Contrary to what you might think about journalism, my job doesn't always involve fistfights, drug busts and barely-dressed women looking for justice. (That would be my personal life.)
When I did mostly reporting, I did get out of the office a lot, and although there were no diesel truck explosions, it could still be a lot of fun. In the time I reported in Austin, I got to fly in a small stunt plane (I did loop-de-loops!), visit Epcot Center on company business, go to Las Vegas a few times and play lots and lots of video games.
The last year or so, my job has mostly been sitting at my desk and furrowing my brow. Furrowing your brow is what you do when you're staring at the screen and people think you're editing stories. Furrowing the brow indicates that you like what you're reading, but you think it could be better and, goddammit, you're the person to improve upon it. Growling very very quietly also helps.
Of course, furrowing the brow only disguises what I'm really doing: Shopping for stickers on Ebay.
The other day, though, I had one of those full-blown surreal days where everything is a new experience. I actually got out of the office several times, and had little adventures.
The first thing that happened was that I was supposed to go with a friend and someone else I didn't know to go grab some lunch at Hula Huts. Hula Huts, in case I haven't told you, is this fantastic place right on Lake Travis where you can eat on the pier and listen to 80s music. They serve "tubular tacos" which are enormous flour tortilla wraps that are so big they could choke a donkey. And I don't mean choke the donkey when he eats it. I mean these are so big you could wrap the thing around a donkey's neck and strangle it that way. Not that you'd want to. They're just big, is all.
So this person I'd never met picks us up in this dandy new convertible. We're cruising downtown in this sleek vehicle, three young upwardly mobile slackers, and it felt really, really nice. I hadn't ridden in a convertible in years, and I got all Thelma and Louise, plotting out ways to turn the lunch hour into a multi-state chase adventure.
It was a long, lovely lunch. It was nice to just get out of the office.
Later in the afternoon, there were lots and lots of meetings, but in between all of that, I got a call from the folks at ReplayTV. I was supposed to meet with them, hoping I hadn't offended them too much when I told them I thought they'd gone out of business. ReplayTV is a company that competes with TiVo. They've got some new products coming out and they wanted to show me what they're up to. Well, here's what happened: They weren't going to be able to visit me at work, so they were asking if I would come meet them at the airport. At 4:30 in the afternoon on a Friday.
If you know anything about traffic in Austin, you know that this, as an option, was about as desirable as pouring kerosene over a screaming chimp. I started to beg off on the meeting, but before I could, they told me they were sending a driver.
A driver? Okay, sure, fine, whatever.
Later on, while I was in a meeting, somebody came to tell me my driver was waiting for me downstairs.
Okay, now he's my driver?
I go outside and there's a beautiful black town car waiting for me. The guy gets out, opens the door for me, invites me inside.
It's dark, cavernous, huge and all leather. I imagine for a few brief moments, as I sit happily and completely relaxed, that this must have been how the womb felt. Except the womb didn't have darkly tinted windows.
The driver was amazingly nice. It turns out he manages a salsa band that's performing in town this week and he gave me free tickets to see them. I kept assuring him that I wasn't used to getting driven around like this, and he made me feel at ease.
At the airport, I was supposed to meet the Replay people at the Admiral's Lounge. The Admiral's Lounge, it turns out, is this hidden, swanky place where very busy looking people, all carrying laptops, go to have a few drinks and get annoyed at others. Lots of nice furniture, wood bars and more leather.
I sat at the bar with a newspaper and a gin and tonic and I heard a guy behind me tell another guy to please leave the room if he was going to be having a cell phone conversation.
Then, after the poor guy leaves, the cell Nazi tells a woman nearby, "I just don't see why if I pay to be here, I should have to listen to some other guy's entire business meeting when I'm trying to relax."
She wholeheartedly agreed. "The nerve!" she seethed.
I realized suddenly that I was in the Assholes' Lounge.
The Replay people called me on my cell phone to tell me what room they were in and I stopped the phone in mid ring and made a running dash for the hallway, lest the cell Gestapo start talking trash about me.
On the way back to work, back in the town car, I laid my head back on the plush leather and relaxed. It was 5:30 and the driver was taking the backways to avoid all the traffic. We made it back in record time, my ass feeling pampered and giddy from all the luxury.
"I'll get out and open the door for you so all your co-workers can you riding in a town car," the driver said.
"You'll do that?" I asked.
"Yeah. Did you know you almost got a limo? They only sent the town car because I happened to be around when they called. So what do you do again at the newspaper?"
"I have adventures and write about it," I told him. "At least that's what it feels like sometimes."
Harold did a test run on Bourbon Street and found he could get used to this lifestyle.