Yesterday I had to commute to our office in Shelton, Connecticut for the day. Luckily, I live pretty close to a train station, so I hopped an Amtrak heading north and avoided at least 6 hours of highway traffic.
After living in sweats as a stay-at-home mom for 9 years, and then working in a very informal office of about 15 employees for a year and a half, I’d sort of forgotten about briefcase-toting corporate America. But there she was, in all her glory, at the Trenton train station at 7:00 in the morning, in the guise of smartly dressed men in dark suits and trench coats.
As the train slowed to a stop in front of me beside the platform, I scanned the cars as they went past and felt like I was in a movie. Hundreds of professionals occupied the seats, reading the Wall Street Journal, typing furiously on laptop keyboards, and thumbing the roller ball on their Blackberry’s to check email and text messages. Most of the exposed ears had familiar white earphones hooked on them, connected to iPods or iPhones.
I felt a thrill as I stood there, waiting for the train to stop in my black stilettos and wine-colored sheath dress. I wore a classic black trench of my own, but my briefcase was a stylish Donald Pliner bag stuffed with mints, makeup, fruit and water. I carefully stepped into a car and made my way to an empty seat. I was a part of the corporate crowd for the day, and I had smartly dressed the part. I felt like a cool kid.
I started to scan the crowd for good-looking men, remembering my fantasy about meeting a stranger on public transportation, but I quickly gave up and turned to a book and my own Blackberry roller ball.
The ride was smooth and quiet until we hit Penn Station. The buzz of activity sent a pulsating energy through the air that can only be found in New York City. The smell of coffee was strong, and I felt superior for a moment as I judged them all for being ridiculously addicted to a hot brown liquid. A thin older woman took the seat next to me and proceeded to sneeze and blow her nose all the way to Connecticut. That wasn’t part of my fantasy.
I spent the day in a beautiful office boardroom, with huge plush leather chairs and my own personal desk pad that defined my space at the deep cherry table. I asked and answered questions and dragged Corporate Lisa out of her hiding place to survive the day. I felt like a big-shot and an idiot all at the same time.
I finally got back home to my kids and my house, and I thought about all the crazy commutes and travel Mr. N/A did for the sake of the office during our marriage. I think he really got off on the big-shot part, and I guess he drank to handle the feelings of inadequacy that can accompany that. What a sad life.
Today, I worked from home in my sweats, and I still haven’t brushed my hair or my teeth. Ugh.
It was fun to be part of the rat-race for a day, but I really prefer my humble, quiet life in street clothes, where I don’t feel like a big-shot or an idiot – just a tired single mom who is grateful to be gainfully employed.