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@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
The Escape Plan
In the before times, I used to work in a high rise in Times Square. As much as locals both hate and avoid the midtown, I didn’t loath working on 48th street and Broadway, an atrium into the heart of New York City. Sure, the tourists (especially the slow walking ones) annoyed me. As soon as you emerge from the subway, you’re assaulted by glowing billboards clamoring for your attention, a lure on a glistening hook to snag your attention and gut your wallet. The reason I didn’t mind working in Times Square is because the commute was easy. It was a painless subway ride from Astoria to midtown. No transfers. It was shorter than the commutes I previously had, which I was ever grateful for. Additionally, I usually didn’t have to commute during rush hours.
From the common room and the cafeteria in our building, we could overlook the once hooker filled crayon box of a city to the now sparkling mecca of capitalism. Usually, I’d eat alone and I didn’t mind because I would face the window and people watch and dream little day dreams, triggered by the perpetual stimuli.
Annually, they have a fire marshal come into the building to run a drill. Post 9/11 stuff, you know. The stark reality that is reminded to you by your more paranoid suburban family is that Times Square is still and likely will remain a target for terrorists. I try not to think of it.
The Fire Marshal looks exactly how you would picture. Middle aged. Tall and strong but with a belly now. Crew cut. When he speaks he projects loud and clear. He tells us what to do in the event of a fire. Or a bombing. Or a shooter. He even says, “you never know who could be a shooter, it could be someone in your office.” I’m the only one who laughs at this. If anyone else sees the dark humor in analyzing co-workers to decide who is most likely to snap at the banality and meaningless of life and shoot us, their co-workers, because toxic hate leaked into their nervous system, I could not tell. I enjoyed my time working for that company. Almost everyone was pleasant and easy to work with, however, I did feel alone when it came to my twisted sense of humor. But also, anytime I start a job at a new office my mind automatically tries to figure out who the office shooter would be. So it’s not like I hadn’t thought about it. When I figure out who the most likely candidate is, I befriend them. Usually it’s the unassuming type, quiet, but you can tell they don’t have many friends and probably don’t ever get laid and most people in the office avoid them (also almost certainly male). Not me! Hello, friend!
To conclude the drill, we all had to walk down eleven flights of stairs. Truth be told, if the building is on fire, I have an escape plan of my own. Of course, breaking a window with a chair would be the hard part, but then I would jump to a lower roof top and make like spider man. I’ve thought about this carefully in many scenarios. I happen to be a rather gifted climber, lithe and monkey like. I’m pretty confident in my abilities to scale trees and buildings.
Even though my time at this office was one of my more positive work experiences, I had another escape plan in place the moment I was hired— to get another job. Specifically, of course, a writing job. For essentially a decade, I floated from job to job, this office to that, with my head and my heart being hell bent on no longer working there.
It’s odd to think at this time last year, I was on the verge of being homeless, getting drunk on the beach to wash away impending doom. And at this time last year, I was three months away from getting a full time writing job. Everything seemed so lost then. I don’t know if I feel found now. If I ever do it’s as fleeting a tourists’ attention in Times Square. That urge, that little voice that tells me to run, that innate desire to escape to someplace else from here— it’s still there. It’s always there. But the sirens to evacuate aren’t so piercing, at present.