag crumpling as I reach for the food disturb the flow of work?

All of these questions were in my brain-mind at some point in time. And after circling the block a few times looking for somewhere to sit (mind you, other restaurants don’t appreciate you bringing in outer-food. It’s food-segregation, I know. And hotel desk attendants look suspiciously upon non-guests gorging themselves in the lobby and retail stores don’t appreciate food stuffs around their products) I eventually made my way back to the office.

Fortunately, one of the people from accounting had just made his way back from grabbing lunch. I followed him into the elevator, watching his every move, taking social cues from his learned experience. He stopped at the fridge and took out a drink, which means we have a fridge. Good information for later on in a situation where I might have a warm beverage that’s best enjoyed cold. Then he went to his desk with his food, which means having food around the desk area is acceptable by at least one person in the work area. The chance of being able to eat at one’s desk has increased. I sit at my work area, cautiously, and eat, but I didn’t enjoy it because I was too concerned with the opinions of those around me, which throughout the meal seemed entirely unconcerned and instead involved in their jobs. Fascinating turn of events, really.

Public transportation is another art I’ve yet to gain a masterful hold upon. Commuting, I feel like I’ve got it down. I walk fast, blend in, weave in and out of people and maintain an acceptable distance. At times I’ll get stuck behind someone slow, but I’m usually able to find ways to circumvent and reacquire pace. However where I find fault is stairs, particularly when a number of pedestrians take the stairs and they begin their flight around the same time. Who do I yield to and who do I rush past? How much room should I allot for opposing traffic? When going up, is it okay to take multiple stairs in single steps? It’s very exhausting (not the actual act of climbing stairs but the thought of climbing stairs).

Subway commutes are just as tiring. I spend a great deal of my subway ride considering if my waiting position is tolerable. Sometimes I won’t take a seat because I’m afraid someone else is thinking about taking the seat and if I take the seat they’ll be frustrated that this young man didn’t have the decency to leave the seat vacant for someone who might need it. Or I’ll take a seat because I’m afraid someone’s thinking that I won’t take the seat because I would rather not sit next to them, and I’ll stand up again after taking that seat for previously stated reasons because I’ll realize the seating arrangement is too compacted and it’s making those to my sides more uncomfortable than if I were standing.

Standing presents its own wealth of problems. Am I blocking entry? Am I blocking exit? Is my rear-end impeding the vision and comfort of one of those commuters sitting? Should I hold on to the pole or stand here and find balance? Am I looming over this person sitting?

And then you miss your stop because you were thinking about all these things instead of paying attention. That hasn’t happened, but it could. It very well could.

Peace,

Stephen (Jablonski).

2: Spear to the Heart of a Digital Native

January 25, 2009

 I apologize for not adhering to the Saturday posting schedule, but I’ve had technical difficulties recently. “Technical difficulties” does not capture the emotional trauma I’ve suffered. I’ve endured a schism from something I once loved dearly. My MacBook no longer shines brightly. Its glow is gone and thus my life shines a bit dimmer.

 

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Knowing how much time I spent with the metal book of an alternate reality, my ability to cope with its absence is baffling. I’m still able to stomach solid foods and speak near-fluent English.

However, my allegiance to a company that defines itself in provocatively sleek gadgets and a sort of coffee-bar hipster-esque pretense has been besmirched.

Let me begin by saying, when you name your tech support the “Genius Bar,” you’re setting up an unrealistic threshold. People associate the word “Genius” with an ability to solve any situation with minimal emotional or financial trauma. However, it comes to mind only now that “Genius” could also mean “very good at scheming you out of your money,” and “Bar” could be code for “drunk off of the power that follows a successful half-decade of mesmerizing people with a well-crafted marketing strategy” (if you want to stretch for a meaning).

But here’s what happened. I scheduled an appointment with the so-called “Genius Bar” for Thursday at 2:40 p.m., but due to a time conflict with my internship I could not attend (we’ll get to the events of that day later). So I rescheduled for Saturday evening at 8:20. I get to the Apple Store in SoHo (South of Houston St.) at 8:42 (I thought my appointment was at 8:40, but I was wrong, these things happen and don’t hold these 22 minutes of tardiness against my character I implore you). They were able to see me nonetheless and I gave “Jon” my computer to peruse over.

I’ll admit: my computer has battle scars. It’s been in my service for two years and it shows. The DVD drive has a dent around the casing that does not impede any utilization but shows. There are scratches to the surface and the hard casing which I bought to protect from further scratches seems only to serve to collect dust and grime.

And Jon won’t let this fact go. He notices that it’s been through some times and he tells me.

Jon goes into the back room to pour his mind over my computer, I’m sure, and emerges perhaps 10 minutes later to tell me some good news and bad news. The good news: Nvidia graphics cards in my particular model of computer are known to prematurely fail, Apple has been suing them due to this and the repairs will cost me nothing. Unfortunately, these repairs will take seven to nine days.

I’ve suffered a week without my computer, what’s another week?

Jon says he’s just going to run a few checks on my computer for the tech guys, he’ll have me sign a paper with a bunch of zeroes on it and I’ll be on my way.

But wait: what’s this? Jon notices that the FireWire port has some damage. He’s going to have to talk to his manager for five minutes. He comes back, somber as a doctor that’s had to wash blood off his hands and stare Death squarely in the eye. While previously he could’ve chalked up the damage to cosmetic circumstances, the appearance of damage to the FireWire port, which is directly attached to the video card (which, I remind you was bound to fail), can only lead the “Genius Bar” to believe that I’m the cause of the video cards failure and thus the price of repair is now no longer “gratis.”

The price is now twelve forty. I’m holding out for the silver lining: Dollars and cents? No sir: 1,240. Dollars. That’s about the price of a brand new Apple computer (or a PC is what the burning consumer vengeance in me is muttering).

I walk away with a computer that does not work.

Now, I know the economy isn’t doing great and I know a grand or so could better serve someone else, but overlooking all of that, if anyone has 1,240 lying around…

Don’t send it to me, really. It won’t do me no good no how.

Peace,

Stephen Jablonski.

Post Script: The Lead Porcupine Interweb Journal for Public Consideration will no longer be confined to a schedule of publication. The staff will now communicate with the world when they feel so inclined. You’ve been made aware.

1: Fight/Flight

January 18, 2009

I’ve been in New York for a week so I think it’s about time this started up. I’ll try getting an update out every Saturday until the semester’s end. If I don’t you can assume I’ve been abducted, or got lost, or a taxi hit me, etcetera.

New York is interesting. I do believe I fit right in. I’m not quite sure if I fit right in, actually. The poll didn’t go so well. A lot of people responded with obscenities when I’d attempted to procure any exact results. But I’ve got a gut feeling.

From the beginning: Jan. 10 (last Saturday), I made my way off the plane and to baggage claim where I was to meet the driver from the car service we’d previously made plans with to take me to the dorm. Coming down the escalator I checked all the signs, anticipating a slough of drivers with signs that read possibly ‘Brown’ or ‘Smith’ and hopefully one that read: ‘Jablonski.’ Although other signs were there, no ‘Jablonski’ sign was in sight.

Eventually the driver came in a huff to display a sign that read ‘Jablonski’ and I greeted him, he introduced himself as ‘Marcus’ (name changed to protect the reputation of the driver) and we awkwardly waited ten seconds for my bag before I made an excuse to use the restroom and came back to find my bags rolling about the moving… bagway? Sure. We’ll go with bagway.

I followed him to where the car was when I got a phone call. I didn’t recognize the number and assumed it was the RA from the dorm confirming my arrival or what-have-you and answered:

Stephen: “Hello?”
Car Service Representative: “Hello, Mr. Jablonski? This is Apple Jack Car Service (name changed to protect the reputation of the car service) our driver is waiting for you at the baggage claim of LaGuardia airport.”
Stephen: “Uh, I’m with the driver.”

Now at this point it dawns on me that I know very little about Marcus (If that is his real name (which it’s not because it’s been altered to protect his identity, but even still I’m trying to make the point that the identity I’m protecting may or may not have been his real identity), and I’m about to get into his car. Not only that, but this gentleman on the phone informs me his driver is looking for me, when I found the driver a significant amount of time ago. I’d say fifteen minutes. That’s significant.

Car Service Representative: “…”
Stephen: “…”
Car Service Representative: “Is…his name Marcus?”
Stephen: “…Yeah.”
Car Service Representative: “Oh. Alright.”
Stephen: “…Okay. Uh, thank you.”

Is the real Marcus dead in the trunk of this car? Am I the target of an elaborate kidnapping of which little reward is attributed? Should I inform the doubly fake Marcus that this is a less-than lucrative undertaking? It’s a very stressful predicament.

Marcus puts my bags in the trunk. I check for a body but witness none. I sit in the backseat, behind the driver’s (just in case I realize that I’m going to need to strangle the life out of him (thinking ahead)) and Marcus asks where we’re going.

This worries me further, because I’m pretty sure the car service company would’ve given him that information. I give him the address but my hands are set to grab his seat belt and wrap it around his jugular. I’m not about to get abducted. Not on my first day in the city, I mean come on.

He enters it into the GPS (or Global Positioning System), we drive a good five minutes, we arrive in front of the dorm and he gets my bags from the trunk and bids me good day. Kind of a let down.

I’m interning at City Lights Media Group (www.citylightsmediagroup.com). So far I’ve just been transcribing interviews, which means I get a DVD of the raw footage, I find the interviews of people talking about the luxurious locations they either own or maintain, such as a yacht bigger than the compilation of every room I’ve ever entered into in the entirety of my life, and I write down every word they utter so that they can easily edit out the uninteresting monologue that is my task to endure through.

Some of the interviewees have thick accents. Some of the interviewees murmur or ramble about. It’s very tedious, but I’m glad to at least be working. I’d be worried if I weren’t doing anything. When I show up and they tell me just to sit in a chair and stare at a blank wall then I’ll know society has deemed me a burden of precious resources. Or maybe they just need someone to watch the wall, I don’t know, it hasn’t happened yet.

I’ve done quite a lot in the city this week. I’ve been to Central Park and Time Square and all of the other tourist spots. I’ve eaten cupcakes at the Magnolia Bakery and they were delicious, I’ve watched a few films at the Angelika, I’ve started developing a better understanding of the subway system. I’ve been a second-hand witness to someone relieving himself on the train (one of the other Baylor students actually saw this take place and I was in the subway at the time, but to let you know it’s far better to be a second-hand witness in this case than a first) and I’ve seen crazy.

The most compelling case of crazy was witnessed whilst walking west on my lunch break from my internship (I’m not sure if it was west actually, but I had to keep that alliteration going. Everyone loves alliteration. Everyone). It was cold. Very cold. I was wearing a coat, a hooded sweatshirt (hood up), a sweater, full pants (the fact that they were full is relevant), shoes, two pairs of socks, gloves and clean underwear. So was just about everyone else in the vicinity I imagine (I can’t speak for everyone). And then as I was crossing the street I notice this guy with a thick beard crossing with the rest of the crowd wearing cut-off shorts (not full pants), boots, a vest and a headband. Not only that, but he’s throwing bread like it’s confetti to a following of pigeons.

There are three opinions that I immediately come to: First off, excessive waste of bread. Food is expensive in New York, and bread should not besmirch our streets. It’s just a shame. Second: I’m so cold my eyeballs are frosting over. This guy’s dressed like he’s going to Myrtle Beach on a sweltering mid-July afternoon. That’s dedication to the birds. Third: The hunger of these birds is remarkable. They’ve braved the traffic of New York, the stampede of laboring commuters and, most importantly, are willing to consume stale bread from the hands of a man that most would dare not follow.

I wonder what it would be like to fly.

Peace!
Stephen Jablonski.